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The founding fathers of the European Union are men who are considered to be major contributors to European unity and the development of what is now the European Union. The number and list of the founding fathers of the EU varies depending on the source. In a publication from 2013 the European Union listed 11 men. All but one (Winston Churchill from the United Kingdom) were from the Inner Six of the European Union.
Some sources list only a subset of the 11 men as founding fathers. The Council of Europe lists 6 founding fathers as builders of Europe, including the Briton Ernest Bevin. The media outlet Deutsche Welle presented a different constellation, it listed Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, Winston Churchill, Robert Schuman, Jean Monnet and Paul-Henri Spaak as the 5 founding fathers of the EU. Other sources have emphasized Konrad Adenauer of Germany, Alcide De Gasperi of Italy and Robert Schuman of France as the founding fathers from the three pioneers countries of the European unification.
The European Union listed 11 people as its founding fathers in a publication from 2013. These are:
|Konrad Adenauer||West Germany||First chancellor of West Germany, Adenauer attempted to restore relations with France during his term in office between 1949 and 1963. He was instrumental in bringing about the 1963 Élysée Treaty between the two countries. He signed a treaty of friendship with France.|
|Joseph Bech||Luxembourg||As Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Bech was actively involved in the establishment of the Benelux Customs Union and later the European Coal and Steel Community. Played an important role in preparing the 1955 Messina Conference which paved the way for the establishment of the European Economic Community in 1958.|
|Johan Beyen||Netherlands||Dutch foreign minister and one of the principal architects of the common market after 1955.|
|Winston Churchill||United Kingdom||British prime minister during World War II, Churchill called for a "United States of Europe", organised democratically, to prevent future wars in Europe. He was a driving force behind the creation of the Council of Europe.|
|Alcide De Gasperi||Italy||First prime minister of the Italian Republic and a skilled mediator creating rapprochement between European states, involved in the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community and of the Council of Europe.|
|Walter Hallstein||West Germany||German academic and diplomat who served as the European Commission's first president at the European Economic Community and played a notable role in creating the common market|
|Sicco Mansholt||Netherlands||A farmer and member of the Dutch Resistance during World War II where he witnessed the Dutch famine of 1944, Mansholt's ideas on the need for European self-sufficiency in food formed the basis of the Common Agricultural Policy.|
|Jean Monnet||France||A political and economic advisor, Monnet helped to create the Schuman Declaration of 1950, a milestone Franco-German rapprochement after World War II and the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, and promoted international industrial cooperation.|
|Robert Schuman||France||As French foreign minister between 1948 and 1952, Schuman was responsible for the 1950 Schuman Declaration (together with Jean Monnet) which agreed to place France and Germany's production of coal and steel under a single international authority, a key milestone towards the European Coal and Steel Community. Upon retiring the European Parliament bestowed him the title of Father of Europe|
|Paul-Henri Spaak||Belgium||A Belgian prime minister involved in the negotiation of the Benelux Customs Union in 1944 and later appointed to leading roles in the United Nations, NATO, Council of Europe and European Coal and Steel Community in the 1950s and 1960s. He played an important role in creating the 1957 Treaty of Rome which led to the foundation of the European Economic Community.|
|Altiero Spinelli||Italy||A left-wing and progressivist politician and convinced federalist, Spinelli was involved in the Italian resistance during World War II and instrumental in the 1941 Ventotene Manifesto. He remained an influential federalist and was author of the 1984 Spinelli Plan, beginning a process which would culminate in the Maastricht Treaty and the creation of the European Union.|
Other sources discuss fewer names.
Commentators have pointed out that the founding fathers were all men. A clause of equality between men and women has been introduced in the Treaty of Rome for economic reasons because of concerns of dumping by countries that used low paid women labour. In a new publication from 2021, the European Union listed 21 people labelled EU pioneers, in which 8 women names have been added to the list of the 11 founding fathers. The women that were added to the list of EU pioneers are: Anna Lindh, Louise Weiss, Marga Klompé, Melina Mercouri, Nicole Fontaine, Nilde Iotti, Simone Veil and Ursula Hirschmann.
Count Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi (1894–1972) published the Paneuropa manifesto in 1923 which set up the movement of that name. At the start of the 1950s Robert Schuman (1886–1963), based on a plan by Jean Monnet (1888–1979), called for a European Coal and Steel Community in his "Schuman declaration". Monnet went on to become the first President of the High Authority. Schuman later served as President of the European Parliament and became notable for advancing European integration.
Following its creation, the Treaty of Rome established the European Economic Community. Although not all the people who signed the treaty are known as founding fathers, a number are, such as Paul-Henri Spaak (1899–1972), who also worked on the treaty as well as the Benelux union and was the first President of the European Parliament. Other founding fathers who signed the treaty were Konrad Adenauer (1876–1967) of Germany and Joseph Bech (1887–1975) of Luxembourg.
Further men who have been considered founding fathers are: Giuseppe Mazzini (1805–1872) who founded the association "Young Europe" in 1834 with the vision of a united continent; Victor Hugo (1802–1885) who made a speech where he called for United States of Europe in 1849 at the International Peace Congress of Paris; Milan Hodža (1878–1944) who was famous for his attempts to establish a democratic federation of Central European states (book: Federation in central Europe, reflections and reminiscences); Jacques Delors (born 1925), who was a successful Commission President in the 1980s and 90s; Lorenzo Natali (1922–1989); Carlo Azeglio Ciampi (1920–2016); Mário Soares (1924–2017), Portuguese Prime Minister at the time Portugal acceded the EC; and Pierre Werner (1913–2002) a Prime Minister of Luxembourg.
Some have considered American Secretary of State George C. Marshall as an influential force in developing the European Union. His namesake plan to rebuild Europe in the wake of World War II contributed more than $100 billion in today's[when?] dollars to the Europeans, helping to feed Europeans, deliver steel to rebuild industries, provide coal to warm homes, and construct dams to help provide power. In doing so, the Marshall Plan encouraged the integration of European powers into the European Coal and Steel Community, the precursor to present-day European Union, by illustrating the effects of economic integration and the need for coordination. The potency of the Marshall Plan caused former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt to remark in 1997 that "America should not forget that the development of the European Union is one of its greatest achievements. Without the Marshall Plan it perhaps would never have come to that."
From resistance fighters to lawyers, the founding fathers were a diverse group of people who held the same ideals: a peaceful, united and prosperous Europe. This collection tells the story behind 11 of the EU's founding fathers.
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Und Amerika sollte nicht vergessen, daß die Entstehung der Europäischen Union eine seiner größten Leistungen ist. Ohne den Marshallplan wäre es vielleicht nie dazu gekommen.
Witness the recent words of former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt: 'The United States ought not to forget that the emerging European Union is one of its greatest achievements: it would never have happened without the Marshall Plan.' [The "vielleicht" in the original quote is missing in this translation.]