Europe’s Saints: The Official Construction of a History of the European Union

Europe’s Saints: The Official Construction of a History of the European Union1  


In  J. Peter Burgess (ed.), Museum Europa. The European Cultural Heritage between Economics and Politics, Kristiansand: Norwegian Academic Press 2003, 31-66


The official self-understanding of the EU

The closest we have come to an officially sanctioned self-understanding of EU history is program and activities within the Jean Monnet Action from 1990[1]. However, this program works through the existing universities and departments and encourages different, competing – even outright critical – interpretations. Nonetheless a semi-official self-understanding has developed over the years in Brussels and elsewhere, primarily at the Collège d’Europe in Bruges. This interpretation could be labelled ‘half-baked federalism’, concentrating on the figures that the British historian, Alan Milward, has somewhat mockingly labelled the “EU Saints”. This history has not been developed systematically, and primarily qualifies as a collective memory furthered in informal ways by the institutions.


1 Inspiration for this article goes way back to the year 1969–1970 which I spent as a graduate student at Collège d’Europe in Bruges in the Flemish speaking part of Belgium. At that time the college still was directed by its founder and inspiration, the Dutch federalist politician and resistance fighter Hendrik Brugmans (1901-97). At the college we met a sterling series of European intellectuals and politicians, from Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi (1894-1972) and Salvador Madariaga (1886-1976) to Walter Hallstein (1901-82), Sicco Mansholt (1908-95) and the Nobel Prize winning economist Jan Tinbergen (1903-94). Beyond studying the details of agricultural policy and procedures in the European lobby groups, we were also made familiar with the forgotten Habsburg Central European and read literary classics in the original language under expert supervision. Today I can see that Brugmans’ person and thoughts made a lasting impression on us young students, also those of us who, like yours truly, after a short and traumatic trial period as intern in the corridors of the Berlaymont Building, did not choose a career in the European institutions. The entire contribution is certainly critical to the meaning of the federalist ideology to which Brugmans had dedicated his life. But the European inspiration itself and the realization that we all are citizens in each other’s countries and should know all the European languages and cultures has remained as the heritage from that impressive person. I was reminded of this as I reread his works in preparation for this article. I should have dedicated one of my books on Europe to his memory, but this article will have to suffice. It is completely in Brugmans’ open and tolerant spirit that an article which critically discusses his (and others’) federalist idealism be dedicated to him. A first version of my discussion of the theories of European integration has been published in Swedish (Hettne, Sörlin and Østergård 1998/2006).

The best testimony to this unofficial culture of memory are the names of the buildings in the EU quarter in north-eastern Brussels near Parc du Cinquantenaire or Jubelpark as the area is called in Flemish. Monumental buildings which house the European institutions have slowly but surely taken over the whole quarter in eastern Brussels toward the grounds of the park which was constructed for the celebration of the Belgian 50th anniversary in 1880. Since the 1960s hundreds of decorated art nouveau houses have given way to building speculators because of the lack of effective zoning practices in Brussels’ decentralized government. In the beginning the European Community was housed in the characteristic four-winged Berlaymont building. But after this structure was closed for asbestos renovation things have moved very fast indeed. The signs of architectural decline are many. There is the Commission’s boring Charlemagne complex, the Council’s pompous and authoritarian Justus Lipsius building, and, most recently, the European Parliament’s giant glass palace in brutal post-modernism that squeezes the life out of both Leopold Park and the elegant railroad station by the same name. This is all quite sad, though admittedly not the greatest of the architectonic and city planning catastrophes one finds in many other European metropolises.


Aside from the relatively unknown Justus Lipsius (and the Berlaymont complex, which was constructed before the institutions properly took form) the names of the buildings and squares tell the official history of the creators of the European collaboration, the ‘fathers’ of Europe as they were called. Or ‘Europe’s saints’ as the sarcastic and realistic Milward has called them (Milward 1992:318–324). The buildings have taken their names from streets in the vicinity, so the fact that with these names one is presented to the gallery of great European figures is basically a historical coincidence. But this coincidence contains another symbolism, in the sense that the master plan behind the naming is every bit as unplanned as the entire European project in reality is. The EU evolved without precise blueprints, but seen retrospectively there is no end to how planned the whole thing looks for researchers and functionaries. Yet a close historical analysis shows that the Union is just as little planned as everything else in Belgium – corruption being the greatest exception.


Justus Lipsius (1547-1606) was a Flemish classical philologist. The fact that he has had a street and thereafter the building of the European Council named after him has primarily local patriotic reasons. However, by closer examination he fits quite well into the European pantheon. Lipsius was born in the vicinity of Brussels in 1547 and died in Louvain in 1606 after a scholarly career in which he took a position in favour of the Catholic Habsburgs against the revolting Protestants in the Netherlands and Flanders. He thus represents the intellectual side of the despised CounterReformation that led to the remaking of the modern Catholic Church, which among many other things has been one of the decisive factors behind European cooperation. After the Catholic Church gave up its resistance against modern society and politics (with the exception of Italy), through the Encyclical Rerum Novarum of 1891, Catholic popular parties were created in several European states (Durand 1995:62). After the reconciliation between Protestants and Catholics after WW II, these Christian-Democratic parties have carried forth the European collaboration together with socialist and social democratic parties. It is possibly symptomatic that these two groups have shared the chairmanship of the European Parliament except a brief spell from 2002-2004 when the Irish liberal Pat Cox (b. 1952) succeeded in breaking the hegemony of the two largest parties.


If it is true that Lipsius can be discussed in this way, then the other place and building names incontestably tell the canonized story of the Community, whether or not it was planned. In particular the decoration of Station Schuman, the underground station frequented on a daily basis by the lower-level employees of the EU institutions, and the overlying roundabout, Rond-Pont Robert Schuman, are important to the EU’s self-understanding. The Robert Schuman roundabout is now situated quite peacefully, and has been so ever since the massive traffic of Rue de la Loi – Wetstrat in Flemish – was diverted under the park, thanks to which it is possible to survive the traffic experiment of crossing from the Commission over to the Council on foot.


Under ground in the station between the whirl of advertisements – we are, after all, in Belgium – used to be found the photographs of two men, Schuman and Monnet, under the title, ‘The beginning of the European Community’. The date of the photo is 9 March 1950, the day the French foreign minister Robert Schuman (1886-1963) launched the plan for placing ‘Franco-German production of coal and steel as a whole […] under a common High Authority, within the framework of an organization open to the participation of the other countries of Europe’. That proclamation is the background for the fact that 9 May is the official ‘Europe Day’. Not much loved in the member states, but an official day off the EU-institutions.


The other person in the picture, Jean Monnet (1888-1979), was the brain behind the initiative. He had earned experience with international cooperation on the administrative level organizing the maritime transport of the allies during World War I and after the war when he served as Vice General Secretary of the League of Nations 1919–1923. Thereafter he returned to look after his family’s cognac business on a full-time basis for a period. During WW II he joined General de Gaulle’s Free France and after the war developed the so-called Monnet Plan for the reconstruction of France’s economy. His contribution to the Schuman Plan which led to the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community of which he was president from 1952 to 1955, was decisive.


