The founding fathers of the European Union

Konrad Adenauer 1876–1967

Konrad Adenauer – The first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany lays one of the most important stones in the foundation of Europe. A cornerstone of Adenauer's foreign policy is reconciliation with France. Together with French President Charles de Gaulle a historic turning point was achieved: in 1963 the one-time arch-enemies Germany and France sign a treaty of friendship, which will become one of the milestones on the road to European integration.





Joseph Bech 1887–1975

Joseph Bech – The Luxembourgish politician and lawyer experiences both World Wars, which will be of determining importance for his biography. It is that difficult situation, experienced in a small country between two large and powerful countries – France and Germany – which will teach him the importance of internationalism and cooperation between states. Being aware of this, Bech participates in the creation of the Benelux, i.e. the union between Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg. It is a historic phase which is still considered as the first model for the future European Union.  



Johan Willem Bayen 1897–1976

Johan Willem Beyen – The banker and politician Beyen is remembered for his contribution to the process of European integration and to the proposal of a customs union and of an economic cooperation within a European common market. Such idea is known as “Beyen Plan”. Such plan was transposed into the Treaties of Rome in 1957 and is at the core of the European Union since then.  





Winston Churchill 1874-1965

Winston Churchill – The British Prime Minister during the Second World War is one of the first to call for the creation of a “United States of Europe”. Following the Second World War, he was convinced that only a united Europe could avert the nightmare of future wars. Churchill, a partisan of the anti-nazi coalition and a winner of the Nobel prize for literature, is one of the main champions of the European cause in the collective memory.





Alcide de Gasperi 1881–1954

Alcide De Gasperi – He was the last prime minister of the Kingdom of Italy and the first one of the Italian Republic. Time and time again he promoted initiatives aimed at the fusion of Europe, working on the realisation of the Marshall Plan, creating close economic ties with other European countries and backing Schuman Plan for the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community. He contributed to the development of the idea of a common defence policy in Europe.





Walter Hallestein 190 –1982

Walter Hallstein – He was a committed European and a decisive proponent of European integration. Walter Hallstein was the first President of the European Commission from 1958 to 1967. As President of the European Commission, Hallstein worked towards a rapid realisation of the Common Market. Also as Secretary of State in the German Foreign Ministry originally attained international recognition through the ‘Hallstein Doctrine’, i.e. his foreign policy, which linked the young German democracy with western Europe.




Sicco Mansholt 1908–1995

Sicco Mansholt – He was a farmer and a member of the Dutch resistance during the Second World War as well as the first European Commissioner responsible for Agriculture. Having witnessed the horrors of the Dutch famine at the end of the Second World War, Mansholt was convinced that agricultural productivity should increase, thus ensuring affordable food supply for all. Mansholt's ideas laid the basis for the Common Agricultural Policy.




Jean Monnet 1888–1979

Jean Monnet – The French political and economic adviser Jean Monnet was the inspiration behind the 'Schuman Plan', published on 9 May 1950, which led to the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community. ECSC was the first embryo of the European Union and Monnet, between 1952 and 1955, was its first president. ECSC was the first of a series of supranational European institutions which led to what we now call “European Union”.  




Robert Schuman 1886–1963

Robert Schuman – He was the French foreign minister between 1948 and 1952 and President of the European Parliament from 1958 until 1960. He went down to history for the so-called “Schuman Plan” with which he proposed joint control of coal and steel production, the most important materials for the armaments industry. The basic idea was that whoever did not have control over coal and steel production would not be able to fight a war. This idea brought Schuman to draw up, in cooperation with Jean Monnet, the Schuman Plan, which he published on 9 May 1950, the date now regarded as the birth of the European Union. One year later, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxemburg and the Netherlands sign the agreement establishing the European Coal and Steel Community.  


Paul-Henri Spaak 1899–1972

Paul-Henri Spaak – The Belgian politician, since the Second World War, imagined a merger between the Benelux countries and promoted Europe unification by backing the European Coal and Steel Community and a European Defence Community. In Spaak’s view, merging states by means of binding obligations enshrined in a treaty would be the most effective way to ensure peace and stability. As President of the first plenary assembly of the United Nations in 1946 and as NATO Secretary General (1957-61) he contributes to the achievement of such goals.  



Altiero Spinelli 1907 – 1986

Altiero Spinelli – In 1941, the antifascist intellectual, together with other political prisoners that were held captive in Ventotene island by the Fascist regime, outlined a federal Europe with the Ventotene Manifesto. The Manifesto was one of the first texts arguing for a European Constitution and the formation of a European federation of states, whose primary goal would link European countries and prevent a new war. On 14 February 1984 the European Parliament adopts his proposal by a vast majority and approves the “Draft Treaty Establishing the European Union”, the so-called “Spinelli Plan”. National parliaments will not ratify the Treaty but the document constitutes the basis for the subsequent treaties of the European Union.


Last update: 12 June 2014