Kahoun interviews the ruling Prince Hans Adam II of Liechtenstein who
demands that his family's former property in what is now the Czech Republic
is returned to him.
Kahoun: It is generally
known in the Czech Republic that your family’s property was confis-cated
after WWII on the basis of the President Benes’ decrees. It is
less known that after the annexation of Austria by Hitler’s Germany
your father moved from Vienna to Vaduz and it is practically unknown
that, at least according to your suit filed in the International Court
on 30 May 2001, during WWII Liechtenstein similarly to Switzer-land
was a neutral country and your neutrality was accepted by all the fighting
parties, i.e. even the Nazi Germany. Could you please comment on this
and specify what facts or documents prove that the neutrality of your
state was accepted by Hitler’s Germany?
Principality of Liechtenstein declared its neutrality during World War
I and World War II. In both cases the neutrality was respected by all
the states involved in World War I and World War II. The proof that
the neutrality was respected by all states in World War I and World
War II was the fact that none of those states declared war against Liechtenstein
or that Liechtenstein was occupied militarily dur-ing those wars.
Kahoun: A piece of information that in the end
of WWII several thousand Cossacks fighting on the side of the Germans
escaped to Liechtenstein appeared recently in a discussion on the Neviditelny
pes server. The allies then allegedly entered your country and handed
them over to the Soviet Union. Did the allies violate your neutrality
at that time?
Hans-Adam II: The allies did not violate our neutrality
at the end of World War II. The Russian troops fighting on the side
of the Germans against the communists were disarmed when they crossed
the border into Liechtenstein. Despite strong pres-sure from the Soviet
Union Liechtenstein refused to hand over those people against their
will and accepted them as refugees according to international law. Those
who wanted to return were either executed or sent to the Gulag by the
Soviet authorities. As far as I know Liechtenstein was the only country
who refused to hand over Russian troops fighting on the German side
to the Soviet authorities against their will.
information saying that Liechtenstein supported the Czech resistance
(more exactly the Czech exile government) during WWII also appeared
in the discussion. The information was not specified. If this is really
true, could you please provide any details about it?
Hans-Adam II: The Principality of Liechtenstein
was one of the few European states which did not recognize the Munich
Treaty and later the occupation of Czecho-slovakia by the Third Reich.
We recognized the Czechoslovakian exile government as the legal government
throughout World War II. I have been told that we have also sup-ported
the Czechoslovakian exile government financially but no records have
been kept on this, at least to my knowledge.
Another information that appeared in the discussion says that on 21
November 1945 a Bratislava administrative court turned down the complaint
of your father stating that the sued body had reached the conclusion
that the petitioner is „of German nationality“ by §1
of article 1 of letter a) of the decree. This happened prior to stating
that this had been a generally known fact. The reaction of those participating
in the discussion on this sort of the justification of the verdict indicated
that nowadays many people in the current Czech Republic would consider
such a justification of the verdict at least absurd. Did the event described
really take place and did the Bratislava court mention the argument
contained in its verdict? If this was the case, what do you think about
Hans-Adam II: Yes,
the Bratislava court decided that the Prince of Liechten-stein is of
German nationality and that this is a fact of common knowledge which
has not to be proved anymore. Unfortunately, the authorities in the
Czeck and the Slovak Republic still maintain this absurd justification
of the verdict and refuse to recognize the Principality of Liechtenstein
as a sovereign state which has been neutral in World War I and II.
According to the information published by CIA on http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/print/ls.html
, your royal dynasty claims the property rights to pieces of land confiscated
in the Czech Republic after 1918, i.e. after WWI. According to a BBC
article published on http://www.bbc.co.uk/czech/domesticnews/story/2003/10/031014_cz_lichtenstejn.shtml,
you demand no property but financial compensation amounting to 1 billion
francs for the property confiscated not after WWI but on the basis of
President Benes’ decrees after WWII. So, could you please make
clear what kind of property and/or compensa-tion your family requires
in the Czech Republic?
This BBC article contains a lot of nonsense. I have always said that
the compensation would be a financial burden to the Czech Republic which
does not make any sense. In fact from a pure economical sense it would
be very advan-tageous for the Czech Republic to give us our properties
back. We are not only willing but also able to invest a substantial
amount of money into those properties and into the historical buildings
which are associated with those properties. In fact a restitution would
put quite a financial burden on my family because forest and agricultural
land is not very profitable anymore and the same has to be said about
his-torical buildings, especially in the countryside.
