The Fathers and Mothers

from vision to action


Konrad Adenauer

a pragmatic democrat and tireless unifier

The first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, who stood at the head of the newly-formed state from 1949-63, changed the face of post-war German and European history more than any other individual.

A cornerstone of Adenauer's foreign policy was 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 signed a treaty of friendship, which became one of the milestones on the road to European integration.

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Joseph Bech

how a small country can play a crucial role in European integration

Joseph Bech was the Luxembourgish politician that helped set up the European Coal and Steel Community in the early 1950s and a leading architect behind European integration in the later 1950s.

It was a joint memorandum from the Benelux countries that led to the convening of the Messina Conference in June 1955, paving the way for the European Economic Community.

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Johan Willem Beyen

a plan for a common market

The international banker, businessman and politician Johan Willem Beyen was a Dutch politician who, with his 'Beyen Plan', breathed new life into the process of European integration in the mid-1950s.

Beyen is one of the lesser-known members of the group of Founding Fathers of the EU. Amongst the people who knew him he was admired for his charm, international orientation and social ease.

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Winston Churchill

calling for a United States of Europe

Winston Churchill, a former army officer, war reporter and British Prime Minister (1940-45 and 1951-55), was 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 guarantee peace. His aim was to eliminate the European ills of nationalism and war-mongering once and for all.

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Nicole Fontaine

politician and educator

The European Parliament’s second female President was a persuasive politician and devoted champion of Europe who oversaw the adoption of the euro. Nicole Fontaine, who was President from 1999-2002, set about reforming the European Parliament’s working methods to bring it closer to European citizens.

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Alcide De Gasperi

an inspired mediator for democracy and freedom in Europe

From 1945 to 1953, in his roles as Italian Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister, Alcide De Gasperi forged the path of the country’s destiny in the post-war years.

Time and time again he promoted initiatives aimed at the fusion of Western Europe, working on the realisation of the Marshall Plan and creating close economic ties with other European countries, in particular France.

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Walter Hallstein

a diplomatic force propelling swift European integration

Walter Hallstein was the first President of the European Commission from 1958 to 1967, a committed European and a decisive proponent of European integration.

As President of the European Commission, Hallstein worked towards a rapid realisation of the Common Market. His energetic enthusiasm and powers of persuasion furthered the cause of integration even beyond the period of his presidency. During his mandate, the integration advanced significantly.

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Ursula Hirschmann

anti-fascist and founding European federalist 1913 - 1991

Born into a middle-class Jewish family in Berlin, in 1932 Ursula Hirschmann joined the youth organisation of the Social Democratic Party in resistance to the advance of the Nazis. After meeting and then marrying Eugenio Colorni, a young Italian philosopher and socialist, while in exile in Paris during the mid-1930s, Hirschmann became active in the clandestine anti-fascist opposition in his native Italy.

When Colorni was arrested and imprisoned on the island of Ventotene, she followed her husband there. There they met Ernesto Rossi and Altiero Spinelli, who, in 1941, co-authored the Ventotene Manifesto ‘for a free and united Europe’, widely regarded as the starting point for European federalism.

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Marga Klompé

Scientist, politician and champion of the underprivileged (1912-1986)

Marga Klompé was a scientist and teacher who was active in the Dutch resistance during the Second World War. She became a member of the Dutch Parliament in 1948 and was one of the negotiators of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

In 1952 Klompé became the first female member of the Common Assembly of the European Coal and Steel Community, the forerunner of the European Parliament. There she contributed to the work that led to the Treaties of Rome. In 1956 she become the Netherlands’ first female government minister and one of her achievements was the country’s first law on universal social protection.

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Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand

leaders in reconciliation

Helmut Kohl was the second of only three people to have received an Honorary Citizenship of Europe from the European Council, in recognition of his extraordinary work on European integration and cooperation, such was his contribution to the European project.

While President, Mitterrand supported European enlargement by encouraging Spain and Portugal’s accession to the EU. He also believed in a more integrated EU and championed the passing of the Single European Act in 1986, which laid the first legal foundations for a European single market. Together, Kohl and Mitterrand completed this goal with the passing of the Maastricht Treaty six years later, making their dream of a seamless transnational market a reality.

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Sicco Mansholt

farmer, resistance fighter and a true European

Sicco Mansholt was a farmer, a member of the Dutch resistance during the Second World War, a national politician and the first European Commissioner responsible for Agriculture. Mansholt's ideas laid the basis for the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union, one of the most prominent policies since its founding days.

Having witnessed the horrors of the Dutch famine at the end of the Second World War, Mansholt was convinced that Europe needed to become self-sufficient and that a stable supply of affordable food should be guaranteed for all.

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Melina Mercouri

actor, politician and champion of culture

The Greek actor and politician Melina Mercouri brought a fire and passion to everything she did; from gracing stage and screen in the early part of her life, to fighting the fascist junta that took control of Greece in 1967 and campaigning for the protection and promotion of culture as a politician.

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Jean Monnet

the unifying force behind the birth of the European Union

The French political and economic adviser Jean Monnet dedicated himself to the cause of European integration. He was the inspiration behind the 'Schuman Plan', which foresaw the merger of west European heavy industry.

Monnet was from the Cognac region of France. When he left school at 16 he travelled internationally as a cognac dealer, later also as a banker. During both world wars he held high-level positions relating to the coordination of industrial production in France and the United Kingdom.

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Robert Schuman

the architect of the European integration project

The statesman Robert Schuman, a qualified lawyer and French foreign minister between 1948 and 1952, is regarded as one of the founding fathers of European unity.

In cooperation with Jean Monnet he drew up the internationally renowned Schuman Plan, which he published on 9 May 1950, the date now regarded as the birth of the European Union. 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.

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Paul-Henri Spaak

a European visionary and talented persuader

'A European statesman' – Belgian Paul-Henri Spaak's long political career fully merits this title.

Spaak was a leading figure in formulating the content of the Treaty of Rome. At the 'Messina Conference' in 1955, the six participating governments appointed him president of the working committee that prepared the Treaty.

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Altiero Spinelli

an unrelenting federalist

The Italian politician Altiero Spinelli was one of the fathers of the European Union. He 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 ParlNicole Fontaineiament and provided an important inspiration for the strengthening of the EU Treaties in the 1980s and '90s.

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Simone Veil 

Holocaust survivor and first female President of the European Parliament

Lawyer, politician and feminist, Simone Veil served as France’s Health Minister between 1974 and 1979. In that year she became a Member of the European Parliament and was elected its President, remaining in the role until 1982. This made her the President of the first directly elected Parliament and the first female President.

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Louise Weiss 

lifelong champion of European values and women's rights

The journalist and politician Louise Weiss was an influential voice in French and international affairs from the 1920s until her death in 1983. Her experiences working in field hospitals during the First World War profoundly affected her. She dedicated her life to the pursuit of peace, first through her work on several newspapers and then in her dedication to the cause of female suffrage; her belief being that giving women the vote would help prevent the looming threat of a Second World War. During that war, she helped save thousands of Jewish children from the Nazis and joined the French Resistance. Post-war, she promoted the idea of Europe as a counterpoint to the superpowers during the Cold War. She was elected to the European Parliament in 1979 at the age of 86, and made the inaugural speech at its opening session. After her death, the European Parliament named its main building in Strasbourg after her in recognition of her lifelong support of European values.

Read more about Louise Weiss pdf(1.33 MB)