The Coal and Steel Union was, however, only a means for him, not an end. In 1954 he retired from the Commission and in October he established a transnational lobby group with the impressive name ‘Action Committee for the United States of Europe’ (Duchêne 1994). More than any other individual, Monnet has been responsible for the European cooperation we know today. But his confusing choice of words, ‘United States of Europe’, has, on the other hand, also contributed  to the nearly insurmountable political gap between supporters and opponents of cooperation in Europe and its lack of legitimacy in the population. His choice of the term ‘United States of Europe’, characteristic for the time, was all the more remarkable – and unfortunate – in that he least of all wanted to see the nation-state disappear. Monnet was born French and remained so all his life, even if he, in contrast to the majority of his generation, was capable of expressing his thoughts in fluent English. He sought cooperation in order to save the nation-states from their inherent potential for self-destruction, of which he had been a privileged observer during WW I and II, not their annihilation.


The tension between title and real content was thus inherent in the cooperation from the very start. This can be seen by noting who is and who is not included in the European pantheon. Aside from the Fleming Justus Lipsius, who is relatively insignificant in the European context, the most important saint of the EU institutions, if one is to judge by the naming of the buildings, is the

German educated Frenchman Robert Schuman, the English speaking and thinking Frenchman Jean Monnet and their predecessor, the king of the Franks and the first European emperor, Charlemagne, who lends his name to the Commission’s drab building. Indeed the complete list comprises many more who have not – yet – had squares or buildings named after them, but that will come soon enough.[2] The most important are the German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer (1876-1967) and the Italian Alcide De Gasperi (1881-1954). It seems to be of considerable significance that both

Schuman and De Gasperi were able to negotiate uninhibited with Adenauer in German and that Adenauer as a Rhinelander had greater understanding, also linguistically, for his Central European neighbours than the majority of his Prussian compatriots. De Gasperi was born and raised in Trento and represented the province of Trentino in the Austrian Parliament from 1911 to the Austro- Hungarian empire in 1918 – a parliament which meet in a building designed by the Danish architect Theophilus Hansen )1813-91), who is also responsible for a large part of 19th century Athens.


Schuman was born in Luxembourg – where he went to school with the future politician Joseph

Bech (1887-1975), who also belonged to the founding group – but was a German citizen during the 32 years the Loraine belonged to the German empire under the name Lothringen. He was educated at the universities of Bonn, Berlin, Munich and, above all, Strasbourg (Strassburg). Schuman himself said that his national language was French (learned at school), but his mother tongue was Letzeburgisch – while at the same time his university education was carried out in German. The fifth of ‘Europe’s fathers’ was the Belgian socialist Paul-Henri Spaak (1899-1972). He was a French-speaker, but he also spoke Flemish and understood German. Together with Konrad

Adenauer, Rhinelander and Catholic of both birth and conviction and therefore sceptical to Prussians and more oriented toward France and the French language, that group of politicians had the possibility of conversing in German in a way that today’s exclusively English-oriented generations can hardly imagine. At times one has the impression that today’s politicians are nearly separated by the common English they all think they master.


Next in ranks of political influence the federalist theoreticians can be named, such as Hendrik Brugmans and the Italian socialist Altiero Spinelli (1907-86)4. It is probably justified in the perspective of the history of ideas to consider these federalists as part of the group of “founding fathers of Europe”, and I will discuss their real significance for the process of integration later. Before that, though, two politicians should be emphasized who normally are not included among ‘Europe’s fathers’, the Englishman Winston Churchill and the Frenchman Charles de Gaulle. They are normally omitted in the official history of the EU because they don’t fit in the perceived opposition of nation-state and nationalism on the one hand, and European cooperation on the other. The opposition is popular among both supporters and opponents of integration, but is not thereby more correct, as I hope to show in this analysis.


Regardless of the fact that he fought a whole life – one would nearly say several – in order to upkeep the worldwide British empire outside of Europe, it impossible to omit the British politician Winston Churchill from the royal ranks of European politicians (cf. Kastholm 1999). It was

Churchill who September 19, 1946 at the Technical University of Zürich proclaimed ‘The United


the characteristic title Prophets and Founders (Prophètes et fondateurs, Brugmans, 1974). Each class was and still is named after a prominent European thinker or statesman from Virgil to Saint-Exupéry. Brugmans’ choice of people has in part been a self-fulfilling prophecy, since so many active in the institutions have been students in Bruges or in one way or another connected to the place. It is untraditional that Brugmans has Churchill on his list together with

Adenauer, De Gasperi and Schuman, but not Paul-Henri Spaak. I myself belong to the class called after the Dutch state holder Guillaume le Taciturne. Perhaps the choice reflects the common perception of the turn of the year 1969–1970 as a period of the stagnation for the cooperation. That this is not true, given that the summit in December 1969 in The Hague prepared the first expansion including Great Britain, Ireland and Denmark in 1973. For a good historical analysis I refer to Bossuat (2001: 192–199). Brugmans eventually became so European that he changed his name from the Dutch Hendrik to the French Henri.

4 On the development of federalist thought, cf. in particular, John Pinder’s various works on the theory and practice of federalism.

States of Europe’ in a speech, which almost equals the fame of the other speech he held earlier in the same year at a small provincial university in Fulton, Ohio, where he saw the Iron Curtain go down through Europe from ‘Stettin in the north to Trieste in the south’. The result of Churchill’s initiative, though, was not a European collaboration that reminds one of what many at that time, just as today, associate with the term ‘The United States of Europe’. The congress in The Hague May 8 to9, 1948, called by the European movement on British initiative and with numerous Nordic participants, resulted in the establishment of the European Council.[3] This honorable organization is something quite different than the EU and has, in any case until quite recently, not challenged the sovereignty of the nation-state. Only long after the adoption of the Human Rights Convention from 1950 rights are being integrated as valid legal practice in the original member states and the Court in Strasbourg seriously beginning to override national decisions. Nor did it ever cross the minds of Churchill and the other functionalists that this should be possible. For them the nation-state came first. Jean Monnet knew this in advance and therefore stayed away from the Hague Congress where otherwise all the European idealists gathered.


Apparently it was the streak of federalist idealism in the European Movement that made the pragmatic Monnet skeptical toward them, combined with a solid skepticism toward Churchill’s real intentions behind the big words. His skepticism had roots in his experience from June 1940 when, after the defeat of the German army, he had convinced Churchill to present to the French government a proposal of union between the two countries. But Churchill had been deeply skeptical, if not directly opposed to the proposal all the time and had only unwillingly accepted a union as a means to hold onto France and in particular the French fleet and the French colonies as participants at war (Dinan 1994:14).


The main reason why Churchill is seldom included in the ranks of Europe’s sanctified founding fathers, though, is that he never for a moment dreamed that Great Britain would participate. It was something ‘the others’ on the continent would do in order to stem Soviet expansion and overcome their openly suicidal nationalism. Great Britain was, in his eyes and the eyes of the majority of the British, not European but the center of a world wide empire that was much too large for Europe – rather on the level of its cousin USA, on which they for a time had become economically dependant as a result of debts contracted during WW II. But Churchill had won the battle against Nazi Germany by ignoring the objective facts, so the minor detail of the real relations of power between the two victorious superpowers, the US and the Soviet Union on the on hand, and Great Britain on the other, did not bother him. Only after the defeat in Suez in 1956 some British slowly became aware of the fact that Great Britain actually had a choice between integration in Europe and status as the ‘island west of the Continent’, something still denied by many of the conservative elite and among Labour’s voters.


