The EU explained I. How did it all begin? – The founding fathers


Over sixty years ago a number of visionary leaders inspired the creation of the European Union we live in today. From resistance fighters to lawyers, the founding fathers were a diverse group of people. Let’s take a closer look at who they were exactly.After World War II, Europe’s nations were after peace.

On 9 May 1950, Robert Schuman, France’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, delivered the so-called ‘Schuman Declaration’ aiming to place all German-French production of coal and steel under one High Authority. The idea behind this was to prevent any future war. Following this idea, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg founded the European Coal and Steel Community, the predecessor of the European Union.

At this point we also have to mention the name of the French political and economic adviser Jean Monnet, who said the following famous sentance: „We are building Union among people not cooperation between states.”

A European statesman’ – Belgian Paul-Henri Spaak was chosen as chairman of a committee in charge of the preparation of a report about the creation of the common European market. Spaak has been written into the history books as the driving force behind European integration. Even before the actual start of any European economic and political cooperation, he believed in the European project.

The first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Konrad Adenauer is very much appreciated in his country for the reconciliation of Germany with its former enemies, especially France.

Johan Willem Beyen, Dutch banker, businessman and politician, is one of the lesser-known members of the group of Founding Fathers of the EU. Still, his ‘Beyen Plan’ was a proposal for a customs union and far-reaching economic cooperation within a common European market. Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Joseph Bech was actively involved in the process.

Sir Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister was one of the first to advocate European integration to prevent the atrocities of two world wars from ever happening again, calling for the creation of a Council of Europe as a first step. The Council first met with Churchill as honorary president. Italian Prime Minister and a skilled mediator, Alcide De Gasperi was also involved in the creation of the Council  and in creating rapprochement between other European states.

Sicco Mansholt, farmer, and war resistance fighter was the first European Commissioner responsible for Agriculture. Mansholt’s ideas laid the basis for the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union.

German academic and diplomat, Walter Hallstein served as the European Commission‘s first president.

The Italian politician Altiero Spinelli was the leading figure behind the European Parliament’s proposal for a Treaty on a federal European Union – the so-called ‘Spinelli Plan’. This was adopted in 1984 by an overwhelming majority in the Parliament and provided an important inspiration for the strengthening of the EU Treaties in the 1980s and ‘90s.

The 11 men, commonly called as the Founding Fathers, have been officially recognised as making a major contribution to European unity and the development of what is now the European Union.


Europe Direct Information Centre of Hajdú-Bihar

Hajdú-Bihar Megyei Europe Direct Információs Központ

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