The Federalist – political revue, 2004, Jean-Pierre Gouzy

The saga of the European Federalists during and after the Second World War

First pubblication: The Federalist, A political Review, Essay, Year XLVI, 2004, Number 1, Page 12, LINK

After the First World War, during the 1920s, a European current of thought arose from the inability of organising the European states and people according to an international natural order suited to the unity and diversity of Europe.
In the 1930s an original federalist orientation developed in response to the inability to establish a society that could meet the needs of the Twentieth Century and safeguard Europeans from the proletarian and totalitarian scourges. This new movement was inspired, particularly in France, by the Proudhonian and libertarian traditions of the labour movement and personalist thought. The Italian Francesco Nitti was well aware that “Clemenceau’s peace with Wilson’s methods” was “the worst imaginable”. Another Italian, the liberal Luigi Einaudi, who later became President of the Republic after the fall of Fascism, had already criticised the League of Nations and its projects back in 1918. His arguments were strangely similar to those used later in 1935 by Lord Lothian. The latter’s work on pacifism tackled, in the face of increasing dangers, the failure of the Geneva enterprise.

The European idealism of the 1920s and 1930s was notably marked by an extraordinary character, Count Richard Coudenove-Kalergi, a brilliant cosmopolitan aristocrat who founded the Pan-European movement in Vienna in 1923. Some of the most distinguished personalities of the political and literary world during the “Roaring Twenties” joined his efforts. Among them: Edouard Herriot, Léon Blum, Eleuthatios Venizelos, Paul Claudel, Paul Valéry, Miguel de Unanumo, Edouard Bénès, Francesco Nitti.

Aristide Briand’s assertion, made in Geneva on the 5th of September 1929 in the name of the French government, may be seen as the height of europeist verbalism of this era. During a sensational speech he urged Europeans to develop “a sort of federal bond… without interfering with the sovereignty of any nation that may form a part of such an association”.

Alexis Léger, the then general secretary of the Quai d’Orsay, better known as one of the greatest contemporary poets under the name of Saint John Perse, wrote a memorandum on the organisation of a Federal European Union regime, presented to the League of Nations. However, since 1931 the proposition became bogged down in the procedure. Elsewhere, Nazism was making meteoric progress in Germany, resulting in Adolph Hitler coming to power on the 20th of January 1933, whilst the consequences of the Wall Street Crash on the 24th of October 1929 questioned the certainties upon which our bourgeois and liberal society had until that point been based.
In France, equally, this same decade was the juncture of the first truly “global” federalist awareness prior to the Second World War. By this I am referring obviously to the Ordre Nouveau movement, steeped in Personalist Philosophy, with Arnaud Dandieu, Denis de Rougemont, Alexandre Marc; a whole generation haunted by the idea of a crisis of civilisation, worried about the ensuing war. Certainly, Ordre Nouveau called for a new Europe, but it also required federalism within the economic and social relations. The group’s opposition was global, it was closely akin to the thoughts of the early resistants to Hitlerism in Germany, like Harro Schulze-Boysen, in Great Britain, to the worries of the “New Britain” movement organisers, etc.Was it still possible to “remake Europe” in the early part of the decisive decade that was the 1930s? The young intellectuals of Ordre Nouveau in vain took on the false democracies as well as their totalitarian offshoots. They declared that “Paneuropa and the League of Nations” were nothing but different expression of the same idealist pipe dream. Their protest is a valuable testimony, despite not being able to stop the inescapable course of events. It was the European regime that, in fact, found itself brutally called into question by the disastrous collapse of the international order established by the Treaty of Versailles,[1] of Trianon[2] and of Saint Germain,[3] during 1919/1920, first in March 1938 by the Anschluss and later the Sudetes affair, and in the same year the Dantzig corridor affair, which lead to the Second World War in September 1939.

From War to Post-War

What was the profound significance of the monstrous events that marked the Second World War and caused the death of 38 million civilians and soldiers?
This significance, in our sense, is the triumph over the carcasses of dictators representing the totalitarian Nazi and fascist ideologies, of two dominant ideologies totally opposing one another in terms of their notions of man and society, but who tried to unite in order to rule the world and at the same time divide it in two different zones of influence.

Stalin symbolised the first and Roosevelt the second, because he was convinced, as Wilson before him, on the subject of the League of Nations, that by placing the universe under the control of that peaceful organisation, the “United Nations”, the relationship with the communist world could once again be amicable. At the Teheran conference in December 1943, it was agreed that Germany ought to be dismembered. In Yalta in January 1945, Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin devised the plan to build a new world society, according to the aspirations of the systems they conflictingly embodied. In their declaration about Europe, the three “Greats” affirmed their supremacy.
Though victorious, these ideologies were unable to organise the universe in their own image. Europe was thus divided between regimes more and more Stalinist to the East and liberally structured societies to the West. Soon, what came to be known as the “iron curtain” guarded by the soviet army would isolate Central and Eastern Europe from the rest of the old continent and, beyond that, from the “free world” until the beginning of the 1990s.

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The Resistance

From 1941, while Hitler’s Germany took over practically the whole of Europe, some clearly envisaged the rapidly disenchanted future that was to follow the Second World War if, once freed from the yoke they were under, the Europeans did not succeed in solving their problems within a framework that was to be neither that of national sovereignties nor that of the alliances.

In Italy, it was the anti-fascists, such as Altiero Spinelli, future founder and leader of the Movimento Federalista Europeo, a once communist militant, given a custodial sentence at the age of 20, in 1927, and Ernesto Rossi, mathematician, ex editor of the cultural publication L’Astrolabio, who decided to begin action for the European federation, even prior to the liberation of the south of the peninsula. Their Manifesto was circulated since June 1941, from the small island of Ventotene, in the Gulf of Gaete, where Mussolini’s regime had imprisoned them, and in the main Italian cities, notably in Milan and Rome. It was in Ventotene, in fact, that Spinelli was exposed to the American federalist experience, whilst reading Hamilton, and that a long intellectual journey led him to challenge Marxism. The Ventotene manifesto advocated the organisation of post-war Europe on this new basis: democracy must blossom into a federation. Those who wanted to reinstate the Europe of the national sovereignties, whether their political complexion be “right” or “left,” would henceforth be seen as “conservatives”; those who instead went beyond the illusion of national sovereignty would be seen as “progressive”.

The Dutch writer and federalist Henri Brugmans, first rector of the Collège européen of Bruges, who furthermore opposed the constitutionalist vision of Europe as suggested by Altiero Spinelli, wrote as much in his work on European unity by saying that the Ventotene prisoners’ Manifesto was “without a doubt the most well reasoned document, for this era, in our field”.

The authors of the Manifesto were men of action who since the liberation of southern Italy had been in touch with the antifascist partisans, who were fighting the forces of Mussolini. They also influenced the clandestine movements in the north of Italy. Notably, Ernesto Rossi endeavoured to accomplish this mission in Switzerland.
It was during May 1943 that the first issue of the clandestine Italian publication L’Unità europea was published in Rome. The editor was a young journalist, Guglielmo Usellini, who for many years was the General Secretary of the European Union of Federalists, based in rue de l’Arcade in the Parisian quarter of Place de la Madeleine.

On the 27th , 28th and 29th of August 1943, the different federalist groups within Italy met in Milan to co-ordinate their activities and establish the basis for the Movimento Federalista Europeo. The first official conference was in Venice in October of 1946.

In France, the European post-war idea extricated little by little its federalist hopes from the Resistance.
On the French territory, it was especially under the impetus of Henri Frenay, who led the Combat movement during the Resistance, and who subsequently became the Minister for prisoners of war and later the president of the European Union of Federalists, that European ideas began to be expressed in the form of clandestine lampoons, with Alexandre Marc, Albert Camus and others.

