L’Union européenne, reflet de l’empire austro-hongrois

Si un bureaucrate de l’Union européenne pouvait se rendre à Vienne au tournant du XXe siècle, il serait surpris de découvrir à quel point l’empire des Habsbourg ressemblait à l’Union européenne d’aujourd’hui. Comme l’UE, l’empire austro-hongrois était une expérience de gouvernance supranationale, comptant 51 millions d’habitants, 11 nationalités, et 14 langues. Un empereur-roi et deux Parlements, représentant l’Autriche et la Hongrie, les deux moitiés en grande partie indépendantes de l’empire, étaient à la tête de ce microcosme de l’Europe.

L’empire des Habsbourg était une force stabilisatrice, à la fois pour les peuples qui le composait et pour l’Europe. Il remplissait les deux rôles d’arbitre et de censeur pour les différents groupes ethniques, pacifiant les rivalités entre autochtones et protégeant les plus petites nations des États prédateurs. Il remplissait également un vide géopolitique au centre du continent, contenant les velléités d’expansion de l’Allemagne et de la Russie.

Tant que l’empire assumait ces fonctions, l’Autriche-Hongrie était perçue comme une « nécessité européenne » - un exercice à la corde raide de nationalités et de nations pour lequel aucun substitut n’était concevable. Mais dès le début des années 1900, l’empire était confronté à deux problèmes qui mirent en doute ses capacités à mener à bien sa mission.

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