There have been a lot of people who have contributed to the creation of the European Union. However, there are eight men who are considered the European Founding Fathers.
- Konrad Adenauer (1876-1967)
He was the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1949 to 1963. He was the man who influenced more than any other in the history ofGermanyandEuropeduring the post-war.
After the First World War, Adenauer realised that lasting peace in Europe could only be achieved through a unitedEurope. His experiences during the Third Reich confirmed this opinion.
In six years, from 1949 to 1955, Adenauer achieved thatGermanybecame part of the Council ofEurope(1951), the European Coal and Steel Community (1952) and the NATO (1955). He also achieved peace withFrance,Germany’s arch-enemy, by signing a treat of friendship in 1963.
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- Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
Sir Winston Churchill was a former army officer, war reporter and British Prime Minister from 1940 to 1945 and from 1951 to 1955. He was one of the first to call for the creation of an European union. One of his main aims was to eliminate the European ills of nationalism and war-mongering once and for all.
He was an important driving force behind the anti-Hitler coalition. Later, he became an active fighter inEurope’s cause.
- Alcide de Gasperi (1881-1954)
From 1945 to 1953, Alcide de Gasperi was the Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Italy. He was the one who ledItalyduring the post-war years.
His experiences during the war, he had been imprisoned between 1926 and 1929, strengthened his conviction that only the union ofEuropecould prevent their recurrence.
He promoted countless initiatives for the fusion ofWestern Europeand, also, worked on the realisation of the Marshall Plan. Furthermore, he supported the Schumann Plan for the foundation of the European Coal and Steel Community and, promoted the creation of close economic ties with other European countries.
- Walter Hallstein (1901-1982)
Walter Hallstein was the first president of the European Commission from 1958 to 1960. Before that, he was the Secretary of State in German Foreign Ministry.
He worked for the creation of the Common Market and, thanks to his enthusiasm and power of persuasion,Europelived a legendary unification during those years.
- Jean Monnet (1888-1979)
Jean Monnet was the French economic advisor and politician who inspired the “Schuman Plan”.
As top advisor of the French government, he was the main inspiration behind the “Schuman declaration” of 9 May 1950, which led to the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community and, as such, is considered to be the birth of the European Union.
Today’s EU programmes for cultural and educational exchange follow his much-quoted phrase was “We unite people, not states”.
- Robert Schuman (1886-1963)
Robert Schuman was the French foreign minister between 1948 and 1952. As a result of his experiences in Nazi Germany, he recognised that only a lasting reconciliation withGermanycould form the basis for a unitedEurope.
In cooperation with Jean Monnet he drew up the Schuman Plan, published on 9 May 1950, date now regarded as the birth of the European Union.
Schuman also supported the formation of a common European defence policy, and was, from 1958-60, president of the European Parliament.
- Paul Henri Spaak (1899-1972)
After his experiences during the First World War and his failure to preserveBelgium’s neutrality during the Second World War, Spaak did as much as he could for unifyingEurope. In order to do that, Spaak supported the European Coal and Steel Community and, also, an European defence community.
He was able to help achieve these aims as president of the first full meeting of the United Nations (1946) and as General Secretary of NATO (1957-61). He was also leading figure in formulating the content of the Treaty of Rome.
- Altiero Spinelli (1907-1986)
Altiero Spinelli was an Italian politician. He was the leading figure behind the European Parliament’s complete proposal for a Treaty on a federal European Union thanks to the Spinelli Plan. His proposal was an inspiration for the following EU Treaties in the 1980s and 90s.
In the role of advisor to personalities like de Gasperi, Spaak and Monnet, he worked for European unification. A trained juror, he also furthered the European cause in the academic field, and founded the Institute for International Matters inRome.
As a member of the European Commission he took over the area of internal policy from 1970 to 1976. For three years he served as a Member of Parliament for the Italian Communist Party before being elected to the European Parliament in 1979.
Written by Mireya Vicent