An officer by profession, involved in the most dramatic underground events, on the 12th December 1943 Henri Frenay wrote in the clandestine journal Combat: “the men of the French resistance are reaching out to men of other nations. Together they want to rebuild their country and then Europe… European resistance will be the cement of future unions… The governments of today must remember this: it is the people who will impose the necessary unions…

Another clandestine journal Libération Zone-Sud of the 10th of January 1943, noted, for its part, and in this spirit, that it was necessary to build a post-war Europe “on the limitations of the national sovereignties, on a federation of nations” and the Lyons regional programme of the Mouvement de Libération Nationale declared that: “a Society of nations conceived as a League of sovereign States is inevitably an illusion, we intend to fight for the establishment of a European, democratic federation, open to all nations…

If at the time and during the Resistance the aspiration towards Europe was simply a matter for a few, the German historian Walter Lipgens still believes they are responsible for the fact that, on three occasions, the European federation is cited as being the objective of the war in the French clandestine press.
In his work L’idée européenne[4] Henri Brugmans makes some interesting points regarding the situation in the Netherlands. In particular he quotes the case of a financial manager of Prussian origin, Dr H.D. Salinger who worked closely with the “illegal” Dutch group Je maintiendrai, who studied the problem of a destroyed Germany following the world war. Under the pseudonym “Hades”, he drafted a project called Die Wiedergeburt von Europa which circulated clandestinely. Salinger imagined a Europe made up of integrated regional groups structured within a federal framework. Following the war he was one of the creators of L’action européenne néederlandaise.

In Great Britain, federalist and European ideas continued to be manifest, despite the war. They found an echo in a group like the “New Commonwealth Society” and especially within the “Federal Union” movement founded in the 1930s. The role of the Federal Union was to be important, as we will see, in the gestation of the European and World federalist movement at the end of the war.

We must still mention the European aspirations that animated a number of Germans in the Resistance. Henri Brugmans quotes Karl-Friedrich Goerdeler, ex burgomaster of Leipzig, who would have been chancellor if the assassination attempt on Hitler on the 20th of July 1944 had been successful. Goerdeler had foreseen the constitution of a European federation. Captured in western Prussia on the 12th of August 1944 he died from hanging at the hands of the Nazis.

For his part, Eugen Kogon, who was one of the first to be imprisoned in the concentration camps, was to be a determining factor in the constitution of the European Union of Federalists in post-war Germany. He was to be the first president of the Europa-Union Deutschland. Finally, we are more familiar with the story of Hans and Sophie Scholl, and that of some students of the University of Munich who set up, with their Professor Huber, the clandestine group Die weisse Rose. Prior to being arrested and decapitated in February 1943, in one of their leaflets they launched an appeal to the constitution of a Federal Germany within a federalised Europe, so that “Prussian militarism should never again come to power”.

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The First International Meetings

The first international meetings of the European members of the resistance from Norway, Denmark, France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, but also from Poland and Czechoslovakia took place in Geneva during the months of March, April, May and July 1944.

K.F. Goerdeler, who has already been mentioned, was among those present who had come to discuss projects secretly on the shores of Lake Leman. At the time war was raging in Western Europe since the allied Normandy landings in June: France had not been set free and northern Italy was under Hitler’s army.
Geneva saw the first truly “European” manifesto that stemmed from the war. The European manifesto of Ventotene was due, in actual fact, to some Italian federalists. The manifesto of European resistance that claimed “the creation of a federal union between European people” came from Europeans from a number of different nationalities, even though it had been strongly influenced by the Ventotene manifesto. Thus, the different countries around the world were urged to “go beyond the dogma of absolute sovereignty of the states”. So, it was asserted that only a federal union would allow “the German people to adopt a European lifestyle without it being a danger to others”: only one federal Union would allow “to resolve border problems in the areas of mixed population, and these would also cease to be the object of crazy nationalistic desires”. “Only a federal Union would favour the safeguarding of democratic institutions in Europe and the economic rebuilding of the continent”.

In order to do this the federal Union should eventually consist of:
1) “a government answerable to the people of the different member states”, to “be able to exercise a direct jurisdiction within the limits of its powers”;
2) an army under its command;
3) a supreme court to deal with questions relating to the interpretation of the federal constitution.

Moreover, in March 1945, at a time when the death throes of the 3rd Reich were beginning, since the latter was to surrender on the 8th of May, the first international conference of European federalists took place in Paris on the initiative of the Comité français pour la fédération européenne originating from the Resistance. The conference was possible after the retreat of the German army from the occupied territories. Between the 22nd and the 24th of March, this committee presented itself as “the first rallying centre for democratic and socialist forces with a view to a common federalist action”. It brought together different types of people, such as the writer Albert Camus who made the opening speech, Altiero Spinelli, John Hynd the Labour Member of Parliament, etc.

For this committee the European federation was but a first step towards a worldwide federation: it was to allow the solution of the German problem in the same spirit as it had animated the resistance of the left against Nazism and in opposition to “all antagonistic blocs”.

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Integral Federalism

Nevertheless, we would be far from accounting for the complexity of reality if we did not highlight an attempt of another kind, which took shape in France in October 1944, and strongly contributed to the development of the federalist movements of this country. This attempt was made by a group of former teachers, impregnated with doctrines from the Tour du Pin social Catholicism on the one side and Proudhonian communalism on the other. At first, set up as Centre d’études institutionelles pour l’organisation de la société française - La Fédération, this group was not concerned with the European perspective. It was not until 1945 and especially in 1946 that this perspective took its place in the debates and the publications of La Fédération. Originally it was mainly concerned with establishing a social order in France based on the profession, the profession-based trade unionism, and the community. In short, a doctrine that was close in certain aspects to the concerns of the survivors of the publication Ordre Nuveau, which, in the 1930s, had given rise to a wave of new ideas: federalist Personalism.

The first brochure published by La Fédération, “France, Terre des libertés” already developed, against Jacobinical centralisation, the perspectives of what was soon to be called “Internal Federalism”, to distinguish it from “European Federalism” or “Internationalism”. Finally, we must remember concurrently to this endeavour, again in France, the birth of a movement of socialist ideas, having a federalist and communitarian orientation. It was a resistance group, under the name of Mouvement national révolutionnaire (MNR), which brought together socialist trade unionists and ex communist or libertarian militants, from January 1945, with an avant-garde publication called Cahiers de la République moderne. This socialist and federalist movement denounced the “political power of the trusts” as well as the nationalisations — in fact the state ownership — of some important enterprises of the time, and called for the creation of a federal Europe as a “third power” against the USSR and the United States of America

The essential characteristic of these two groups, La Fédération and La République Moderne, inspired by the integral federalist ideas of Alexandre Marc, even though one was clearly “right wing” and the other “left wing”, was that they were “federalists before being Europeans”. Therefore, in the eyes of their leaders, Europe was not so much an aim as a framework objective for a new society. Right from the beginning the main federalist movements in France were therefore as much sensitive to the disorder of the democratic and social institutions that they witnessed around them, as they were to the disorder of the relations between the sovereign states on an international level. At the same time as being fertile ground for federalist action, this French feature was no doubt to become an additional element of complexity, as men and movements would have to shift from ideas to realisations and action.

It was in France, in Wallonia and in Switzerland that the ideas of this federalist movement were therefore developed immediately after the Second World War. It was at this time that the Réflections sur la violence by Georges Sorel were re-published. It was then that Alexandre Marc circulated his chosen Proudhon texts. The work of the Swiss writer Adolf Gasser on the “communal autonomy” had their biggest success in Paris, while the writer Jean-François Gravier denounced the wrongdoings of the centralising state in a very widely read book, Paris et le désert français. New ideas about enterprise began to form everywhere. In the face of the models offered by the traditional capitalist enterprises or by the state enterprise, the movement Communauté circulated in France essays on the achievement of work communities that existed here and there at an experimental stage. On the 31st of August and 1st of September 1946, a Community conference was held in Paris. The ideas developed were close to those of the Italian movement Comunità founded by the great Italian industrialist, Adriano Olivetti.

So, within the institutional and ideological chaos of the post-war years, while the soviet Stalinist threat was progressively taking over from the Hitlerite and fascist totalitarianisms, France — and of course it is not the only case! — may seem like a huge field of experiences, where many proved to be ephemeral anyway, but all of which maintained that they were foreshadowing the “society of tomorrow”.
In the same way, everywhere in the free Europe of the time, those who were contemplating ways to build an international, European, regional, community or enterprise society, that would safeguard the freedom of men, were trying to act and reassemble.

When suddenly, on the 19th of September 1946, Winston Churchill’s historical speech rang out: “Europeans! We must build a kind of United States of Europe!” a stunned world learned that the great Victorian conservative who had been one of the most uncompromising adversaries of Hitlerite Germany, was calling the Europeans to revolution!