If one includes Churchill among Europe’s ‘founding fathers’ one must, however, also include his nationalistic alter ego, General Charles de Gaulle. This happens, however, only seldom among the keepers of memories of the history of the integration process in Brussels. To that effect the recollection of the General’s ‘non’ to Great Britain in 1963 and his demonstratively empty chair in the European Council beginning in 1965 and lasting until the other countries in 1966 accepted the national right to veto, is still too painfully alive. But with distance, scholarly literature has in retrospect come to include de Gaulle in the ranks of great Europeans. This new interpretation is formulated by Desmond Dinan in a widely used textbook on the birth of the European Community – which he in parenthesis continues to call ‘cooperation’ even after the introduction of the term ‘Union’ with the Maastricht Treaty:


Three individuals, all French, have contributed most to shaping the European Community. Yet if the Community ever built a pantheon for its heroes, only two of them would be buried there. The first, Jean Monnet, would have pride of place. The second, Jacques Delors, European Commission  President since 1985 [until 1994, U.Ø.], would repose beside Monnet in almost equal esteem. But the third, Charles de Gaulle, would never be considered for internment in the

Community’s hallowed ground. On the contrary, de Gaulle would be relegated to the rogue’s gallery of Community villains. For in the popular opinion of European integrationists, de Gaulle’s anachronistic championing of the nation-state destroyed the Community’s development in the 1960s and stunted its institutional growth until the Single European Act of 1986 and the Maastricht Treaty of 1992. In their view, de Gaulle belongs, with Margaret Thatcher, on the scrap heap (Dinan 1994:39).


But in reality, Dinan continues – after a comparison between the nationalism of Thatcher and de Gaulle (unflattering for the former) whereby only their temperaments and outward styles bear any resemblance to each other, while there was a world of difference between their political horizons and historical significance – de Gaulle’s significance for the European Community was far from negative. It was he who made possible the establishment of a common agricultural policy in the 1960s. Today that policy is an expensive ball-and-chain on the leg of the EU and should have been fundamentally renovated before taking in any new members from Eastern and Central Europe. But today’s problems should not lead us to overlook that this policy for a long time constituted the raison d’être of the cooperation in that over half of the EU’s budget goes to agricultural arrangements – even if it is often overlooked that the money is administered by the national administrations, though in principle according to common rules. Without the common agriculturalpolicy there wouldn’t have been a European Community before the introduction of the inner market, but only a tarif’s union like that between the EFTA countries (Dinan

1994:40). And even if the less binding construction apparently corresponds best to the image of the majority of northern Europeans, history shows that the EU’s more robust arrangements, with a strong supranational element has in practice been more attractive, also for supporters of national sovereignty.


One could and should name several more people in the same breath as the five emphasized here. The Luxembourger Joseph Bech played an important role in the very first phase. And even more important for the birth of the Common Market was the Dutch Foreign Minister from 1952 to 1955, Jan Willem Beyen, so important that the Norwegian historian Paul Knutsen rightly has entitled one of his sections on the establishment of the EEC, ‘Spaak, Beyen and Monnet’. It was Beyen who prepared the final proposal creating a bridge between the Coal and Steel Union and the Common Market (Milward 1992:196), as well as the Euratom, which Jean Monnet, as a true child of the 1950s, the thought would become the most important institution. One should also name the Dutch diplomat Max Kohnstamm who worked throughout his long career as an effective collaborator of Jean Monnet. As a newly educated historian Kohnstamm entered the resistance against the German occupation in 1940 and spent several years in a prisoner of war camp because of it. In his work in the Dutch Foreign Ministry he became convinced that Monnet’s plan for an economic cooperation between the victor and the vanquished was the only recipe for avoiding the catastrophic humiliation of Germany through the Treaty of Versailles after WW I. Therefore he participated enthusiastically in the establishment of the Coal and Steel Union, and in 1955 followed his boss into the Action Committee for United States of Europe, of which he was Vice-President for the next 22 years, until he ended his career as principal of the European University Institute in Firenze (Funch & Justesen 1997).


Also his successor as principal of the EUI, the Frenchman Émile Noël should be remembered together with Walter Hallstein, the first Chairman of the Commission. Noël was General Secretary of the Commission from 1958 until 1987 and in that position responsible for the introduction of French administrative traditions, which for better or worse has marked the entire apparatus in Brussels almost until today. But in spite of all such qualities, the contributions of these individuals were rather more at the level of functionaries in already established institutional structures. And if one studies that level it becomes evident that the number of people who deserve to be emphasized becomes nearly endless. More important than this entire phalanx of functionaries with political qualities is an analysis of the real significance of the many federalist theoreticians and activists that take up such decisive places in the dominant historical writing on integration. The German historian Walter Lipgens has published federalist plans and proclamations from the 1940s in a series of massive volumes and written properly source-based (and reliable) summaries of the comprehensive pamphlet literature (Lipgens 1968; 1982; Loth & Lipgens 1985–91). And generations of coming Eurocrats have read Hendrik Brugmans’ classic L’idée européenne 1920–1970 from 1970, in which federalist thoughts and plans play a decisive role.[4] Therefore federalism pops up from time to time in European proclamations, especially in the European Parliament’s loftier debates. However, this does not mean that the European cooperation has in fact been advanced by that program in any precise meaning of the word.


The federalist European movements

Classical federalist theory as it first unfolded during the creation of the North American confederate states in Philadelphia in 1787 – the so-called ‘miracle in Philadelphia’ – supposes the creation of a federation with one stroke through the signing of a constitution (Østergaard 1992a: 421–428). The federalists had hoped that the Hague convention of 1948 would become a European parallel to the American, but they were outmaneuvered by Churchill’s colleague and son-in-law Duncan Sandys and by the Scandinavians’ determined rejection of anything that tasted of renunciation of national sovereignty.


The last attempt at steering the European Council in the direction of a European federation was undertaken during the August gathering in 1950. The federalist underground movement demonstrated outside Strasbourg by burning down border markers in a non-violent protest against the exclusivity of nation-states. One of the young participants who since has often recalled the episode with pride was the later German Chancellor Helmut Kohl (Pinder 1995:218). But the parliamentary assembly resolutely rejected all suggestions of supranational character, which in particular disappointed the active Italian federalists. In the following year they made a large number of constitutional propositions, but none of them got off the starting block.


The ultimate defeat for the supra-national federalist struggles was the French National Assembly’s rejection in 1954 of the suggestion to create a common European army, which the French government itself had advanced three years earlier (Bjøl 1966). The British historian, John Pinder, the strongest spokesman for the federalist point of view in research, argues that in this situation federalism changed its face to Jean Monnet’s more pragmatic version. He finds the argument for this understanding, which in many ways has remained the Community’s own selfunderstanding, in the preambles of the treaties, from the Coal and Steel Union, via the Treaty of Rome, to Maastricht and Amsterdam (Pinder 1995:213ff). For him the ultimate proof is that Monnet hired the archetypical federalist activist Altiero Spinelli to write the draft of his opening speech to the High Authority’s first meeting in August 1952.


