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Karel Schwarzenberg - President of Political Party TOP 09

Interview with Karol Schwarzenberg for Canada Exclusive

Have you visited Canada, or perhaps, do you have any relatives or friends living there?

I have been to Canada several times. I have a distant family living there. The first time I went, I visited Vancouver - a beautiful harbour city with excellent restaurants. The second time I visited Canada in 1990 when I was there on a state visit with Vaclav Havel. I met with representatives of a large Slovak community, and also visited the Slovak church.

You are the eldest son of Karl VI. and Antonia.  Does it mean that you became the manager of the Schwarzenberger's family estate, as is the case with Karl von Habsburg and his Habsburg House?

That is something else. The Habsburgs are a monarch family who are widespread in Europe. There is substantially less of Schwarzenbergers. In the old concept, I am the head of family, and that is all. I don't even possess a map indicating where in the world all the Schwarzenberger family members live, like the one that Karl von Habsburg-Lothringen has.

What was or is your siblings’ occupation?

I am not the eldest, my cousin is. My brother was a very successful banker in Switzerland. He has a very smart occupation. I have two sisters they are both married. The older sister married a German diplomat, who is now retired. They live in Berlin. My younger sister studied history of art. For a while she worked in a museum in Vienna, then married a Westphalian and moved there.  They all still live, however, my brother is currently very ill.

Why did your uncle Jindrich Schwarzenberg adopt you in your adult age when you had your own father? Wouldn't changing his testament be sufficient?

To simplify things, and because of the inheritance tax.

You are father of two. What does your son Johanes and daughter Anna Karolina do?

When I became the Minister of foreign affairs my son Johanes took over the management of our estate. My daughter married Peter Morgan, a very successful English screenplay writer, who wrote the film "The Queen". They have five children, so she is keeping busy. They used to live in Britain, but presently they are living in Vienna.

When you were young what interests did you have, because you come across as a "cold fish" who would only care about his family and his estate?

Before I was adopted, I was interested in journalism, and I was considering becoming a journalist.

You mentioned that there is a punk within you. Does it refer to your love of freedom, or is it more about an admiration of informality and naturalness?

I always loved to swim against the current.

You present yourself as a conservative person with a Roman-Catholic religion.

That is true.  I am a good Catholic, but a lousy Christian. But whether or not I am conservative, that is a question.

In spite of that you support the notion that homosexual couples should have the right to adopt children. Isn't this contradictory to your belief?

No, not at all. As long as something exists in terms of human relations, it must be legally taken care of.  Otherwise, there will be always attempts to find gaps in the law system, and so on.  They will be registered as a couple.  No Catholic can deny that homosexuality exists, and therefore there must be a law for it. It has nothing to do with a belief.

You are a clever strategist, who can get the most out of his shortcomings (falling asleep at meetings, mumbling). Was it always like that?

That is also true, but let me tell you something. I have very sensitive eyes. The lights opposite me are usually very strong so I have to close my eyes.  And I don't deny that many of the meetings I find uninteresting.

In your curriculum vitae it states that during your life on Jacquingasse in Vienna your apartment was converted into a social salon. Does it mean that you were an avid dancer and a witty entertainer?

My mother was in fact one of the most significant hosts in Vienna. I remember when president Kennedy came to Vienna in the 50-ties to meet with Khrushchev, and my mother would accompany him. He was actually advised by the American embassy in Vienna to see  my mother. My older sister and I, we were always surrounded by young intellectuals in Vienna. That's true.

In 1989 you received a Human Rights Award from the Council of Europe.  Was this for your 6 year term chairing the International Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, or was it for a specific achievement?

It was for the Federation's for Human Rights achievements. We were quite successful as an organization for human rights. We were the first accepted in the Soviet Union, and we were also active and successful in other countries of Eastern Europe.

Have you been involved with the Pan-European Union?

No, I never have. Even though I knew Richie Coudenhove, who was the founder very well.  I know his niece Barbara Coudenhove-Kalergi, who is the founder of ORF, and I also knew her parents.

You attended the funeral of Otto von Habsburg. Are you close with his son Karl von Habsburg, who is an honorable member of the Canadian-Slovak Chamber of Commerce?

No, I am not. He is actually much younger than me, has other interests and devotes himself to different issues. We may meet maybe once a year at an official event.

You are engaged in the protection of human rights. You demonstrated this by supporting Zuzana Piussi, the Slovak movie director. What other activities in this area do you work on in Slovakia?

At the moment, I don't have many. Sometimes I am invited to attend a conference, which I am happy to do. In regards to Zuzana Piussi, it was my duty to officialy defend her. That is what I am doing my entire life.

The political scene in Czech Republic has been unstable for a long time, characterized with frequent change of government, populism and corruption.  What are your political goals for the next year?

The answer is clear. I will lead the opposition. In the Czech Republic it is a coalition of social democrats and populists. Against them we will lead the opposition.

Interview by Martin Greenwald

Photo George Velebír

Archive of Karel Schwarzenberg  

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