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From Zurich to Montreux (1946 -1947)

In fact, it was with such a force that the man, who personified the British wish of not giving in to the Hitlerite enterprise during the Second World War, said almost prophetically, when observing the desolate scene of Europe: “Among the victors there is a Babel of jarring voices; among the vanquished the sullen silence of despair. That is all that Europeans, grouped in so many ancient States and nations… have got. …Yet all the while there is a remedy which, if it were generally and spontaneously adopted, would as if by a miracle transform the whole scene, and would in a few years make all Europe, or the greater part of it, as free and as happy as Switzerland is today… We must build a sort of ‘United States of Europe’… There is already a natural grouping in the Western Hemisphere. We British have our own Commonwealth of Nations. These do not weaken, on the contrary they strengthen, the world organisation… And why should there not be a European group which could give a sense of enlarged patriotism and common citizenship to the distracted peoples of this turbulent and mighty continent?...
“In order that this should be accomplished, there must be an act of faith… I am now going to say something that will astonish you: the first step in the re-creation of the European family must be a partnership between France and Germany… But I must give you warning. Time may be short. …The fighting has stopped; but the dangers have not stopped… If we are to form the United States of Europe, or whatever name or form it may take, we must begin now… We must re-create the European family in a regional structure called, it may be, the United States of Europe. The first step is to form a Council of Europe. If at first all the States of Europe are not willing or able to join the Union, we must nevertheless proceed to assemble and combine those who will and those who can… Therefore I say to you: Let Europe arise!

No doubt, the stir caused by this speech took nothing away from the merit of those who came before Churchill and, as we have already said, in almost all of Western Europe, certain initiatives had been taken prior to the end of war in this domain. Some would even say that having glamorously fixed a date in September 1946, since the beginning Churchill influenced the movement for European unity, furnishing it, willingly or unwillingly, with a conservative and unique colouring, even though in his Zurich speech he was careful to say that Great Britain and the British Commonwealth would be friends and “sponsors of the new Europe” without being a member of the “United States of Europe” in the same way as the countries of the continent.
No doubt, but we cannot deny that the Zurich speech acted as a detonator. The press everywhere echoed his words.

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From Hertenstein to the Creation of the Union of the European Federalists

At the same time, on the shores of the Lac des Quatre-cantons, in Hertenstein, federalist militants from fourteen European countries, met on the initiative of the Swiss Europa-Union (founded in 1934). The federalist meeting in Hertenstein was held from the 15th to the 22nd of September 1946. Its participants, often originating from the Resistance, had a precise objective: to form a true movement.
The future Union of European Federalists (UEF) stemmed from this first meeting. They adopted a common declaration, and it was to notably influence the constitution of the federalist movement in post-war Germany. The first statutes of the Europa-Union Deutschland, adopted in 1949, explicitly refer to the Hertenstein declaration as the “ideological base”. In twelve points this declaration laid the first foundation of a common perspective. In actual fact, it called for a European community based on the federalist principles. This community, seen as a constituent element of a World Union, had to have the essential attributes of sovereignty on a political, economic and military level.
The European federation conceived at Hertenstein underlined the need for legal regulations to govern social life. It recommended a European citizen’s charter based on the respect of human beings. Elsewhere the Hertenstein declaration stated that the European federation should be made up of regional sub-federations, and that it ought to guarantee the integrity of each member national community. It was in the post-second world war European literature that the phrase “European Community” was used a number of successive times within the declaration of intentions itself.

In Hertenstein they were obviously still thinking of a constitution for a global Europe and not of a Western Europe including Germany separated from central and Eastern Europe by an “iron curtain”. The regional sub-federations would thus respectively group the Latin, Germanic, Nordic, Anglo-Saxon and Slavonic countries.
Elsewhere, in September 1946, the United Nations that were organised since the beginning of that year were still adorned with all their prestige and it was not surprising that the Hertenstein federalists, referring particularly to article 52 of the UN charter, listed among their wishes the constitution of a world-wide Union. Some months afterwards, the UEF materialised its aspirations when it chose the motto “One Europe in a united world”.
The Hertenstein meeting was very strongly influenced by the Dutch and Swiss federalists. Among those present we find Henri Brugmans who, in December 1946, became the first president of the Union of European Federalists.
A month after the Hertenstein meeting, another federalist meeting was called in Luxemburg, spurred on this time by the British leaders of the movement “Federal Union” who had established contacts with the different French federalist groups, the young Movimento Federalista Europeo in Italy and the American association “United World Federalist”.

The meeting in Luxemburg, clearly oriented towards internationalism since it included not only European delegates but also Hindus, Americans and New Zealanders, succeeded in clarifying the organisational side of things. It was understood, in fact, that a European secretariat would come into being in Paris in December 1946, and that its objective was to be that of collating and co-ordinating the activities of movements in favour of a federalist Europe. An international secretariat would be set up in New York with the purpose of promoting the idea of a universal government.

Finally, it was actually in Paris on the 15th and 16th of December 1946 that the Union of European Federalists was officially set up. The meeting was held at the headquarters of the movement La fédération, 9 rue Auber in the Quartier de l’Opéra. First of all it gave the impression of huge diversity: even though the objective was that of constituting a Union of European federalists, many participants continued to give priority to world-wide federalism. Some of the groups represented were only interested in a federation of Europe, others thought above all about the organisation of a federalist society in Europe. Some referred gladly to the Anglo-Saxon conception of federalism. The others referred more to the libertarian and Proudhonian sources. Such an amalgamation would inevitably bring to the surface the doctrinal divergences and the political incomprehension, which, as the years went by, were to complicate the life of the movement.

At the meeting, under the presidency of Gaston Riou, author of a premonitory book published in 1928, entitled Europe ma patrie, some unanimous decisions were made confirming the definitive constitution of the UEF (with a statute in accordance with Helvetian legislation), by making the headquarters in Switzerland (Palais Wilson in Geneva) setting up the secretariat in Paris, and giving the responsibility for the latter to Alexandre Marc, who also became, with Henri Brugmans as president, the first general secretary of the UEF. When the delegates parted company in the freezing streets of Paris in that month of December 1946, the first post-war European expectations had at last been crystallised.

In 1947, this expectation was defined even more. On the 4th of March, the French government had signed a treaty of alliance with Great Britain, in which they more or less acknowledged that the aim was to avoid the rebirth of a possible “German danger”, but this attitude soon changed over the following months, since one after another the European countries controlled by the soviet army were forced, whether they liked it or not, to submit to communist or pseudo-socialist governments, under the thumb of Joseph Stalin. Meanwhile the United Nations Organisation, torn between the contradictory influences of the Kremlin and the White House, far from going in the direction of an international government, gave off the first signs of powerlessness.

The decisive turning point was in Harvard on the 5th of June 1947,with the sensational speech made by general Marshall, American secretary of state, when he offered the whole of Europe, in the name of the United States, “unprecedented financial help”, free assistance that would be decisive to prevent Europe from “exposing itself to an economic, social and political breakdown”.

On the 15th of July sixteen Western European countries accepted the principle of this American assistance, and in order to divide more than 12 million dollars in aid in four years, they decided to set up a committee of economic cooperation that began effectively on the 16th of April 1948, as the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC which became known as OECD in 1960).

Stalin’s USSR refused America’s offer. Better still, it decided to counteract what it called “economic imperialism” with a more complete and a quicker takeover by its partisans of Eastern European countries. In September 1947, it created the Kominform, a sort of new Komintern on the scale of a post-second world war Europe. The choice the Europeans had to make in these circumstances marked the beginning of the great European divide. Within the scope of economic cooperation created by the Marshall plan, the forces favourable to the unity of a free Europe and to democracy were to expand rapidly in addressing the different sectors of public opinion.