Spinelli (1907–1986) was 17 years old when he joined the communist party and participated in its underground struggle against fascism in Italy until he was arrested in Milan in 1927. The following 15 years he spent in various prisons. During that period he gave up communism in favor of a more liberal democratic position. The years between 1939 and 1943 he spent in together with other antifascists on one of the Aeolian Islands between Rome and Sicily, Ventotene (Spinelli 1984–1986). Ventotene came to function as a political incubation institution for large parts of the post-war political elite in Italy, above all the small but influential liberal democratic Partito d’Azione, which peaked between 1943 and 1947. The main result was the Ventotene Manifesto from the winter 1941–42 that sketches a federalist organization of Europe after the victory over Nazism and fascism. The manifesto is named after the island-prison where the movement ‘Movimento Federalista Europeo’ was founded (Brugmans 1970:96; Becherucci & Palayret 1999; Spinelli 1984– 1986: 351–375). The main authors were Ernest Rossi and Altiero Spinelli. They presented a continuation of ideas of the 19th century thinker and activist, Giuseppe Mazzini, who had advocated the ‘United States of Europe’. Mazzini, together with Giuseppe Garibaldi and Camille Cavour, are normally considered as the fathers of the Italian nation-state, though this neglects the fact that he did not wish to see nation-states created for their own sake, but rather as steps on the path to a new democratic Europe. It was not for nothing that Mazzini’s organization of 1834 was called Giovane Europa (Young Europe) and that Europe was to be organized as a federation of more or less equally large states which could cooperate on an equal footing (Østergaard 1992:91–92).


This document reached Switzerland by various routes and became the basis for a ‘Manifesto for the

European Resistance Movement’, which since became the European Movement. According to Spinelli’s own account, Monnet had no clear plan of how to reach a federation, thinking that ‘a few improvised ideas’ was enough (Spinelli 1989:163). Nonetheless he, and with him Pinder, claims that this is proof that Monnet wanted to create a federation. It seems more evident to accept the observation for what it is and recognize that Monnet, like many of the pragmatic politicians, was deeply indifferent as to the names of the first institutions. This assessment is confirmed by the further course of the collaboration between Spinelli and Monnet, which lasted only a few months, after which Spinelli returned to Italy and founded an institute for international affairs. He later returned to European politics in 1970 as Commissioner for industrial affairs. Six years later he was elected to the European Parliament and had a decisive influence on the decision to introduce direct elections in 1979. He even convinced the Parliament to adopt a proper draft constitution for Europe (Bossuat 2001:208), so there is no reason to relegate him to history’s excess of idealists without any influence. On the other hand, he should probably neither be accorded the significance that he himself nor his sympathizer Hendrik Brugmans did.


The crucial decisions were made by others, such as, for example, the afore-mentioned socialist Belgian Foreign Minister Paul-Henri Spaak. And he was, according to unanimous sources, not a federalist before he presented the so-called Spaak plan in 1955, which cleared the way for the Common Market. Pinder and Brugmans claim that Spaak, in the course of a few weeks, became a convinced federalist. But it is far more simple and consistent with the actual course of events to interpret Spaak’s actions as a recognition that nation-states had to cooperate in their own interests, not as a result of higher metaphysical principles. This has been demonstrated by Alan Milward in a convincing analysis of Spaak’s actions and motives in his ground-breaking work on the history of European cooperation in the 1950s, in a chapter with the well chosen title ‘The Lives and Teachings of the European Saints’ (Milward 1992:318–324).


The gallery of ‘Europe’s saints’ is thus quite large. But despite the size of the gallery of ancestors, the differences between the visions of those involved show clearly that the process of European integration is far less unambiguous than the simple opposition of national sovereignty and the ‘United States of Europe’. Not to mention the foolish statement whether one would like ‘more or less union’, regardless of the content of such a transfer of power. Only the fact that national – not to say nationalist – statesmen like de Gaulle and Churchill should be placed among the originators of integration together with federalist idealists like Spinelli and Brugmans, cloaks the image of a clear lineage up to the present, no matter how much the existing institutions would like to construct such a lineage and give it physical appearance in the form of names of buildings and squares.  Seen from the historical perspective there is in fact much which indicates that opponents of cooperation have contributed at least as much to the development of a ‘European’ consciousness and behavior, if not more. Because, as I will argue more directly in what follows, for many participants the justification for cooperation was the preservation of the nation-state, first from the crisis into which they had sunk after WW II, then from Soviet and American dominance. Opponents, on the other hand, have wanted to protect national sovereignty with all means, among them cooperation with like-minded individuals in other countries.


Strange alliances have emerged from this situation, such as that between Nordic left-oriented and French right-oriented populists in Jean-Marie Le Pen’s Front national or eccentric British millionaires. Indeed nothing is more eccentric than the successful Danish globally oriented businessman A.P. Møller who combines a global perspective with a conservative defence of his nation-state. But regardless of how strange some of the alliances may seem, it can not be denied that opponents often behave European while talking national, while supporters talk

European, but behave national. All these paradoxes intensify the need to attempt to uncover the real meaning of such concepts as ‘Federation’, ‘Union’ and ‘United States of Europe’.


An ever closer Union? 

In the debates for and against membership of the European Union it has been endlessly discussed how to determine the meaning of the sentence, ‘to continue the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe’, according to which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizens in following the principle of subsidiarity. How should the word ‘union’ be understood? In the Single European Act of 1986 the word union also figured in the preamble: ‘[…] moved by the will to continue the work undertaken on the basis of the Treaties establishing the European Communities and to transform relations as a whole among their States into a European Union, in accordance with the Solemn Declaration of Stuttgart of 19 June’ (Skytte Christoffersen 1992:II, 6).


In negotiations on the political union in 1990 another concept appeared, ‘the federal objective’. In its own way this concept is more precise than the concept of union. Contary to the sloganesque understanding of the concept of ‘federation’ as synonymous with centralism, the term is normally used in the legal literature to refer to a form of state in which there is a clear distribution of competence between the levels of authority on a central and individual state plane, as in the US, Switzerland and Germany. It was the Federal Republic of Germany that suggested the federal principle be made the fundamental principle for the rebuilding of the Union. The Germans wanted this for two reasons. First, in order to extend common authority to foreign and security policy, common currency, inner free trade and security. But, secondly, and equally important, the German negotiators wanted a treaty containing a guarantee against the Union intervening in areas where the member states and the Lands (Länder) possess competence. The guiding principle was to be the socalled principle of subsidiary, which has a long tradition in Catholic thought.


According to the Danish negotiator Poul Skytte Christoffersen[5] the federal objective was integrated into the text of the treaty when the Luxembourg presidency was up for consideration in the European Council in June 1991 (Skytte Christoffersen 1992:42–43). This was the occasion for a strenuous debate between the states. For Denmark, Ireland, Portugal and Great Britain the concept reminded too much of ‘The United States of Europe’ and was therefore rejected. In contrast, the Benelux countries, Spain and Italy wanted the concept as a statement of the ambitions of the collaboration. France and Germany were particularly interested in the concept as a fundamental principle for the division of competencies between the Union and the member states. The end result was that the reference to the federal objective was removed from the text of the treaty in the final compromise in Maastricht in December 1991. The discussion primarily concerned symbols and political intentions, but was not particularly important as a key to the character of the collaboration.


