Biography of Dr. Elemér Hantos
Father of the European Idea
Dr. Elemér Hantos (1880-1942)
Dr. Elemér Hantos was born in Budapest on November 12, 1880.
He graduated from the Protestant High School of Sopron and continued his studies the Universities of Budapest, Leipzig and Cambridge. At 24, he obtained his doctorate and a degree in law.
He served as a deputy in the Hungarian Parliament and was subsequently appointed Secretary of State for Finance. He later became President of the Postal Savings Bank which—after the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy—served for a brief period as the Hungarian National Bank.
In the spring of 1919, Hantos left public life and dedicated himself to the creation of an economic and trade union among the Danubian nations. His dream was for a relatively small federation to be the starting point for a grand, pan-Danubian trade union that reduce tariffs and other barriers to trade between the member states.
According to Jacques Droz in his book Europe Centrale, “it was Hantos who did the most to make known the necessity of a Danubian economic confederation to the world. Through the economic institutes he founded in Vienna, Budapest, Brno, and Geneva, Dr. Hantos focused strongly on winning over European opinion and putting Central Europe on the map economically.”
In 1930 Hantos helped found the “Central European Study Center” at the University of Geneva. He was also responsible for founding the “Mitteleuropaische Wirtschafstagung”, the “Danubian League”, and the “Committee for the Economic Rapprochement of Danubian Nations.” He also organized several conferences around Europe to address the economic problems of Central Europe.
During the period between the two world wars, Dr. Hantos published nearly 50 works, many of which were translated into other languages (including Japanese). These works addressed a wide variety of issues, including monetary issues, politics, economics, agriculture, and transportation issues, including devising a plan to improve rail and water transport in Central Europe. He also wrote a book comparing Hungary’s constitution to the Magna Carta and “la Bulle d’Or”.
Between 1924 and 1938, Hantos traveled often to Geneva where he partook in numerous discussions with ambassadors of nations that were interested in hearing his views on the economic issues of Central Europe. In 1924, he was named «rapporteur» at the Economic Committee of the Société des Nations. He also conducted various conferences on the topic of Central Europe at the Université de Genève and the Institut Universitaire des Hautes Etudes Internationales on the invitation of W. Rappard.
Hantos’ warnings against the primacy of politics over economic considerations were not met with universal approval. According to Jacques Droz: “In the signing of the pacts between the Danubian nations, the security and the political interests had always played a predominant role…Contrary to Hantos’ wishes, the aspirations of the small nations, who couldn’t organize themselves properly, was exploited by the large nations for their political stratagems.”
Dr. Hantos died in July, 1942.
Text based on a biography prepared by Dr. Hantos’ son, Elemér, (translated from the French by Jerrod Engelberg)