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The European Movements

A crop of European movements was to manifest itself, in fact, among which, two important tendencies were to quickly affirm themselves: the unionists and the federalists.
The Unionists, that is to say the partisans of a European Union in the wider sense of the word, followed close behind Winston Churchill who, on the 14th of May 1947, instigated the creation in London of the United Europe Movement, at a meeting held at the Albert Hall. He subsequently became its president. To begin with we must link this movement with the independent League for economic cooperation, later known as “ Ligue Européenne de Coopération Economique”. Created by Paul Van Zeeland, ex Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs, this league, consisting entirely of liberal bankers and industrialists, assumed the statute as an international association with a scientific goal. The league subsequently played an important role at the heart of the European movement as a laboratory for economic and monetary studies, and still does to this day.
Also in London, the socialists, on their part, established the Movement for the Socialist United States of Europe (the future Socialist Movement for the United States of Europe), which still exists today under the name of “European Left”. Its first president was Bob Edwards who was also president of the Independent Labour Party. The majority of its first leaders belonged to the left of the Labour Party, and the same goes for the Socialist SFIO Party in France, but within the party one could also find key Belgian, Dutch and Spanish figures. The radical orientation of the early days was to change, progressively, especially under the influence of Paul-Henry Spaak.
In June 1947 the European Christian Democrats, for their part, created their common organisation during a meeting near Liege, under the name of Nouvelles Equipes Internationales. The statute of the NEI (known as Union Européenne des démocrates chrétiens after 1965) defined their aims as follows: “to establish regular contact between political groups and key figures of the different nations inspired by the principles of Christian democracy, in order to study, in the light of these principles, the respective national situation as well as the international problems; to compare experiences and programmes, etc.”. Among its precise objectives, the NEI placed great importance on the need for a European Political Community.
Lastly, in Gstaad, on the 1st of September 1947, Count Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, returned in 1946 from the United States where he had been taking refuge during the war, presented a project for a European constitution, drawn up by the Paneuropean movement whose Legal Affairs Committee was based in New York from 1943 to 1945. He influenced the preparation of Churchill’s September 1946 speech in Zurich. He also gave rise to the creation of a “European Parliamentary Union”, destined, we are told by Anne-Marie Saint Gille in her excellent book on ‘Paneurope’[5] “to act as a prelude to a true parliamentary assembly”.

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The UEF Founding Congress: Montreux

When the federalists were planning their first European congress in Montreux, due to take place from the 27th to the 31st of August 1947, the young “Union of European Federalists” boasted about thirty member associations in Great Britain, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, The Netherlands, Germany and Italy.

The UEF congress succeeded the constitutional congress of the “Universal Movement for the World Confederation”, born in the same Swiss town, which became the “Universal Movement for a World Federation, World association of World Federalists”. Two hundred delegates and observers from sixteen nationalities attended the UEF Congress. It carried the hallmark of the integral federalist doctrine professed by Denis de Rougemont, Henri Brugmans and Alexandre Marc. The general political motion of the Montreux Congress was very strongly influenced by Denis de Rougemont’s report on “federalist attitude”. It is a masterly text where the federalist is considered to be “at the same time free and committed”, as “a person” and not as an unspecified and therefore abstract human being. Taking inspiration from Switzerland’s example, Denis de Rougemont lists the principles of federalism, as he perceived them: a) renouncement of all hegemony; b) renouncement of all esprit de système; c) safeguarding of minorities; d) preservation of the qualities of each federated entity; e) “Love of complexity”.
A federation, he said, is formed gradually thanks to people and groups and not starting from a centre or from governments.

The general political motion of Montreux saw in the “federalist idea” a “dynamic principle that transforms all human activities… Solution of synthesis, it is made up of two inextricably linked elements: organic solidarity and freedom. In other words, the blossoming of the human being thanks to its everyday life in the community… Starting from the principles of federalism we have just listed, it is immediately possible to take the path of a supranational European organisation. The gravity of the situation in which Europe finds itself requires a federal realisation where it can be tempted…” The federation thus “initiated must remain open to all (European) peoples, even to those who at present, for internal or external reasons, cannot participate… We must reduce the absolute sovereignty. A part of this sovereignty must be attributed to a federal authority… that possesses essentially: a) a responsible government; b) a supreme Court; c) an armed police force.

In the economic policy motion of Montreux, there is the clear influence of Alexandre Marc’s ideas: “all centralised and totalitarian organisation of the economy, it stated, is totally incompatible with the fundamental objectives of federalis…, all economic organisations must be based on the radical decentralisation of economic powers on all levels… and must plan new structures especially in the areas of currency and credit, etc.”.

The texts adopted at Montreux in 1947 were, elsewhere, precursory texts on two points:
1) “the application of these measures in Germany, enabling the use of its industrial potential and its natural resources for the profit of the whole of Europe, of which Germany is a part. The Sarre and the Ruhr must be primers of economic cooperation for the benefit of all Europeans.” This was the idea that inspired Jean Monnet when he advocated the institution of the European Coal and Steel Community.
2) a number of passages from the Montreux resolution in favour of “the Economic Federation of Europe” that would try to organise men and governments, starting in 1957, with the Rome Treaty of European Economic Community and then, in 1986, with the Single European Act.

Finally, to conclude the chapter on the first European congress and the post-war years, it must be specified that it was in Montreux in 1947, that the Germans and the Austrians took part for the first time since the end of the Third Reich, and on equal footing with other Europeans, in a democratically convened International Congress.

1948 Hague Congress 7 10 may 1948 1 - UEF

From The Hague Congress to the Council of Europe (1948/49)

On the eve of 1948, the federalists were not the only ones to develop a European plan of action. They certainly had a doctrine and they represented an original movement, non-conformist by nature, but the traditional political powers were present from then on, set on rebuilding a democracy in their image.
The 24th and 25th of February 1948 saw the fall of the Czech president, the democrat Edouard Bénès, and his replacement by the communist Clement Gottwald. This removed the last possible hopes for creating a geographically united Europe and of a UNO that would bring about international peace.
The climate therefore was that of the cold war. On the 17th of March 1948, the Brussels treaty signed by France, Great Britain, Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxemburg was a defensive pact between states that felt threatened. Moreover, the latter thee countries were linked by a common customs union: Benelux.
In July 1948, finally, the soviet powers began the blockade of Berlin, provoking extreme international tension. To put it simply, one could say that for the Unionists, acting generally under the inspiration of the British, a “United Europe” was seen as a natural slogan that would incite a political coalition in the face of soviet danger. This sizeable union was to enable the federalists to go much further towards a real unity of the peoples of the free countries of the old continent. Momentarily, however, they were both on the same route.

The struggle for European unity was, in actual fact, marked in 1948 by an extremely significant event. It was the invitation to The Hague between the 7th and the 11th of May, of true “States General of Europe” who were effectively to bring about a series of initiatives. Below are the ones we consider to be the most important ones: on a militant level, the European Movement and, on an official level, the Council of Europe.
The initiative of this spectacular demonstration came from a very recent “Coordination Committee of Movements for European Unity”, established on the 11th of November 1947 between existing European movements, including therefore the Union of European Federalists. Only the “Movement for a Socialist United States of Europe” thought the enterprise too “Churchill-like”, or too conservative, and preferred to remain on the fringe.
The official name of the Le Haye Congress was “Congress of Europe”. It was the federalists who spoke about “States General”, since the politicians and the militants of the European cause were not the only delegates, but found themselves with representatives of the forces vives which reflected the true social, economic and cultural face of European society at the time.

Federal pact 1949 - UEF

The Ridderzaal Debates

The presidency of the Congress naturally fell upon Winston Churchill, a figurehead of official Europeanism since his Zurich speech in 1946. Duncan Sandys, son-in-law of Churchill and Joseph Retinger, another “Churchillite” figure, were in charge of the effective organisation of the Congress. It was to boast 750 delegates and observers, 200 of which were members of parliament, and an astonishing number were former and future ministers or other key figures. Among them I will mention Konrad Adenauer, former burgomaster of Cologne and president of the German Christian Democratic union; Lord Belisha, former British minister; Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan, former ministers and future Prime Ministers; Edouard Daladier, former president of the Council of Ministres who together with Neville Chamberlain was responsible for the ephemeral Munich agreement with Hitler; Edgar Faure, future President of the Council of Ministers; Professor Hallstein, director of education at the University of Frankfurt; François Mitterand then minister for war veterans; the great Italian entrepreneur Adriano Olivetti; Dr Pilet Golaz, former president of the Helvetian Confederation; Paul Ramadier and Paul Reynaud, former presidents of the Council of Ministers; Paul Van Zeeland, former Prime Minister. Among the committed intellectuals and militants, the names to remember are Henri Brugmans, Denis de Rougemont, Salvador de Madariaga and Alexandre Marc, who played a very active role in the Congress, as well as figures such as Raymond and Robert Aron; Luciano Bolis; Richard Coudenhove Kalergi; Gregoire Gafenco, ex Rumanian foreign affairs minister, future president of the UEF. Also important are: Aldo Garosci; Enzo Giacchero, future president of the UEF; Claude-Marcel Hytte, editor of the publication La république moderne; Miss Josephy (“Jo” to her friends), colourful and very active president of the Federal Union European Committee; Henri Koch, then joint general secretary from Luxembourg of the UEF; Altiero Spinelli and his wife Ursula (also a delegate); Raymond Rifflet (Belgian), future president of the European Federalist Movement and of the European Left; Ernesto Rossi, Ernst von Schenck, a figurehead within European federalism in German speaking Switzerland at the time; the writer Ignazio Silone; Guglielmo Usellini, future general secretary of the UEF; André Voisin, general secretary of the French movement La Fédération; etc.