The ambiguities date back to the preamble to the Treaty of Rome, which it is interesting to cite in its entirety:

“Determined to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe,  Resolved to ensure the economic and social progress of their countries by common action to eliminate the barriers which divide Europe,

Affirming as the essential objective of their efforts the constant improvements of the living and working conditions of their peoples,

Recognizing that the removal of existing obstacles calls for concerted action in order to guarantee steady expansion, balanced trade and fair competition,

Anxious to strengthen the unity of their economies and to ensure their harmonious development by reducing the differences existing between the various regions and the backwardness of the lessfavoured regions,

Desiring to contribute, by means of a common commercial policy, to the progressive abolition of restrictions on international trade,

Intending to confirm the solidarity which binds Europe and the overseas countries and desiring to ensure the development of their prosperity, in accordance with the principles of the Charter of the

United Nations,

Resolved by thus pooling their resources to preserve and strengthen peace and liberty, and calling upon the other peoples of Europe who share their ideal to join in their efforts,

Have decided to create a Europe Community…’ (Treaty Establishing the European Union, 103104)


The Maastricht Treaty has a similar preamble, but there one finds a watered down use of language, such that the first paragraph is reduced to ‘mark a new stage in the process of European integration’ for which the signatories, which then had become more numerous, resolve to ‘establish a European Union’. Indeed, before they arrive at that point a modifying paragraph is inserted: ‘[…] desiring to deepen the solidarity between their peoples while respecting their history, their culture and their traditions […]’. The realities here are somewhat more extensive than in the Treaty of Rome, while at the same time the use of language is considerably weakened as a result of the influence of the sceptical North European members.


United States of Europe? 

The decision to create the common market and Euratom was taken at a conference in Messina 1–2

June 1955. It was a reaction to the French Parliament’s ‘non’ to the proposal of a European army in

1954, which the French government itself had formulated two years previously. But this cooperation was a long way from a treaty for a European Union, and even further from its practical realization. In order to realize the idea, Jean Monnet, as previously mentioned, retired as president of the Coal and Steel Union’s leadership, the so-called ‘High Authority’, and established the pressure group ‘Action Committee for the United States of Europe’. But what did Monnet and his like-minded friends mean with ‘United States of Europe’? A federal state in the style of the US, a confederation in the style of Canada or merely common decision-making authority in a series of chosen areas?


A whole library has been written about this, both by participants and scholars. What is characteristic for the large part of the literature on the integration process is that it is written almost at the same time as the events in an attempt to explain the mechanisms and – often quite importantly – influencing their future. But first it is important to decide what the words actually meant. ‘Ever closer union’ demonstrates – the apparently intentional – ‘constructive ambiguity’ in the formulations as well as in the process. Is ‘union’ meant in the sense of a trade union, that is unification with a specific aim in mind? Or were the signatories from the beginning thinking of the Union with a capital U, which to the surprise of the European population was proclaimed in  Maastricht in December 1991? The answer is both, depending on who one asks, and where and when. The ambiguity was the cause of the success of the project. Federalist idealists like Brugmans and Spinelli and their political movement were enthusiastic, whereas pragmatic functionalists like Jean Monnet believed it was possible, and national leaders such as the Belgian Foreign Minister

Paul-Henri Spaak, the German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, the Italian Gaetano Martino, the Luxembourger Joseph Bech and the Dutch Jan Willem Beyen accepted giving away some national sovereignty (Brugmans 1970: 213–189).


Most of the literature on the EU assumes the main reason for the cooperation to have been a common recognition of the unability of the national states to carry out their tasks. One can find much evidence for this in the earlier mentioned political manifestos on the future of

Europe, formulated by the various resistance movements during and immediately after the war (cf. Lipgens 1969; 1982; Loth & Lipgens 1985–1991). Phenomenon of the notion of the nation-state as a past has even been formulated by no less than one of Europe’s most national politicians, the Danish Prime Minister Poul Schlüter. In a famous and infamous speech in London on 20 September 1998 – the same day that Margaret Thatcher held an even more infamous speech with the opposite message at the Collège d’Europe in Bruges – Schlüter pronounced a judgment on the nation-state as at the same time too large and too small in relation to the challenges of the day. The thought does not at all correspond to his other pronouncements and actions, and the speech was apparently not written by Schlüter himself, even though he refers, in a collection of selected speeches, to having it in a copy typewritten on his preferred Torpedo travel typewriter (Schlüter 1998). Schlüter casts aside the press’ oversized coverage of the speech in an article in the newspaper Fyns Stiftstidende September 29 with a remark that it was calculated for a foreign audience, but that the main idea about the relationship between the industrial society and the nation-state was correct and otherwise insightful. In the speech, among other things Schlüter said the following:

“The nation-state is the twin of industrial society. Industrial technology and the large national entity are two sides of the same coin. Industrial society can only function on the basis of a form of collectivism, a large public sector and powerful organizations and pressure groups. The nation-state and industrial technology go together like hand in glove.”


After a paragraph on the possibilities and challenges of information technology the highlight of the speech follows:


“In a way, one can say that the classical nation-state is too large to solve many of tomorrow’s problems that can be better solved on the regional level and too small to solve others which require an international framework. What remains cannot in the long term maintain the form of nation-state as we have known it in Western Europe’s industrial era.” (Schlüter 1998:275).


There is no lack of death warrants on the nation-state, from the manifestos of the resistance movement to the theoreticians of integration in the 1950s and 1960s – thus Ernst B. Haas published in 1964 a book with the expressive title, Beyond the Nation-State, without a question mark – to analysts of nationalism in the 1980s and 1990s. Schlüter’s words are an excellent summary of a widespread understanding of the challenges faced by the nation-state at the end of the 20th century, after the fall of the Wall and the breakthrough of the Internet. But is this a valid picture of the thoughts and forces that were in play in the Europe of the 1940s and 1950s? Not with wisdom of hindsight from today – the hindsight which is most often the only wisdom historians have in relation to the people they study, and which we therefore must attempt to make the most of. The British historian Alan Milward in 1992 and 1993 published the most interesting historical explanation of the interplay between what in the world of theory is called interdependence,  intergovernmentalism and supranationalism. He argues on the basis of comprehensive archival studies that nation-states, far from having lost influence because of European cooperation, instead have in reality gained influence and strength.


The European Rescue of the Nation-State

The titles of Milward’s two massive books are The European Rescue of the Nation-State (1992) and Frontier of National Sovereignty (1993). They are only apparently a continuation of his detailed explanation of Europe’s economic history in the immediate post-war period, The Reconstruction of Western Europe, 1945–51 (1984). At closer examination one sees that the two new books, plus subsequent contributions to the debate, hold a high level of theoretical ambition, namely to clash with the neo-functionalist understanding of the integration process. The most plausible statement of neo-functionalism was formulated by Ernst B. Haas and Leon Lindberg in the 1960s, almost simultaneously with the integration process itself. It was immediately used in relevant educational programs in such a way that generations of functionaries (and politicians) have made it the basis for understanding their praxis and thus given it a strong plausibility.  


The discoveries made by critical analysis of the relationship between politics and theory had already, before Milward’s efforts, disproved the functionalist theory as an adequate explanation – in contrast to a political strategy. When integration was successful, it was primarily because trend setting national elites saw their national interests in it. The first attack on the neo-functionalist theory of integration was already voiced by Stanley Hoffman in 1968 in an analysis of

nationalism’s continued meaning for the politics of the state, also in the age of integration. He concluded that the functionalist approach was not at all accurate for the more fundamental high policy areas such as defence and foreign policy (Hoffman 1968). Malicious voices – and there are many in the academic business – have of course pointed out that Hoffmann’s critique was nothing more than a theoretical rationalization of Charles de Gaulle’s European foot-dragging – at least compared to the apparent automaticity in the evolution of cooperation between 1965 and 1966. But even Ernst B. Haas drew the consequences of the empirical objections against his theory in 1975 in a book with the revealing title The Obsolescence of Integration Theory. However, it failed to provoke the many functionaries raised in that theory, and they carried on, apparently without any great theoretical considerations. Apparently they were confirmed when Jacques Delors at this assumption of the presidency of the Commission January 9, 1985 presented his Commission’s plan for realizing the internal market to the European Parliament as a preparation for an Economic  Monetary Union (Bossuat 2001:210).


