SARAJEVO, (Patria) - Her Imperial and Royal Highness Camilla Habsburg-Lothringen, Archduchess of Austria and Princess of Tuscany is the Director for Euro-Mediterranean Diplomacy and Intercultural Affairs at the International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES).
She spoke to news agency Patria about importance of culture in building of modern society, political situation in BiH and the Balkans region, relations between Austria and BiH, the status of Bosnian community in Austria, the future of Europe…
PATRIA: You are a tireless advocate for culture. You think of it is a 'binding factor' in any society. Does culture indeed have so much power as to improve the status of a society?
Her Highness: Regarding culture as a "binding factor", it is nonpolitical and so exchange happens in a more easy-going way. There is a kind of elasticity, so to speak. I also find that, through a cultural background there is a better understanding towards other cultures. That's where interactive dialogue begins. If that works this can be a very successful tool, it will help make things understandable.
PATRIA: You are descendant of the House of Habsburg. As such you enjoy many privileges. However, you are also very active. You travel a great deal and run many projects. Since November 2016, you have also appeared as one of the directors of IFIMES. What is your vision for your role in IFIMES and how can IFIMES with you in your new role can influence the situation in the region?
Her Highness: I explicitly asked to be able to have my own competence in the field of cultural dialogue and to work as a diplomat in the realm of so called "atmospheric PR". In practice, that means understanding fields which are sensitive, that requires some feeling and a tactful approach. It is about getting people to communicate with each other. This is my wish in my function role and regarding the Balkans, it is important to understand them, to give them hope, and to make sure they want to get involved with all that is needed to become a member of the European Comunity. It is about keeping this subject alive and to talk about it.
I see that the issue gets more complex with every visit, and that's why it is important to speak in one voice instead of three. We have to get lots of cooperation and willingness of politicians to overcome the borders and obstacles. For me it is a learning process and I see it requires a strong will of all politicians to achieve reconciliation.
PATRIA: Do you follow political situation in Bosnia and what is your assessment of the current situation?
Her Highness: I have already answered part of your question. I'm getting involved and yet have to learn a lot. What I also hope for is that youth will get a stronger positive encouragement to get more involved like in cultural activities. I understand you have several festivals, like film-, winter-, music festivals and so on. And get a lot of recognition for that from the outside. Youth has to be given a voice instead of discouraging them to the point of them leaving. As they are the future of this country. Give them projects to work on, environment for example. Give them a feeling they are doing something for their country that they can be proud of, changing something for the better. And this will bind them to their country.
PATRIA: Bosnia and Herzegovina and Austria have a common history. Bosnian community in Austria is one of the largest communities in your country. Do you think it possible that Bosnian community gains the status of national minority in Austria in foreseeable future?
Her Highness: Bosnians living in Austria do have recognition there. We have been working extremly well together, they are very strongly integrated. I can't say much regarding the political side.
PATRIA: What is your opinion of the rise of nationalism and populist movement in Europe, do we have a reason to be worried?
Her Highness: One has to be precautious. We just had in Vienna a conference 'Never Again to Antisemitismus' to emphasize the conscience of observing some directions of where we may be going, particularly youth. We are all observing the political scene. Politicians have to fulfill what they promise. We have to be able to observe any tendency of going right. Awareness is the most important thing as well as not to be discouraged to criticize and stand up against any kind of attacks on minority groups. We have to remain aware and brave, and stop any kind of aggression and radicalization. We all have to be involved in that effort.
PATRIA: The issue of immigration is one of the biggest political issues that contemporary Europe has faced. Has Europe responded in the right way?
Her Highness: It is a normal reaction to help but it is also about lack of flexibility of some politicians of not recognizing the moment to act in a proper way, thinking of the core issues. Problems have to be solved in the countries that immigrants flee from. I know it is a big issue. Receiving countries are having hard time coping and we all (Europeans) have to help, to show interest, willingness and help not to just critizise.
PATRIA: What is the future of Europe 10 or 20 years from now?
Her Highness: It is difficult to say. I find the European concept is a very important one. We have to get the Balkans states into this bigger European family. As in every family, however, some children may need more attention. We have to give the youth some meaning, to give them a feeling of responsibility, confidence and provide them with a kind of structure. Making also the use of voting. The issue of corruption is strong all over not only in the Balkan countries. However, people shouldn't be discouraged by us saying nothing can be done about corruption, as it certainly can be countered with never giving up on it. Awareness and critical response is very important.
PATRIA: Every day we hear about Russian interference in Europe. Is it a reality or propaganda only?
Her Highness: I keep hearing about Russians...that they are watching. First we have to look carefully and question any information as to find out its intention. We know fearful people are more vulnerable and easier to be manipulated. It is important to be aware of all, see it as a wakeup call and to use ones own common sense. Not to fall into resignation and lethargie. But as long as politicians are doing their homework then there shouldn't be anything to be concerned about. It is very important to not waste time and to give every individual, particularly politicians – the sense of responsibility. It is not only about sitting and getting re-elected, it is about working long hours, it is about their credibility. I would be very strict about the vows they take after beeing elected because this is about taking responsibility for every single decision and their ongoing effects.