The setting for the debates was the medieval hall of knights of the Netherlands (Ridderzaal) seat of the Dutch parliament. Those who, like me, there as a special correspondent for a French daily paper, witnessed the opening session of this Congress will always remember the sight… Churchill presided over the meeting from a rostrum embellished with a crimson and gold velvet canopy, in the presence of Princess Juliana who was to be crowned queen of the Netherlands a few moths later and her husband Prince Bernard, in the gothic hall adorned with a huge flag with a red “E” on a white background, the universal symbol of European movements of the time. It is impossible to relate the main events that marked this historical meeting lasting almost four days. I have devoted many pages to this in a book.[6] To return to the matter in hand, the integral federalist trend tried to assert itself in Ridderzaal, by supporting the unionist militants who supported the workers’ unions participating in the management of the economy and the establishment of a European social and economic Council against the supporters of the Liberal school. Equally, at The Hague, the establishment of a Supreme Court of Justice was advocated. A “Message to the Europeans” issued by Denis de Rougemont during the closing session highlighted the main objectives followed at the time by the federalist thinkers: European Human Rights Chart; Court of Justice; European Assembly where the “forces vives” (today we would call it “civil society”) would be represented. Lastly, the partisans of federalism saw above all the fulfilment of their more long-term objectives, and the partisans of “United Europe” received immediate satisfaction. As far as the political conclusions of the Congress are concerned, they ensued from a double premise: on the one hand, it had been stated that any European Union project would have no practical value without Great Britain (it was the main motive for a 144 member strong British delegation) and, on the other, that complete unification of Europe could only be reached progressively.

In order to reach the objectives, it was necessary to establish an “extraordinary Council of Europe”. European governments would only be able to take part in the activities of the Council of Europe by signing a common declaration of human rights. An independent European court would be created. It would have the right to inspect political proceedings and national elections. A European mixed armed force could be set up in order to re-establish the law. A deliberating European Assembly would be founded. It would not have a legislative function, but it would offer enlightened advice, its members would be nominated from within and outside the national parliaments. Subsequently they would be allowed to be elected. The federalists for their part saw that they could make some further elaborated plans in order to provide for a common citizenship, European armed forces, a true elected parliament, etc.

This mountain of good intentions was in fact brought about by the Council of Europe. One thing is certain: the European infatuation of The Hague Congress was extraordinary. Henri Brugmans wrote on this subject: “What we have been missing ever since then is the feeling of enthusiasm and fervour that reigned in May 1948… never again was the European movement to experience such vigour, such a desire to succee.”[7]

The Birth of the European Movement

The period that followed the May 1948 Congress saw above all a reinforcement of European action. Voluntarily absent from the Le Haye Congress, on account of the predominant role played by Churchill, the heads of the Movement for a Socialist United States of Europe could no longer ignore the repercussions of the “Congress of Europe”, and decided to adhere to the “Coordination Committee of the European Unity Movements”, whose president was none other than Churchill’s own son-in-law: the “very honourable” Duncan Sandys. In the autumn of 1948, this committee (“Joint committee”) became the “European Movement”, under the honorary presidency of Blum, Churchill and De Gasperi. The founder movements continued all the while to play an essential part wherever action was possible.
One consequence of the constitution of the European Movement was that it called into question the principles of the existence of an autonomous federalist European movement. In any case, the problem was addressed at the UEF Rome Congress (Rome, Palazzo Venezia 7th to 11th November 1948). Finally the Congress reaffirmed the autonomy and the unity of the UEF. Henri Frenay, one of the French resistance leaders, was given the task of maintaining this unity and this autonomy. He became the president of the central committee and Henri Brugmans was president of the executive committee. The resolution on the European assembly adopted by the second UEF congress in Rome, stated specifically: “the need for a Representative European Assembly to be called urgently” destined to “prepare the constitution for a federate Europe”. This same Rome Congress was also involved in a pilot study for the European constitution devised by Alexandre Marc, with the collaboration of the federalist writer/historian Bernard Voyenne and the Belgian academic Jean Buchmann.

The Birth of the Council of Europe

On the 5th of May 1949 a treaty signed in London established the statute of the Council of Europe. It therefore only took another year before the first official decisions were made following the declarations of The Hague Congress of 7-11 May 1948.That is to say that the genesis of the Council of Europe was particularly quick thanks to an exceptionally favourable climate.

On the 18th of August 1948, the international committee for the coordination of European Unity movements submitted a memorandum about the results of The Hague congress to the five member states of the Brussels Treaty. During the preliminary phase, there were two opposing arguments: the French/Belgian argument about the European assembly’s driving force, the British argument that favoured the superiority of the Council of Ministers. The historian Pierre Duclos wrote the following in his work on the “Council of Europe” published in Paris in the collection Que sais-je? in 1960: “Everything was sorted out because on the 27th and 28th of January 1949 it was decided that a Council of Europe should be established. It would consist of a ministerial committee meeting in private. There would also be an advisory body and its meetings would be public”.
In fact, it was the most minimalist interpretation of the outcome of the Hague Congress that prevailed under British pressure, in exchange for a concession made to their continental partners, especially the French: the choice of Strasburg, capital of Alsace, as the seat of the Council of Europe.

Such was the reality but, in many respects, here was a paradox, because the political unity of Europe had well and truly become a topical theme. The free countries of Europe were regaining confidence, the first beneficial effects of the Marshall aid were starting to be felt, whilst, on the 4th of August 1949, Washington signed the Atlantic Pact and thus in the name of defence linked the destiny of western Europe with that of North America. It was therefore within this warm atmosphere that on the 10th of August of the same year the inaugural meeting of the Advisory Board of the Council of Europe took place in Strasburg. There were ten founder countries: the five signatories of the Brussels treaty (France, Great Britain and the Benelux countries) who had taken the initiative, and Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Ireland and Italy. Soon they were to be joined by Greece, Turkey, Iceland, and among others, the Federal German Republic in 1951.

As soon as the UEF had time to reflect on the birth of the Council of Europe, that is to say, on the Treaty of London, it set about airing its critical views. In particular the UEF attacked the rule of unanimity within the Council of Ministers, the limitation on the topics the assembly had the right to discuss, and its lack of any real power. The UEF central committee therefore asked the most “federalist” members of parliament, who were to sit in Strasburg, to ensure that the Assembly deemed it necessary for the free nations of Europe to sign a true federal pact.
Now, in 1949, the influence of the young Union of European Federalists was by no means insignificant. Notably, it was at the heart of the creation of a “Permanent committee for European municipalities and regions” of the interuniversity federalist union presided over by Michel Mouskhely, professor at the University of Strasburg. In Italy the Movimento Federalista Europeo from then on grouped together all the organised federalists of the peninsula and controlled the Italian European movement itself. The same situation tended to occur in Germany with the Europa-Union Deutschland, and in Belgium where the federalists animated pretty much all the constituent groups of the European Movement.

Above all, the federalists endeavoured, though knowing the limits of their attempt, to draw the best party possible from the Council of Europe, once the Advisory Assembly had organised its debates. The Members of Parliament influenced by the federalists were, in fact, numerous within the Strasburg assembly. The most important amendment of the whole of the first meeting was that of Ronald MacKay, British Labour Member of Parliament, and partisan of federalism. Henceforth, according to this amendment, the advisory assembly saw as its aim and its objective the establishment of a European political authority “with limited functions but real power”. This amendment, which became a recommendation of the Assembly, was voted for with no abstentions by 88 votes to 0, on the 4th of September 1949. Although it was adopted under the most favourable conditions, it was still promptly laid aside by the Council of Ministers, thus confirming that the worries the federalists had regarding the Strasburg institution were unfortunately well founded!