In contrast to many other theoretical works, the provocative title of Milward’s book, The European Rescue of the Nation-State, should be taken quite literally. In Western Europe in the years leading up to WW II the nation-state had reached a low point in terms of prestige and legitimacy. Contrary to the general understanding of the eternal existence of the nation-state and significance of national sovereignty most nation-states first regained legitimacy in the eyes of their populations after the 30 years of crisis between 1914 and 1940 as a result of the growing resistance to the German occupation. That meant, on the other hand, that state powers in Western Europe, with the exception of Germany and Italy, were far stronger in terms of legitimacy in 1945, after Nazi Germany’s defeat, than in the inter-war period. According to detailed analyses by Milward and his collaborators the national elites had learned from the errors of the inter-war period that they had to collaborate in order to preserve the nation-states’ ability to create economic growth. That growth, on the other hand, made possible a rise in living standards which gave the national governments a henceforth unheard-of legitimacy in the eyes of their populations in the years between the Korean War in 1950 and the oil crisis of 1973.


The critique of neo-functionalism and the emphasis on the sovereignty of the nation-state does not bring Milward to deny that the Western European states have in fact become more integrated since  WW II. His point is, however, that integration understood as the renouncement of sovereignty to supra-state institutions was not a means to undermine the nation-states, which benefited from the cooperation, but rather a means to cement the national consolidation of the involved states. According to Milward, the process should not be understood as a zero-sum game in which one can only win at the expense of the other. On the contrary, the collective sum of sovereignty has grown together with society’s growth in wealth. European cooperation has functioned as a solution to problems politically unsolvable in individual states. By way of this ‘de-politicization’ of the struggle for distribution of tasks, the nation-states in Western Europe could satisfy the expectations of their citizens. According to Milward’s investigations, they above all expected the state to take care of national security and create material welfare. The result was the national welfare states. The cost was the lack of political recognition of the necessity of political integration among voters and the states’ weakened ability to compete in the global context, a phenomenon that is often referred to with the term ‘Euro-schlerosis’.


The role of integration was thus to offer itself as a tool for the development and solidification of the persistent and extraordinarily high economic growth between 1945 and 1973. At the same time this growth was the decisive precondition for integration between the six original member states. The economic success corresponded to an advantageous international political conjuncture, determined by the polarization between two superpowers. The US and the Soviet Union held a divided  Europe in their iron grip, though even that separation was an encouragement to closer cooperation in the West. At the same time, it was in no way a given that cooperation would take on a trans- or supranational character. Milward argues that the cooperation has actually served the interest of the nation-states. He does not deny that the conditions for exercising sovereignty have changed with the creation of the European Commission, Parliament and Court. He underscores, however, that the latter instance only functions because of the European Council where the leaders of the nation-states have the final and decisive authority. Cooperation is therefore still fundamentally takes place between nations in spite of the occasional lyrics about ‘ever closer union’ in the preambles to treaties and solemn summit declarations. The problem is that the voters, to the degree they are at all interested in politics at this level, believe that the words mean what they say.


There is a democratic risk in the terminological overkill which has marked cooperation, from the first reference to the ‘United States of Europe’ to the discussion of the Monetary Union as an Economic Union. The Monetary Union and the Euro is a grandiose experiment in making the need for an economic coordination physically visible for the populations. A common currency necessitates coordination of economic policy, eventually including taxes and fees. However, this is not clearly stated. Thus the criticism by the German foreign minister Joschka Fischer in his speech of 12 May 2000, ‘From an Alliance of States to a Federation’, a bit unfairly called the ‘Monnet System’ can easily function against its democratic aims. That the institutions, such as they exist today, in reality strengthen the nation-states, not undermine them, is clear for many of the involved. But the citizens outside the system believe that words mean what they say, i.e. that the European Union is meant to be a federation. The then French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin responded 28 May to Joschka Fischer’s federalist challenge by proclaiming a ‘federation of nation states’. But even this contradictive and elusive term may be too much for voters (Joerges et al. 2000).


In a later article, Alan Milward has characterized research into European integration as belonging to four main tendencies, which overlap one another in a number of areas. The first tendency, the purely quantitative, which in fact is the most widespread, interprets integration as a direct continuation of the states’ traditional foreign policy. In other words, integration is merely a new form of alliance adapted to the situation after 1945. The reason why Danes and Swedes, for example, easily overlook this research is that it is undertaken under other headings (not

‘integration’) and, secondly, because that point of view is more relevant for large states. The second tendency accepts the claim of the Europhiles that the project represents a modification, indeed a rejection, of traditional foreign policy. Emphasis is placed on the idealism and the wish to once and for all change the nation-state structure of the continent (the previously named books of Walter Lipgens and Wilfried Loth are good examples, but also Hendrik Brugmans’ L’idée 

européenne, is based upon such an interpretation). The third tendency (Milward’s own) argues that the integration process was consciously conceived and developed in order to preserve the nationstate by promoting a series of new forms of social and economic policy with the explicit aim of reestablishing the nation-state after its collapse between 1929 and 1940. The fourth tendency assumes that the nation-state’s loss of sovereignty is unavoidable given the long-term economic and social development in the world, characterized by globalization and internationalization. According to the understanding of partisans of this position the state has lost control of its own destiny because of the ever freer movement of goods, capital and labor (Milward 1995:11–12).


These points of view do not necessarily exclude one another in the sense that the differences in theoretical standpoints to a great degree due are to the fact that researchers are interested in different subjects. The first point of view attracts diplomatic and security experts, while the other attracts historians who ascribe meaning to ideas and individuals and look for hidden motives in history. The third point of view attracts those who write about the state, its politics, economic growth, the interaction between politics and markets, and the relations between democracy and social change. The last point of view attracts in particular analysts of the international economic system and long term social and technological processes. All of them, though, agree that the period after 1945 represents a qualitatively new phase in the relation between state and nation (cf. Hettne, Sörlin & Østergård 1998).


The ‘Monnet System’ or pragmatic functionalism 

When in January 1999 the Federal Republic’s Green Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer marked the beginning of the German presidency by presenting the German plans for the first half-year 1999 to the European Parliament, he opened the door to countless questions about the distribution of power between the nation-state and the different EU organs. In reality it was a debate on a European constitution, even if many did not wish to recognize it as such. Fischer permitted himself – though in extremely diplomatic terms – to question what he called ‘the EU method hitherto’. By that he aimed at neo-functionalism as formulated in 1958 by Ernst B. Haas in the book The Uniting of Europe (on the Coal and Steel Union). The theory was still in strong standing, especially among the practitioners in the institutions who had read the books of Haas and others during their studies, despite the fact that Haas, as mentioned above, rejected the theory under the impression of General de Gaulle’s veto against Great Britain joining of the Common Market in 1963 (Haas 1975). From time to time the theory comes back in force, most recently with Jacques Delors’s relaunch of cooperation in the form of the Inner Market in the middle of the 1980s with the Economic and Monetary Union, which came into force on 1 January 1999.