Kahoun: According to the above-mentioned article,
published by the BBC Czech service, this means that each Czech citizen
would have to pay CZK 2,000 if the claims concerning your financial
compensation should be met. WWII took place nearly sixty years ago and
most Czech citizens remember neither the war nor the confiscation based
on President Benes’ decrees. And needless to say, they have not
participated in confiscating the property. Do you con-sider it just
that the current Czech citizens should settle such a huge amount of
money even though they participated in no way on the events you base
your claim on?
Hans-Adam II: This
question has already been answered by the answer to question 5.
about your claims toward the Czech Republic, what is your attitude toward
the EU principle that its legal system is not retroactive?
Hans-Adam II: To
answer this question you have to send me exactly what the EU has said
concerning the EU principle that its legal system is not retroactive.
After 1918, all of the property of the Habsburg dynasty was confiscated
within the bor-ders of the then Czechoslovakia. However, no descendant
of the dynasty has so far made any restitution claims. Do you admit
that the Habsburgs accept moral justifica-tion of the confiscation or
do you think that they acted so only because of the pressure of the
Versaille and Postupim conference?
Hans-Adam II: I
cannot speak for the Habsburg family. You have to ask them what their
what degree does your family feels spiritually akin to the Habsburg
dynasty? Do you know that in the Czech and Moravian awareness you were
always considered the house closest to the Habsburg dynasty?
My grandmother was a sister of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand who was
killed in Sarajevo. This is perhaps the reason why in the Czech and
Moravian awareness the Liechtenstein house is considered the closest
to the Habsburg dynasty. Historically one has to say that the Liechtenstein
family became a foreign dynasty with the end of the Holy Roman Empire
in 1806, as it was the case with the Bavarian, Würt-temberg and
other dynasties who before had been part of the Holy Roman Empire and
were therefore quite close to the Habsburg dynasty. A number of those
foreign dynas-ties kept properties in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire
after 1806 as the Liechtensteins did. They were also very often closer
related to the Habsburg dynasty through mar-riage, just think about
Empress Sissi, the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph II.
to my information, your family owned 99 estates in Moravia and Silesia.
Could you please name for our readers at least the most important of
Hans-Adam II: The
most important ones for the family were Feldsberg and Eisgrub which
were more or less the official seat for the family from the 15th century
far as I know, so far you have not visited the Czech Republic so that
you have seen none of your estates in person. However, I suppose you
know them at least from pic-tures and photographs. If you were allowed
to choose only one of them, which one would it be? Which one do you
Hans-Adam II: I
visited most of our estates in the Czech Republic as a private person
together with my family. Of course, I would choose Feldsberg and Eisgrub
for historical reasons.
Kahoun: If all your estates in Moravia are returned
to you, will your family struggle for their sovereignty to be accepted
and if this will be the case, can you imagine that the estates could
work as a state with regards to the fact that they do not compose a
continuous piece of land?
All our estates in Moravia were private estates, not only when they
were part of Czechoslovakia but also before, when they were part of
the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. We own property also in Austria and in
other states and we would never think of to declare them sovereign and
a part of the Principality of Liechtenstein. I do not know where this
rather stupid idea originated from, but probably from some communist
propaganda expert who never understood the nature of private property
in a market economy. If President Bush or the Queen of England buy a
farm in the Czech Republic, this farm does not become part of the United
States or the United Kingdom.
The first of your ancestors in this country, Henry of Liechtenstein,
won Mikulov estate in 1249 as a reward for his loyal services from a
Moravian margrave, the later Czech king Premysl Otakar II. Does your
family consider itself to be obliged only to a legal Czech king or would
you be ready to subdue to the civil principle - i.e. accept obliga-tions
toward the state within whose borders your property is situated, regardless
the form of government? [In the way for instance Karel Schwarzenberg
acted after November 1989]?
Hans-Adam II: Of course, we respect the obligations
toward the state within whose borders we have our properties. On the
other hand a state has the obligation to respect basic human rights.
Expropriation without compensation for instance violates one of those
basic human rights.
Among your ancestors was also Karel of Liechtenstein [1569 - 1627],
who from our perspective had ill reputation due to his acting as an
imperial governor after the Battle of White Mountain. Among other things,
he sent 27 Czech lords to death and he also made fortune by participating
in a consortium, which brought about the biggest cur-rency breakdown
in the history of the Czech lands and the following complete impov-erishment
of the whole country? What do you think about him? Would you be ready
to agree with the opinion that these historical events were, say, „unfortunate“?
