Otto von Hapsburg, the onetime heir to the imperial throne of Austria-Hungary, who during a long career in European politics was a strong proponent of unifying the divided continent, died July 4, 2011 at his home in Pöcking, Germany. He was 98.
Otto was the eldest son of Charles I, who ascended to the Hapsburg throne at the tail end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. was the last Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary from 1916 until the dissolution of the empire in 1918. Otto was considered by himself, his family and Austro-Hungarian legitimists to be the rightful Emperor-King from 1922
Otto did not, however, fit the part of the exiled would-be monarch waiting for his throne to be restored. He remained deeply involved in the turbulent events of the last century, opposing the Nazi annexation of Austria and later serving two decades as a member of the European Parliament.
Otto von Habsburg was Vice President (1957–1973) and President (1973–2004) of the International Paneuropean Union, and served as a Member of the European Parliament for the Christian Social Union of Bavaria (CSU) 1979–1999. In 1961, Francisco Franco offered him the crown of Spain, but he declined on account of the Habsburg dynasty’s long absence from the Spanish throne, and recommended Juan Carlos. As a newly elected Member of the European Parliament in 1979, Otto had an empty chair set up for the countries on the other side of the Iron Curtain in the European Parliament, and took a strong interest in the countries behind the Iron Curtain during his tenure. Otto von Habsburg played a central role in the revolutions of 1989, as a co-initiator of the Pan-European Picnic. Later he would be a strong supporter of the EU membership of central and eastern European countries