Such events have converted many observers to believe in functionalism in a slightly modified version, sometimes referred to as neo-neo-functionalism. Literally understood the neo-functionalist explanation of the advancing integration as a result of a so-called spill-over from area to area is inadequate. A brief historical glance at the 50-year long history of cooperation demonstrates that one can just as easily speak of progress through crises or pressure from the environment. Some researchers have turned this into a theory, either under the heading ‘challenge and response’ or ‘changes in world society’. Others underscore that cooperation takes place between states represented by their governments, so-called inter-governmentalism (Moravcik 1998). All in all, these are not particularly impressive theories, but rather pedestrian descriptions of different sides of the integration process, which seem to persist despite all crisis and setbacks.


The other part of Joschka Fischer’s speech dealt with the ‘democratic deficit’ and the lack of popular legitimacy in EU’s organs. Despite the fact that a large part of the democratic deficit is due to governments and their administrations gaining increased power at the expense of parliaments, there is nothing new in Fischer’s politically correct critique. What is new and interesting in the perspective of conceptual history (Begriftsgeschichte) is that he questioned the support-andsubsidy-system, which is traditionally set in motion every time cooperation has moved into new areas. He referred to this method as the ‘Monnet System’ (in German ‘System Monnet’). In the understanding of the German government this procedure met its limits long ago. The critique began already in Helmut Kohl’s later years and has become a mantra for Fischer as well as his boss, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. But they have not succeeded as indicated by France’s staunch defence of the agricultural arrangements and Spain and Portugal’s total unwillingness to redirect regional support of the Structural Funds to the new member states in the east. Cuts must be made, demand the net contributors, especially Germany, while the net gainers, especially France and Southern Europe, do not wish to dispense with the income.


The question is nonetheless open whether it is right to name the EU’s subsidy machine after Jean Monnet. It is correct that Monnet developed the functionalist strategy in order to outwit the automatic resistance in the national administrations. But to make him responsible for the later swarm of support arrangements and the subsequent waste and risk of corruption is grossly unfair.  Jean Monnet, who lived from 1888 to 1979, grew up in the Cognac district in southwest France, where his father ran a business exporting the golden drops. Monnet never completed any higher education and was never elected to a political position. Nonetheless he is one of the single most influential persons in 20th century Europe, and it is completely correct that a program for the development of research and teaching in the history of European integration should bear his name.


In his memoirs from 1976 Monnet describes how the new cooperating Europe began in 1917 in the middle of WW I. Challenged by the threat of Germany’s sharpened U-boat against the allied supplies, a small group of functionaries in London comprised of two British, John Anderson and Arthur Salter, and a young Frenchman, Jean Monnet, produced the idea to gather the allied tonnage in one and the same group under a trans-national administration, the so-called Allied Maritime Transport Council. It soon became clear that there were great possibilities in that form of organization. In order most effectively to use the sparse tonnage it was not enough that they be under common administration. It soon became clear that it was also necessary to collectively organize the purchasing of the goods to be transported, especially corn. The shipping collective thus was followed by a goods collective. It was the first example of the spill over effect in international cooperation.


The whole thing functioned so exceptionally well that, when peace was immanent, the same functionaries put forward the idea of using the same procedure after the war. In late 1918 they convinced their ministers to propose to the American government the establishment of an international economic cooperation organization. But that was sharply rejected in Washington because of doctrinaire liberalist resistance against any form of government intervention in the economy. That rejection was just as decisive for the fact, that the 1920s became merely inter-war years instead of the longed for peace settlement as the American Senate’s rejection of the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations in 1920. The result was a global economic crisis, in which the individual states tried to export their problems to each other, and only managed to make them worse.


The combination of Jean Monnet and Arthur Salter appeared again in the first, sensational though stillborn attempt to fuse Great Britain and France into a new political unity after their catastrophic military defeat in May 1940. In 1940 the newly named Prime Minister Winston Churchill offered to enter a political, military and economic union with the defeated France. Churchill’s proposal was delivered to the French government by the only French general who had come through the battle with honor, Charles de Gaulle. But the proposal was Monnet’s. It was rejected by the French Parliament, which had fled to Bordeaux, just adjacent to the Cognac district, where Monnet’s family business was. Instead the Parliament’s majority, the very same Parliament which few years earlier had installed a left-oriented popular front government, conveyed power to the reactionary veteran from WW I, General Pétain, who established an anti-republican, authoritarian and profascist in Vichy in Southern France.


In this context it is more important that Monnet, after France’s withdrawal from the war, was sent as a British functionary to the US in order to organize war purchases for Great Britain. With his unique ability to get access to the leading statesmen, Monnet managed to persuade President Roosevelt of his plan to mobilize the US’s industrial resources to support Great Britain. In spite of all the subsequent long-term advantages for the US, an anathema in the isolationist USA, where Franklin D. Roosevelt was running for the third time for the office of president in a battle against an isolationist and anti-British front, all the way from the pilot Charles Lindberg to John F. Kennedy’s father, Joseph (who was ambassador in London).


Monnet’s method of work in all these contexts was informal. The basis was always to think five steps ahead and have a short and clear memorandum ready which could solve a current political problem before it arose as a problem. At the same time he kept the long-term consequences to himself and his closest collaborators. This procedure also came to mark European cooperation in the post-war period and was behind initiatives such as the adoption of the inner market in 1986 and the EMU in 1991. Delors, a French social democrat and devout catholic, can hardly be accused of loving the free market for its own sake. He nonetheless launched the initiative for implementing it in 1986. The explanation of this apparent paradox is that he followed Monnet’s tactic. Only when the market had come into existence it would become self-evident for the governments and the populations that there was a need for regulations and new initiatives such as the common currency. That is the background for the Maastricht Treaty in December 1991 with its proclamation of the European Union.


The method was enormously successful. It has made it possible for the liberals to proclaim the European Community of the time as their project in the 1980s, and for the social-democrats to proclaim the same for the EU in the 1990s, and for both to be right, each at their own time. The risk arose from the standstill in the 1990s when the liberals stood down when Delors’ presupposed regulatory phase was reached, before the social democratic part of the population could truly be comfortable with giving up their belief in the national welfare state as the main guarantee for welfare. Today’s problems for European cooperation demonstrate the limits of functionalism. There is a need for an open and clear political discussion with clear constitution drafts and enthusiastic declarations of aim. This debate started in early 2000 with the major contributions from

Fischer, Jospin and even Tony Blair (cf. Jensen 2001), but has never really made it into the broader European public sphere.


In this situation it has become fashionable to claim that Jean Monnet, at the end of his life, said that if he could begin again all over he would have started with culture. There is no indication of this in his few writings, but of course that is not in itself an argument that the statement is incorrect. The claim has won plausibility after Helmut Kohl said the same in a meeting with François Mitterrand, as they launched an increased cultural collaboration. In that context a reference to the ‘father’ of Europe was practical, though the statement does not become truer for that reason. The statement contradicts all of Monnet’s thoughts and praxis, and nothing indicates that he should have changed his basic conception in his last year of life. Maybe we even know the source of the false statement, as Erik Holm, a former Danish high level functionary, reports having met a French professor of sciences politiques who once posed the examination question to her students, ‘what would have happened if Monnet had begun cooperation with culture and identity?’ But that was meant as a hypothetical question on an exam and should be answered in the negative.