Hans-Adam II: I know that Czech nationalists and
communists have drawn a very one-sided picture about my ancestor Karel
of Liechtenstein. When he became imperial governor after the Battle
of White Mountain the Emperor ordered him to exe-cute a large number
of rebels who had fought against the Emperor. My ancestor refused to
execute all those people and postponed the execution for over a year
and asked the Emperor to pardon all of them. The Emperor finally gave
in but insisted that at least 27 persons had to be executed.
the currency those charges were brought forward nearly 30 years after
Karel of Liechtenstein died and there is some indication that it was
a court intrigue against his son Karel Eusebius. As far as I know the
investigation at that time did not show any wrongdoing and the whole
thing was settled by a rather small payment. The impoverishment of the
whole country was the result of the Turkish Wars which lasted at least
in Moravia until the beginning of the 17th century, and then the 30
Years War which followed immediately.
Kahoun: Through EFTA, your country is along with
Norway and Island a member of the Euro-pean Economic Area, but is not
an EU member country. The Czechs have voted for membership in the EU
but almost nobody here knew about the theoretical chance to become a
member of the European Economic Area but not directly the EU. The EU
referendum was accompanied with a simplifying governmental advertising
campaign. I criticized it in one of my articles even though I voted
in favour of the membership. Could you explain what you think are the
advantages and disadvantages of the status of your country, Norway and
Island, i.e. the membership in the EEA but not in the EU?
I have always been in favour of our membership in the EEA despite the
fact that this membership was rejected by Switzerland in fall 1992 in
a popular vote and despite the opposition of influential groups here
in Liechtenstein against our membership in the EEA. Nevertheless, in
a popular vote the Liechtenstein people accepted our membership in the
EEA by quite a large majority. Basically the membership in the EEA gives
us all the economic benefits of a membership in the EU without the high
costs involved. Of course, without being a member in the EU we do not
have a political influence on the future of the EU, but then being the
smallest mem-ber in a EU with 25 or more members will never give us
much political influence. Therefore, I think it is in the best interest
of the Liechtenstein people to stay outside of the EU at least for the
Liechtenstein refused to sign the EEA enlargement agreement in Luxembourg
on October 14th, neither Norway nor Island signed to demonstrate solidarity.
Accord-ing to the information from Czech media, the two countries changed
opinion soon afterwards. This happened after a meeting of the Czech,
Norwegian and Icelandic Foreign Ministers where Liechtenstein was not
present. One of the Czech major TV stations marked this „negotiating
about Liechtenstein without Liechtenstein“ which was an allusion
to the Munich Dictate which we Czechs call „about us without us“.
Why do you think Norway and Island participated in the meeting and changed
When Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein did not sign the EEA enlargement
agreement in Luxembourg on October 14 it was clear between us three
that we would finally sign it. An important fact for Liechtenstein was
that in the enlargement agreement there was a document which recognized
the long-standing sov-ereignty of Liechtenstein and its neutrality during
World War I and World War II. This was accepted by all the member states
and all the candidates with the exception of the Czech and the Slovak
Republic. The government of Norway and Iceland very kindly offered to
make a last effort to convince the Czech and Slovak government to accept
historical facts. Unfortunately, neither the Czech nor the Slovak government
are able even today to accept historical facts about the existence of
the Principality of Liechten-stein. There were no negotiations by the
Norwegian and Icelandic foreign ministers about Liechtenstein without
to information from the Czech media, also your country decided to sign
the treaty in the end. Can this mean that you are ready to give up your
claims toward the Czech Republic? And if this is not the case, how will
you push through your claims?
We can only hope that the Czech and Slovak government will finally accept
historical facts and give up their rather childish position towards
the Principality of Liechtenstein. If they would carefully analyze the
whole situation they would soon find out that to give us back our properties
is in the best interest of their own people as I mentioned before. They
are free to visit our properties in Austria or elsewhere and to convince
themselves that they are well run and profitable.
Kahoun: The Czech Republic does not acknowledge
the sovereignty of Liechtenstein. Does Liechtenstein acknowledges the
sovereignty of the Czech Republic, i.e. the state of things after the
disintegration of the then Czechoslovakia and if it does not, are you
ready to acknowledge reciprocally the sovereignty of the Czech Republic
if the Czech Republic acknowledges yours?
Hans-Adam II: We
never had a problem to recognize the Czech Republic as a sovereign state,
just as we never had a problem to recognize Czechoslovakia as a sovereign
state. Czechoslovakia recognized us as a sovereign state immediately
after World War I when it became a sovereign state. Soon afterwards
Czechoslovakia decided that it will not recognize Liechtenstein anymore
as a sovereign state until again it changed its mind in 1938. 1945 Czechoslovakia
again changed its mind and decided not to recognize the Principality
of Liechtenstein as a sovereign state and now the Czech and Slovak Republic
are only willing to recognize us as a sovereign state, that has been
created only a few years ago. This denial of historical facts reminds
me of those Germans who still deny today that the Third Reich killed
millions of Jews. Luckily the Liechtenstein citizens were not killed
but all their properties were taken away without any compensation.
country has one of world’s most developed banking systems. However,
the CIA web page http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/print/ls.html
says that short-comings in your banking regulatory oversight have resulted
in concerns about the use of the financial institutions for money laundering.
