Hereditary Prince Alois of Liechtenstein, Speech at Mendel University – 14 November 2019
Speech at Mendel University – 14 November 2019
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you very much for this honourable prize. I see myself receiving this prize as representative of a family that had a very important role for the promotion of science in Moravia and for the Mendel University in particular.
These family activities were not random. My family considered Moravia home for 800 years. If you are responsible, you want your home to be prosperous in the long run. To achieve this you have to combine a long-term and sustainable orientation with an entrepreneurial and innovative spirit. We sometimes say that our family has survived all the centuries successfully because we had this approach already in 1136 and never abandoned it since.
The support of the Mendel University by members of my family was always part of the belief that science and education lie at the core of a promising future. Let me mention some examples:
Already at the end of the 18th century Prince Alois I experimented with the most modern agricultural methods to improve cattle breeds and plants, and imported new varieties of trees and seeds from North America and elsewhere. In 1827 Prince Alois II joined the Imperial-Royal Agricultural Society and served as its President from 1849 until his death, concentrating on its vocational training work and experimenting with new methods on his estates. His successor Prince Johann II introduced many improvements in agriculture like soil amelioration, artificial fertilisers, new breeds of cattle, new cultivars and modern implements.
In 1894 Prince Johann II founded fruit-growing schools on 40 hectares of land for students’ practical studies and in 1895 he founded at Lednice a Higher Fruit-growing and Horticulture School. Between 1900 and 1910 some 1½ million fruit trees were given away or sold cheaply, especially to school gardens, in which Prince Johann II took a special interest. By 1929 some 800 students had passed through the school, many of them supported financially by him. The school was transferred in 1953, replaced at Lednice by a vocational training school and is now the Horticulture faculty of the Mendel University.
In 1912 Prince Johann II founded the Mendeleum research and plant-breeding centre in memory of Gregor Mendel, the father of modern genetics. He provided it with land, had the necessary buildings erected and committed himself to financing it for ten years. The institute continues its advanced scientific work at Lednice as part of the Mendel University.
Unfortunately, with the beginning of the 1930s it became increasingly difficult for my family to support agricultural science in Moravia and the Mendel University in particular. Our efforts came to a complete standstill when in 1945 – influenced by the communist, especially through the ministry of agriculture – the property of all Liechtenstein citizens was seized without legal basis.
However, my family kept its strong interest in agricultural and forestry science and continued to experiment with the most modern methods in these fields. Today, through the Foundation Prince Liechtenstein my family operates companies that are active in the fields of agriculture, forestry and energy production in Austria and abroad. The focus of our activity is the sustainable management of the enterprises according to economic, ecological and social principles while being a pioneer that seeks and follows new paths in a variety of sectors:
The Wilfersdorf Agricultural Operation was the first Austrian enterprise to obtain the "Sustainable agriculture – viable for the future" certificate from the DLG Testing Institute. Our entire forestry operations are certified according to the PEFC guidelines and are engaged in the controlled sustainable management of the forest estate. The Sparbach Nature Reserve near Mödling, created by my family in 1962 as Austria's first nature reserve, was awarded the "Nature Reserve of the Year" accolade. Each year, approximately 65,000 people visit this park.
LIECO, a family company, has been producing high-quality forestry container seedlings with guaranteed origin for optimum growth rates since 1985. With an almost 20% share of the market for forestry seedlings, the company is the market leader in Austria. Many customers in Germany and other countries also rely on LIECO quality. What have made LIECO the central European technology leader in the production of forestry container seedlings? Years of research and development.
RiceTec, another family company, is a technology-based seed enterprise that produces and markets high-quality hybrid rice products in the US, , where it is market leader, in South America and India. Years of breeding programmes have led to the development of hybrid seeds that inter alia meet the following requirements: high grain yield, disease resistance, grain quality and lodging resistance.
In all these sectors we cooperate with leading universities and scientist in Europe, the US, South America and Asia, particularly China and India. We are convinced that continuous innovation that tries to find the right balance between risks and opportunities is not only a key factor for the success of our enterprises, but also for the progress of our society. Therefore, we see our scientific efforts in this area also as an important part of our philanthropic activities.
In 2009 the Czech Republic and the Principality of Liechtenstein re-established diplomatic relations. They also established the Czech-Liechtenstein Commission of Historians. The historians published many works and recommended that both sides negotiate and not litigate to solve the open issue of the seizure of Liechtenstein property.
Although we have made considerable progress in the cooperation between our countries there are still many areas where we can deepen the relationship to reach the very fruitful level of past centuries. I am convinced that this event and next week’s seminar that the Mendel University organises together with the Foundation Prince Liechtenstein will be a helpful step in this regard.
Having received the prize today, for which I thank once more, I would like to express the hope that we can solve the remaining open issue to allow the Mendel University and my family not only remember a great past. As I said in the beginning: we have never abandoned to combine a long-term and sustainable orientation with an entrepreneurial and innovative spirit and we have never forgotten where we were home. If the circumstances are right, we are ready to have again a much more fruitful role for the Mendel University, Moravia and the Czech Republic.