The idea of a federation of European States as a means to banish war from the continent forever has been around a long time (see Victor Hugo’s opening speech at the Peace Congress in 1849, on the United States of Europe). But it was in the aftermath of the First World War that more tangible projects were conceived, in line with the principles promoted by the League of Nations and which inspired founders of united Europe like Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman.
Aristide Briand was French Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1925 to 1931 and shaped closer Franco-German ties alongside his German counterpart, Gustav Stresemann (1878-1929). In his mind, establishing relations of trust between the two States was the essential prerequisite of the European project.
In Geneva on 5 September 1929, in his speech before the General Assembly of the League of Nations, Aristide Briand proposed forming “a kind of federal link” between European nations. He tasked his Political Director, Alexis Leger, a poet known as Saint-John Perse, to develop his idea in a memo. Without undermining national sovereignty of States under the 1919-2020 treaties, the plan envisaged the creation of a real common market but was not well received in the United Kingdom, Germany or Italy.
During the Second World War, reflection continued on the organization of Europe: a Europe led from Berlin, in collaborationist circles, or a federal Europe as the only way to rebuild the continent, for the Resistance and Free France.
In 1943, within Free France, a number of studies appeared concerning the conditions for restoring peace and rebuilding Europe. The idea of forming an economic union of Western Europe, advocated by Jean Monnet, Supplies and Armament Commissioner, was discussed with Infrastructure Commissioner René Mayer, Economic Affairs Commissioner Hervé Alphand and Foreign Affairs Commissioner René Massigli of the CFLN.
Europe was devastated by the Second World War.
General Marshall and Henri Bonnet, Ambassador of France to Washington, 1950.
President Truman’s Secretary of State, General George Marshall, applied the Truman doctrine of “containment” in Europe, aimed at curbing the progress of communism through economic support.
Following Winston Churchill’s speech on 19 September 1946, calling for the creation of a “United States of Europe”, a number of movements formed, made up of the partisans of a united Europe. In 1948, as the Cold War intensified, these partisans met in The Hague at the Congress of Europe, which produced proposals that would lead to the creation of the first European intergovernmental institution, the Council of Europe, on 5 May 1949, under the Treaty of London.
From 7 to 10 May, the movements campaigning for unification of Europe met in The Hague at the Congress of Europe, chaired by Winston Churchill alongside Konrad Adenauer, Paul Ramadier and Paul Reynaud. The Congress unanimously called for governments to form a European Assembly.
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