Nevertheless, the federalists brought to Strasburg the fight for the establishment of a European Court of Justice. It was their one and only tangible success of this period.[8] In actual fact, the principle of the Court of Justice undermined the principle of absolute sovereignty of the states, since from then on individuals and communities could refer to it for any implication of rights guaranteed by the Council of Europe.
Despite this limited success the UEF was the first among European movements of the time to be convinced of the powerlessness of the Council of Europe to overcome obstacles in the way of the European federation. In order to get out of the impasse it was in, the UEF tried a number of different ways. It began a campaign in favour of the European Assembly to be elected by universal suffrage; it called for a simple majority vote within the Council of Ministers, which, moreover, was to become a Chamber of the States.
At the end of October 1949, a UEF extraordinary general meeting took place in Paris to ask that the Assembly of the Council of Europe draft the text for a federal pact, during its next meeting, creating a European authority.

1950: The turning point

After a long and arduous struggle, on the 20th and 21st of January 1950 in London, the UEF was able to ensure that the International Executive Committee of the European Movement, always with a strong British influence, came round, at last, to the federal pact. The condition however was the distinction of the two possible geographical areas of European unity and two different degrees of cooperation and integration: certain countries (like Great Britain or the Scandinavian States) were manifestly undecided on the step to be taken, be it small, towards the transfer of sovereignty. Wherever they were active, the federalists tried to affect public opinion, together with the Movement for the Socialist United States of Europe and the Nouvelles équipes internationales (Christian Democrats) in support of the federal pact. Notably in France, Germany and Italy they conducted in-depth popular activity. In Italy the project was even approved by the Italian parliament and signed by prestigious figures such as Alcide De Gasperi and Count Sforza, President of the Council and Foreign affairs Minister of the Republic of Italy respectively.
To further widen their claims, the federalists also decided to organise a meeting in Strasburg of militants, political figures and representatives of the European “forces vives”, very close to the Official Council of Europe Assembly. They gave their unofficial meeting the name of European Council of Vigilance or Council of the Peoples of Europe. Its objective was to force the members of Parliament within the Advisory Assembly to face up to their responsibilities. Henri Frenay presided over the International Organising Committee.
The European Council of Vigilance met on the 21st to the 24th of September 1950, and then on the 29th of November 1950 in the large Orangerie Hall in Strasburg. It deemed it necessary for the Democratic States of Europe, who wished to do so, to sign a treaty calling a European Constituent Assembly as soon as possible, to draft a Federal Union Pact. This appeal, though undersigned by some important figures, did not have the desired success. On the 13th of November 1950, the British Labour Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Ernest Davies, had also officially let it be known that His Majesty’s government was opposed to all amendments of the Treaty of London.
Between the Ridderzaal and the Orangerie, the hopes riding on the Council of Europe were already dwindling… From then on the centre of gravity of the European Union lay elsewhere: in the gestation of an integrated Europe stemming from six states, initiated by the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). The last phase of this disintegration of any perspective of developing the Council of Europe into a political Europe was attained on the 11th of December 1951, when Paul-Henri Spaak decided to step down as president of the Advisory Assembly in a moment described as “reasoned indignation”.
The Labour Party in power in Great Britain at the time condemned any idea of a supranational assembly, being of the opinion that it would be “anti-socialist or non socialist”. Moreover, it accused the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe of having played the part of a sort of unofficial opposition to certain European governments, including the United Kingdom. For their part, the conservatives showed more and more caution with regards to European projects. The British president of the European Movement International Executive, Sir Duncan Sandys, tendered his resignation. He was a member of the Conservative Party.

Robert Schuman’s Statement

Within this rather disappointing context, Robert Schuman’s statement of the 9th of May 1950 marked a decisive turning point in the politics of European Unification.
Jean Monnet, who had inspired the European Coal and Steel Community project, politically run by the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman, himself had nothing of the traditional politician. Sixty years old at the time, this little known self-taught person was the great inspiration behind the first community projects. Commissaire général au Plan in France, it is true that he had subsequently been Joint General Secretary of the SDN, banker, councillor of a number of governments, and a de Gaulle government member in Algiers. He was efficient, discrete and methodical. He was to leave his mark, from 1950 and for many years, on the creation of Europe. It is therefore correct to say that if the driving force behind the post-war European ideal was the federalist movement, since 1950 Jean Monnet was a key figure in the history of the unification of Europe. “What we need, had stated the UEF Montreux Congress in 1947, is to create the nucleus of the coal and heavy industry authorities in Europe”. This idea was revisited in one of the numerous recommendations of the Strasburg Advisory Assembly to the Council of Ministers. It took shape thanks to Robert Schuman, man of frontiers, German-born French Foreign Minister, who witnessed the virtual standstill of the Council of Europe. But the idea of a European Coal and Steel Community began to take shape thanks to Jean Monnet and his team. The content of the speech of the 9th of May 1950, that was at the origin of the treaty of Paris, is widely known. In the prologue it was said that the ECSC would be “the first step towards European federation”, thus fixing the foreign policy objective of the founder countries who accepted the principle of a supranational common High Authority for coal and steel.
In any case, the federalists saw the Monnet-Schuman initiative as the most daring of European actions presented by governments since the war. They thought that for the first time the principles of the sacrosanct national sovereignty were being undermined at a governmental level. In fact, the partisans of European unity did not fail to notice that an effective control over coal and steel would quickly mean the same European control in other areas. It would require, in other words in this time of extreme international tension between the democratic and the communist worlds,[9] the organisation of a Defence Community and European political institutions along the same supranational principles.
In fact, the Korean conflict lead Washington to ask the question about the participation of the Federal German Republic in western defence, and that of the reconstitution of a national German army, at the time feared within European circles, especially in France. This is why the partisans of Europe generally welcomed or at any rate resigned themselves to the declaration of the French government on the 24th of October 1950. It advocated the creation of an integrated European army, allowing the participation of Germans to Western defence, without rebuilding a German administration system. During the drafting of the treaty that was to establish the EDC, the Union of European Federalists endeavoured to play a role in accordance with its reservations, underlining the need to reach a supranational or federal political power, without which there would not be a “European” army as such. Thanks to the actions of its leaders, notably its chief representative, Altiero Spinelli, acting through the intermediary of the Italian Socialist Member of Parliament Ivan Matteo Lombardo, an article was introduced into the treaty of the European Defence Community signed on the 27th of May 1952. Article 38 stated that the Assembly controlling the European army was to propose “a further federal or confederal structure, based on the principle of the separation of powers and comprising in particular a bicameral representative system”.

The Turning Years: 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954

The negotiations for the signature of the treaty establishing the ECSC took place swiftly. The treaty was signed in Paris by France, Italy, the Federal Republic of Germany and the Benelux countries on the 18th of April 1951. The parliaments of the six states concerned ratified it without too many difficulties during the winter of 1951-1952 and the spring of 1952, thus enabling the “Europe” in the making to quickly have its first limited but real institutional framework.
“Little Europe” was born boasting 160 million inhabitants. Its first “capital” was Luxemburg where in August 1952 Jean Monnet and the High Authority took residence and where he assumed the role of president at the outset. “Within the limits of competence bestowed upon it by thetreaty, —declared Jean Monnet on the 10th of August, to celebrate the establishment of the new institution — the High Authority… has direct dealings with the enterprises. It obtains financial resources, not from State contributions, but from direct levies set up on the productions it is responsible for. It is responsible, not to the States, but to a European assembly. The Assembly was elected by national parliaments, and it is foreseen that it may even be elected directly by the people… The Assembly controls our actions. It has the power to give us a vote of no confidence. It is the first European Assembly to have sovereign powers.”
So, Jean Monnet voluntarily insisted on the most federalist aspects of the structures set up by the first European community. On the 10th of September 1952 the ECSC Assembly met for the first time in Strasburg and, significantly, the parliamentary personalities most in the public eye at the time were present. The first debates showed that the main merit of the Monnet-Schuman plan was not so much in the solution proposed, but in the problems that it brought to the surface, at least in order to ensure a proper functioning of the new community. It very quickly became apparent that the ECSC must become a part of a wider European unity so as to ensure that its role was not reduced to that of a “technical authority”.
During 1952, “Europe” therefore seemed truly within arm’s reach. First of all, Paul-Henri Spaak having abandoned the presidency of the Council of Europe Assembly turned towards public opinion and chose the direction of the International European Movement. He did this with total support from the federalists who, for their part, controlled a sizeable part of the militant organisations within the six countries, while the Council of European Municipalities expanded rapidly. A vast European Youth Campaign was also developing with tens of thousands of young people meeting at the Lorelei Camp on the banks of the Rhine. The UEF meanwhile carried out specific activities concerning war veterans and the regional press.
During the UEF Congress in March 1952, in Aix-la-Chapelle, under the leadership of Adenauer, the watchwords of a Federated Europe, of a Supranational Political Community, of a union between France and Germany kept converging. Rightly so, no doubt, since in the history of governments, as in that of men, there are specific moments for the advancement of a cause.
In April 1952, Paul-Henri Spaak, inspired by the federalists, gave rise to the creation of an “Action Committee for a European Constituent Assembly”. This later became the “Action Committee for a Supranational Community” and the president of the UEF executive committee, Henri Frenay, was its general secretary. This committee was involved in a number of actions, notably within the Council of Europe assembly. The latter, at last, required the governments of the States involved in the EDC project to give an “ad hoc assembly” the task of drafting a political community statute. The French and Italian members of the Action Committee, headed by the federalists Frenay and Spinelli, had the task of contacting the leaders of the French members of the ECSC Council of Ministers and the Italian government. Finally, on the 23rd of July 1952 a Franco-Italian governmental proposition was officially submitted. It planned to confer the ECSC general assembly the task of managing a project of a European political authority.
During this period the federalists carried a lot of weight in the European preparations by the member governments of the first European community. The latter decided, on the 10th of September 1952, during their meeting in Strasburg, to bestow upon the members of the Community Assembly a pre-constituent role. The Franco-Italian proposition, which had become a government directive, held that the project of a European community policy treaty ought to be drafted within a period of six months and consequently submitted to the governments on the 10th of March 1953.