What measures have you taken to prevent the effort to misuse your banking
Hans-Adam II: Everybody who knows a little bit
about criminal organizations and money laundering also knows that well
over 90 % of the money laundering takes place where the criminal organization
is active. The transfer of money across borders just adds risks and
expenses for the criminal organization. Those money laundering activities
which have an international dimension usually go through large financial
centres like New York or London where it is much easier to hide under
this huge daily volume of transactions some small transactions which
are illegal. Having said that there are of course some money laundering
cases which also affect small financial centres like Liechtenstein.
We had in the past not enough qualified personnel to handle all those
cases in a satisfactory way. A few years ago we decided to hire judges,
attor-neys and police investigators who are qualified to investigate
and to judge even the most complicated international money laundering
cases. As those people were not available in Liechtenstein we hired
them from Austria, Switzerland and Germany which of course was not always
popular here in Liechtenstein or also abroad. The problem we see now
is that, although we are able to do our homework, other countries who
should cooperate with us on specific cases do not have enough qualified
personnel to investigate those com-plicated international money laundering
hiring qualified personnel at great cost we also changed some laws in
order to make it easier not only to investigate money laundering but
also to convict the crimi-nals who have in nearly every case their residence
abroad and not in Liechtenstein.
Kahoun: At the moment, Liechtenstein is one of
the richest countries. However, this had not always been case and according
to some information, your father even had to sell part of the family
jewellery. You are frequently considered a brilliant businessman and
the current richness of your country is associated with your personal
skills. Do you agree with this opinion?
My father did not sell part of the family jewellery but part of the
art collection and some land which we owned mostly in Austria. He told
me that I have to study economics in order to rebuild the family business,
and I tried to do this as good as possible. I was very lucky and was
helped by very qualified people.
my father asked me to take over as Head of State 20 years ago Liechtenstein
already had one of the highest per capita income in the world. I just
followed his policy and when I will retire next year as Head of State
and my eldest son will take over I think he will follow the same policy
Kahoun: Since the beginning of WWII, your family
has lived in a Vaduz chateau. According to the information published
, you men-tioned the possibility of moving to Vienna provided Liechtenstein
voters do not approve an increase of your jurisdiction which was rather
extended already in the past (e.g. it incorporated the right to dissolve
Parliament). Can it really be that you move from your Vaduz chateau
Who ever takes the time to compare the old constitution with the new
one will see that the Reigning Prince gave up some powers in order to
strengthen democracy and the rule of law. The problem was that some
politicians and parties wanted to have this additional power for themselves
and not for the people. In the popular vote only 16 % of the people
followed this party line, 20 % wanted to stay with the old constitution
which gives the Reigning Prince more rights, and 64 % voted in favour
of our proposition.
constitutional quarrels had gone on over ten years and we in the princely
family had the opinion that they have become more and more a burden
for the whole state. Therefore, we decided that if our proposition would
be rejected we would again live abroad as it was the case before 1938
when we lived in Austria and Czechoslovakia.
Kahoun: I myself come from a country with a strong
republican feeling rooted even in the pre-Munich „First Republic“.
Almost nobody in the Czech Republic wishes or can imagine a monarchy.
Could you say what in your opinion are the advantages and disadvantages
of monarchy against republic?
If you look at human history world-wide you see that through-out human
history usually monarchies dominated as the form of government and not
republics. There have been of course republican periods but they were
usually shorter. As an historian one has to ask oneself of course why
this is the case. Monarchies can apparently offer some advantages which
republics cannot. Probably it has to do with the fact that a monarchy
usually offers more political stability over longer periods of time
and that the monarch has the tendency to think in generations and not
about win-ning the next elections. I think the combination which we
have here in Liechtenstein with a strong monarch, a direct democracy
which goes further even than in Switzer-land and political decentralization
which gives our communities a lot of autonomy could be a model for future
monarchies. For a little bit less than a hundred years we have lived
now in a republican age, which is not very long if you look at human
history, and I think sooner or later monarchies will come back.
Kahoun: An opinion in the above mentioned Internet discussion
on the „Neviditelny pes“ server saying that if the Moravian
pieces of land were returned to you and you declared them sovereign,
the author of the opinion would immediately move to southern Moravia
so that he could be your subject. It might have been an exaggeration,
but still - do you want to send a word to the guy?
I can only say there are many people who would love to move to Liechtenstein,
but unfortunately we are much too small to take them all.
Liechtenstein Prince Hans Adam II:
I want my property back