All experience suggests that if one had begun with politics or culture, the cooperation would never have reached beyond the little group of idealist federalists. Today they would have written bitter memoirs about how little the responsible politicians listened to their self-evident suggestions, while the populations were preoccupied with how their national welfare states were to survive in competition with more purely market capitalist models. But this has not hindered the apocryphal statement from Monnet’s hand to disseminate with the speed of a wildfire, even outside of culture and educational ministries and their associate lobby organizations. On the other hand, there is little doubt that if Monnet had lived today he would have been ready with a short and clear draft of a constitution for Europe that would solve the problem of relations of competence between the various institutions.


To a degree this has been delivered by the Convent working 2002–2003, recruited as it is by new means in order to better represent the civil society and national parliaments. The president of the convent, the former French President Giscard d’Estaing, has learned from Monnet’s example and delivered a surprisingly clear basic texts in the style of the American Constitution, which ought to enable European citizens to relate to the higher processes. Maybe we are on the verge of transcending the situation where, as the Finish writer Vilkko Virkkala has pointed out, the Ten Commandments contain 100 words, the American Declaration of Independence 300, while the EU directive for production of goose eggs is 26,000 words (Knutsen 1998:46n). The problem, however, is, as the Norwegian historian Paul Knutsen has emphasized, the verbose formulations serve to cover real political contradictions. One must hope that the text as it was presented in the summer of 2003 will survive the wheelings and dealings of the European summits in the expanded EU with 27 members.


System Monnet or the United States of Europe? 

Jean Monnet attempted to sketch a constitution in 1958, that is, after the adoption of the Treaty of

Rome, but before the minting of the institutions in practice. In his memoirs he reproduces, in

Chapter 17, ‘The political union’, a statement from the ‘Action Committee for the United

States of Europe’ in the following way: “Regardless how pressing the political union might be, and how important the progress already made is, it is not possible in the near future to leave out any stage. The political unity of tomorrow will be dependent of whether the economic union remains effectively introduced in actual every-day life in the industrial, agricultural and administrative activities’. That was the practical position of the committee in October 1958, and it was well in agreement with the clear principles that had inspired the declaration of 9 May 1950. When the  Common Market was not yet open and when the common policies were still not yet thought out, should one follow the demand for an immediate shift to federal status? I didn’t think so, and the Committee’s members were also of the opinion that we had to necessarily proceed along the path that was carefully prepared and which now laid wide open: ‘As the activities of the Community take hold the band between people will become stronger and the solidarity, which is already taking form, will spread. Thus reality itself will make it possible to develop the political union that is the goal for our Community, namely the creation of the United States of Europe (Monnet 1976:295).


Monnet then sums up his program and his method a bit farther in the following way:


“When the time is right people will create the political Europe on the basis of the facts. As always it is fact that will have the last word. I believe that the last word is now being written, and it greatly resembles the very first from 1950. It means the giving up sovereignty and common exercise of the sovereignty that is given up. I cannot see that one in the course of these twenty-five years has found anything else that can unite Europe, in spite of all the possibilities there have been to change course.” (Monnet 1976:295).


Understanding between Europeans has not grown noticeably in spite of the explosion in mass tourism we have witnessed since WW II, in spite of the many predictions of social scientists about the development of communications community, with the German-American Karl W. Deutsch in the lead (Deutsch 1953). The actual development in Western Europe since 1950 has, if not repudiated belief in a constantly expanded cooperation between the nation-states of Europe as the ‘natural’ continuation of the national consolidation in the previous century, in any case raised questions about the necessity of the process. Or more correctly it was not a question of a rupture with the national organization of the past, but rather of a continuation of the nation-state by other means. The federalists did not realize that Jean Monnet and many politicians could use expressions like ‘United States of Europe’ without meaning anything concrete by it. Many opponents and supporters of the cooperation have confused their wishes with historical ‘necessities’. This belief seems not to have disappeared with the breakdown of Communism and the discrediting of its theories of philosophical necessary of historical development.


Immediately after WW II a broad distrust in the appropriateness and possibility of survival of the nation-state dominated Europe, though less in Scandinavia and Great Britain than in the rest of the continent. Experiences with the totalitarian ideologies, fascism, Nazism and communism provoked an answer in the form of federalist visions. Federalism aimed at saving democracy by rendering impossible the total use of power by the nation-states. The problem is that the theory took its color from the ideological climate in which it emerged. I believe therefore that it is wise to differentiate between concrete institutional problems and the need to make grand arm-waving proclamations that make us think of other state formations all together. Where the federal state in the US administers a rising 25 % of the gross national product, EU’s institutions today administer around 1.2 %.


Federalism is a nice but rather esoteric idea, which we should consider shelving because it hides the precise character of the cooperation that has taken place. In certain areas such as the protection of competition, cooperation and regulation are more extensive than in many member states. But in most areas integration is much less extensive or does not exist at all. It is wrong to see the interplay between the nation-states, EU and the regions as a zero-sum game. In the post-war period more state sovereignty has come into existence because states have developed policies for all of life’s aspects and collects continuously growing sums of taxes. There is simply more sovereignty to administer in what one can, without exaggeration or ignorance of important difference, call the European welfare state. One risks overlooking these realities by unnecessarily declaring oneself federalist with the risk of misunderstanding both federalism and the EU.



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[1] The Jean Monnet Action is a European Commission initiative launched in 1990 to promote knowledge/studies on European integration. It has three main components: 1) stimulating academic excellence in the field of European integration studies through the support for new teaching, research and debate activities at university level; 2) fostering academic reflection on current policy priorities in the field of European integration via centralised high-level conferences and thematic groups (bringing together Jean Monnet professors, policy-makers and civil society in Brussels) and support for decentralised reflection activities all over the world; 3) supporting major institutions active in the study of European integration. The European Commission’s support measures for European integration studies are open to the world. They provide a response to the need for knowledge about European integration and aim to prepare the new generation of European affairs specialists. In universities throughout the world, the goal is to give greater visibility, at both international and national levels, to scientific resources and academic activities in the field of

European integration and European Union developments. In the framework of the Jean Monnet Action, the term

European integration studies is taken to mean the study of the construction of the European Community which led to the European Union and the institutional, legal, political, economic and social developments related to this process. One type of the Jean Monnet action is the support for teaching activities at universities through the creation of “Jean Monnet Chairs”. “A Jean Monnet Chair” is a full-time teaching post in the field of European integration studies. Holders of Jean Monnet Chairs are selected by the university authorities and must devote 100% of their teaching time to European integration issues. They are then proposed to Brussels for approval (annual procedure). The European Commission then concludes grant agreements with the universities. Since its launch, 650 Jean Monnet Chairs have been funded.

[2] An authoritative enumeration of these ‘European fathers’ (there were no women) is to be found in the collection of annual introductory lectures at the Collège d’Europe by Hendrik Brugmans held from 1950 to 1972. The collection has

[3] On the Danish participation in this meeting, see Laursen 1999: 19–20 and Maigaard 1999.

[4] Now in a Francohone version, Henri Brugmans.

[5] Skytte Christoffersen is one of the Danish students from the Collège d’Europe who has concretely contributed the most to European cooperation. Beyond that praxis he has, with his somewhat neglected work from 1992 The Treaty of the European Union (in Danish), managed to make an important contribution to the history-writing on European cooperation. In 2003 he was awarded the first prize of the College’s alumni association as an outstanding European.