The ad hoc Assembly

The assembly charged with this elaboration, legally separate from that of the ECSC, was named “ad hoc Assembly”. In practical terms, it appointed a constitutional commission created from within, to prepare the Political Community project. In total there were twenty-three full members. The eminent Belgian jurist Fernand Dehousse, vice-president of the UEF, maintained an effective link with the small federalist staff headed by Henri Frenay and Altiero Spinelli.
The constitutional commission of the ad hoc Assembly found itself involved in a project headed by a constitutional commission of the European Movement made up essentially of jurists, among whom Professor Carl Fredrich and Robert Bowie of the University of Harvard, and eminent European jurists such as Professor Georges Scelle, Hans Nawiasky and Calamendrei, joined by federalist figures like Spaak, Frenay and Spinelli.
There was therefore a perfect chain of initiatives that enabled the constitutional commission of the ad hoc Assembly to succeed, on the 26th of February 1953, in adopting a project that would establish a Supranational Political Community.[10] Even though it had foreseen the support of a Council of national Ministers voting unanimously in certain essential cases, this could be seen as a decisive step towards a European federation. In fact, the PSC project established a bicameral system: one Chamber to represent the people, elected by direct universal suffrage, a second Chamber consisting of senators elected by the national parliaments; a European Executive Council, consisting of a president elected by the senate and members elected by the president, who could be censured by the Senate or the People’s Chamber. The PSC project also included a Court of Justice and an Economic and Social Council. Lastly, it was foreseen that the EPC would progressively absorb the EDC and the ECSC, establish a generalised common market and co-ordinate foreign policies.
On the 9th of March 1953 Paul-Henri Spaak, President of the ad hoc assembly, handed over the treaty project that was to establish the European Political Community to Georges Bidault, president of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs. The Belgian statesman recalled George Washington, President of the American Convention, who at the Congress on the 17th of September 1787 presented the project regarding the Constitution of the United States of America. However, Georges Bidault was not in favour of federalism as was Robert Schuman and his response was disconcerting… Recalling the homage that Elisabeth I of England had made to the founders of the empire, he quoted the famous proposal: “Greetings to those in search of adventure!” But, Mr Bidault added, “We must ensure that governments now look at the difficulties… They must now also look carefully at each of the documents submitted and then take stock.” It was therefore obvious that it was to be they who would establish the final project. No precise commitment was made!
The last “high mass” of the partisans of the post-second world war supranational Community, was organised by the federalists, friends of Paul-Henri Spaak and Robert Schuman from the 8th to the 10th of October in The Hague.
So, the pioneers of European Unity and notably those amongst them — still numerous — who had attended the first Congress of Europe in 1948 in The Hague, could now, returning to the Ridderzaal of the Dutch parliament five years later, measure the progress. It was the eve of decisive options, be they concerning the Defence Community or the Political Community projects. They were experiencing the autumn of the great European hope of the post-second world war period.
The Dutch submitted a special report on the need to establish a common market among the “six”. The Congress requested that over the following ten years, the member States of the ECSC set up a single customs territory. They were also to coordinate effectively the budgetary, financial, monetary policies, to harmonise social policies, to set up a common policy on investments, regional policies, etc. Within these themes we see the driving principles that inspired the drafting of the EEC treaty, since — after the Messina conference in June 1955 — the ex-president of the Action Committee for the supranational Community and the second Congress of Europe, Paul-Henri Spaak accepted the task of managing negotiations that would lead to the signing, and then the ratification, of the Rome treaties.
The 1953 congress participants wished to see the realisation of the vow made in the same Ridderzaal in May 1948: “the time has come for the nations of Europe, to transfer some of their sovereign rights in order to be able to exercise them together henceforth”. The delegates therefore asked the militants, Altiero Spinelli and Henri Frenay, responsible for “calling for the second Congress of Europe”, to affirm “the steadfastness of their designs where the continuity of their actions could be seen”. The second Congress of The Hague was a beautiful show of unanimity with a federalist “flame” in its speeches, of unfortunately premature optimism with regard to the chances of ratification of the EDC and the establishment of a Political Community.
There never has been, in fact, a final Supranational Political Community project… The European Defence Community Treaty was ratified in Germany, Belgium, Luxemburg and the Netherlands, but before Italy expressed itself, it was rejected by the French national assembly on the 30th of August 1954, in conditions unworthy of a responsible country.[11] The same French national assembly had, in fact, approved the principle of the EDC on the 19th of February 1952, in the same parliamentary legislature. One could devote a whole study on this failure and especially on the responsibilities of Pierre Mendes-France, then president of the Council of Ministers.
It is important to remember that, legally, the Political Community project depended on the fate of the EDC treaty itself. This having been rejected, article 38, which represented the legal basis of the process that the ad hoc Assembly had taken, was therefore annulled as well. The hour of the European federation had passed, for a long time.
The year 1953, that preceded the failure of the EDC, had otherwise seen a profound change in the course of events with the death of Stalin and “peaceful coexistence” succeeding “the cold war”. No doubt, the change in the international climate that followed still does not explain everything in this affair. The ratification of the EDC treaty had come too late, and French politics had taken a turn profiting to those we now would call “souverainistes”. Be that as it may, on the 30th of August 1954, the European construction witnessed a major crisis that also shook the Atlantic Alliance.
Since the end of the summer of 1954, the diplomats therefore began their search for an “alternative solution” that could satisfy at least Washington, London and Paris and be acceptable to the Federal German Republic. To this end they created the Western European Union (WEU) where the only law making body was a Council of Ministers, and the decisions unanimous. The treaty permitted Germany to rearm as wished for by the United States, but stripped of all supranationality. This was confirmed by a resigned majority. Its only apparent advantage was that it would unite the countries of the first European Community with the United Kingdom in a palpable manner, but it was no longer a question of a Supranational Europe.
At the end of 1954, the militants of Europe found themselves in totally different circumstances from the previous years. Only the ECSC still emerged from the ruins and the dreams, nevertheless showing by its existence that “little Europe” was not completely shipwrecked. But this new turn of events momentarily affected the dawning European construction with precariousness. “In actual fact, wrote Henri Brugmans, the vote of the 30th of August requires a nuovo corso. One period in the struggle for Europe has ended: another one begins.”
At the end of the Europa-Union Deutschland congress held in Hamburg at the end of October 1954, the leader of this organisation at the time underlined: “We are not despairing at the failure of the EDC, but we will not be told that with the WEU we had found a new European solution. ‘European’ for us federalists this means… that the solution found in Paris was not ours.”
At a meeting in Rome on the 5th of December 1954, the Movimento Federalista Europeo went even further (I quote): “The MFE is determined to act in Italy, within the UEF, to ensure that federalists everywhere become promoters of a particular propaganda. That is to say that they should convince the public that our national States can no longer justify their people obeying their laws and their government acts with regard to foreign, military and economic policies...”
It was around themes such as these that the great debate opened, and that European federalists became divided on the action to take. This debate resulted first of all in the split of the Union of European Federalists in 1956. Their common home could not withstand the test and it took until the 1970s, with the congress that took place in April 1973 in Brussels, for the unity to be reformed, spurred on by Etienne Hirsch, friend of Jean Monnet and former president of Euratom.
On the 9th of November 1954, for his part, the “inspiring” Jean Monnet, had elsewhere announced that at the end of his office he would not be standing for presidency of the ECSC High Authority. In his letter of resignation, that he read publicly, Monnet declared; “it is in order to participate with total freedom of action and of speech to the establishment of the European Union… that I will take this freedom on the 10th of February”. In fact, on the 13th of October 1955, the “inspirer” courageously gathered around him the most aptly representative political and unionist figures from the six countries, in the “Action Committee for the United States of Europe”. He said “this is in order to ensure that the resolution of Messina of the 2nd of June of the same year is a new stage towards the United States of Europe”. It was in fact in Messina that the six foreign affairs ministers decided to pick up where the European integration had left off on the 30th of June 1954 by suggesting that the new course should encompass the whole economy.

1955 Europese Jeudweek Middelburg - UEF

From the Messina Re-launch to a European Community: End of the 50s, Beginning of the 60s

In the face of this up and down turn of events, within the European Union of Federalists, the most radical tendency, behind Altiero Spinelli, was that of Alexandre Marc and Michel Mouskhely, eminent professor of constitutional law at the University of Strasburg. Their theses were explained in a manifesto published under the title “Struggle for the European people”. This team, which was later to bring about the “Congress of the European people”, included men known for their attachment to different but profound “federalist sources”: Hamilton and Proudhon, to simplify.

What united them for some years in the same strategy were common opinions linked to one analysis of current circumstances. What was the unusual subject of this strategy? It was the “European People”! What was the role of the federalists to be?

It was to become the avant-garde of these people that the ancien régime had tried to keep in a limbo. Condemning verbal Europeanism, the signatories of the manifesto stated that they wanted to attempt the endeavour of a Congress of the European People foreshadowing a federal Europe, just like Ghandi’s Congress in India had, for many years, embodied the principal expression of a will for independence and unity. The Congress of the European People would therefore be a forum to facilitate the development of an effort starting from the grassroots. The delegates would be elected through primary elections, on the blue print of the primary elections in America. This congress was to demand, more and more strongly, that the construction of Europe become a matter for the Europeans themselves, through the intervention of an elected Constituent Assembly.

Such watchwords, by their ambition, could either discourage or seduce: in any case they foresaw a militant mobilisation without precedent in a Europe that, it has to be said, was only possible during periods of extreme crisis.
Now, the serious crisis begun by the failure of the EDC on the 30th of April 1954 was relatively short-lived. Less than a year after this failure, the re-launch decided upon in Messina was to succeed with the treaties of Rome on the 23rd of March 1957, establishing a “European Atomic Energy Community” (EURATOM) and a “European Economic Community”.

On the 1st of January 1958, the treaties of Rome came into effect after undisturbed parliamentary ratifications. The Commissions of the new Communities settled in Brussels and Robert Schuman presided over the European Parliamentary assembly in Strasburg. The ECSC was no longer isolated in Luxemburg; the European Community was now a new reality in new domains. In brief, the course of history and of European integration, interrupted for a while, gave the impression of having picked up its natural pace again.
Ironically, it was those federalist circles who had at first been the most reserved towards this “European re-launch”, who didn’t think their economic and political intentions were being served by sufficiently strong institutions, who benefited in their campaigns from the undeniably favourable psychological and political European climate that surrounded the signature and the ratification of the Rome treaties.

Many federalists dreamt of adopting this extra political spirit that the new economic Europe needed thanks to the original and motivating experience of the European People’s Congress. In a number of regions of the Federal German Republic, Belgium, France and Italy, where Altiero Spinelli had the largest base, but not forgetting Austria and the town of Geneva, federalist militants organised primary elections inspired by those that had taken place in the United States. The objective of these elections was that of appointing delegates who would constitute a European People’s Congress to represent a new democratic legitimacy, pending the European elections provided for by the community treaties, but which effectively did not take place until June 1979.

The delegates, armed with cahiers de doléances, expressed the reasons why their towns and regions hoped for the creation of a federal Europe. On the other hand, the congress had to approve a constituent treaty, and their action could have resulted in the competent authorities taking it into consideration.
The idea was simple and appealing. It gave rise to extraordinary devotion, but this was short lived: the primary elections were, in fact, only successful where a fairly strong European organisation already existed. On the other hand, in order to permanently integrate the real sociological forces into this action, much stronger means would have been necessary.

The first European People’s Congress was held in Turin in December 1957. Present were delegates representing seventy thousand voters from Strasburg, Lyons, Maastricht, Milan, Turin, Antwerp, Geneva and Düsseldorf. The second Congress session took place in Lyons in January 1959. Three hundred and twenty four thousand European voters were represented. In December of the same year, three hundred and ninety five thousand voters were accounted for at the Darmstadt Congress in Germany. In Ostende, finally, in June 1960, the delegates spoke in the name of four hundred and twenty five thousand Europeans. Considerable success was obtained in a number of large towns in Italy, especially, but also in other countries, in small Austrian, Dutch and French constituencies, where notable percentages of voters were often recorded. So, in Annecy and its suburbs where the percentage of voters reached 40% of the number achieved during the previous council elections, 43% in a small Normandy town like Vernon, where I was elected on the 23rd of April 1961.

It would therefore be incorrect to assert that this premonitory experience was negative. At least it enabled us to verify, where it had been possible, that “Europe” was favourably considered, at a time when what we call the “common market” was starting to awaken the citizens of towns and countryside to their common interests. This experience was the symbol of the dawning of a new conscience, despite the silence and slowness of official circles.
So, the European community did not cease to widen its field of experience. Along the way, it was also enriched by European movements and federalist militants. With time the movements were joined by colleges, institutes, University study and research centres, European Houses, specialised associations (municipalities, educators, journalists and railway workers), training centres, etc.

Nevertheless, up to this point, the Europeans were not able to create a common political organisation, worthy of that name. Of course, they were able to hold European elections, certainly not the Constituent Assembly that their elders had deemed necessary in the 1950s. The differences between national sovereignties persisted despite the common constraints arising a little more each year, economic interest, social or monetary realities, and diplomatic constraints.
In any case, it seems to me that an essential lesson has arisen from this historical outline: governments have advanced, progressed, acted and reacted only because committed women and men, ideas and movements have existed, acted and reacted.

This is what I wanted to recall when I recounted the journey from the Second World War to the beginning of the 1960s, when it became obvious that the experience of the Community, as a community of destiny, interests and values, would serve as a framework for a new democratic development: that of a Federal European People.
Much has already been achieved: the world of concentration camps has disappeared, totalitarianism has been crushed, the German people have been reunited in freedom, and Europe is no longer the theatre of the dreadful confrontations that bathed it in blood for centuries. The enlargement of 2004 at last foreshadows the reunification of the old continent as a whole, while a common currency is circulating in the twelve countries that today constitute the “Eurozone”. However, the European Union is still bogged down, and will continue to be so for as long as its Nation States maintain the exclusivity of some of their royal prerogatives (foreign policy and defence among others). The federal objective is therefore constantly evolving. Consequently, the historical mission of the federalists is more indispensable than ever. But, are they fully aware of this?

[1] 28 June 1919.
[2] Trianon (Hungary), 4 June 1920.
[3] Saint-Germain (Austria), 10 September 1919.
[4] L’Idée européenne 1918-1965, De Tempel, Tempelhof, Bruges, 1965.
[5] Presses de l’Université de Paris-Sorbonne, 2003.
[6] Les Pionniers de l’Europe communautaire, Centre de recherches européennes de l’université de Lausanne, 1968. Preface by Henri Rieben.
[7] Henri Brugmans, L’idée européenne 1918-1965, cit. p.111.
[8] European Human Rights Convention including the mechanisms of protection (the commission, the Court) adopted on 4.11.1950, effective from 3.9.1953.
[9] Korean War in July 1950.
[10] The project presented by the president of the constitutional commission of the ad hoc Assembly, the German Heinrich Von Brentano, was adopted unanimously except for one vote, on the 10th of March 1953, and ratified by the assembly.
[11] La querelle de la EDC, Armand Collin, Paris, 1956, p. 29.