These builders of Europe were the people who launched the process of European construction by founding the Council of Europe in 1949 and setting up the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1950 and the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1957. These men of dialogue, who had lived through two world wars and had first-hand experience of a number of European cultures, were the pioneers of a Europe of peace founded on the values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
12 August 1949, Strasbourg
The dangers threatening us are great but great too is our strength, and there is no reason why we should not succeed in achieving our aims and establishing the structure of this united Europe whose moral concepts will be able to win the respect and recognition of mankind, and whose physical strength will be such that no one will dare to hold up its peaceful journey towards
Beware! I am going to speak in French.
In this ancient city still scarred by the wounds of war, we are meeting to set up an assembly which we hope will one day be the parliament of Europe. We have taken the first step and it is the first step that counts. This magnificent gathering of the people of Strasbourg was summoned by the European Movement to show the world what strength lies in the idea of a united Europe, what force it has, not only in the minds of political thinkers but also in the hearts of the great mass of people in all the countries of Europe where the peoples are free to express their opinion.
I feel encouraged but also astonished by the remarkable results we have achieved in so little time. It is barely more than a year ago that, at our congress in The Hague, we asked for a European assembly to be set up. Public opinion had to be mobilised in order to persuade power¬ful governments to turn our requests into realities. Serious hesitations had to be overcome.
But we also have on our side, with us, many friends of this great cause of a united Europe, including friends who wield ministerial power. None of these friends has done more for the European Movement than Mr Spaak who, for a long time, has been the champion of a European parliament and who here today, in this city, was unanimously elected its first president.
We are meeting here in this new Assembly not as representatives of our different countries or different political parties but as Europeans marching forward, hand in hand, if necessary shoulder to shoulder, in order to revive the former glories of Europe and enable this illustrious continent to regain in a world organisation its place as an independent member, able to look after itself. That primary and sacred fidelity which everyone owes to his own country is not difficult to reconcile with this broader feeling of European camaraderie. On the contrary, it will be found that all legitimate interests tally harmoniously and that each of us will serve our countries' real interest and security better if we broaden • our feeling both of common citizenship and sovereignty. And if we encapsulate in that feeling the whole of this continent of states and nations which share the same way of living.
These principles which govern us are defined in the Constitution of the United Nations where Europe should be a vigorous and leading element ; these principles are also set out in general terms in the Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed by the United Nations in Geneva. Therefore we shall not only find the road to rebirth and prosperity in Europe but, at the same time, protect ourselves against any risk of being overrun, crushed by whatever form of totalitarian tyranny, be it the detested domination of the nazis whom we have swept away or any other kind of despotism.
As far as I am concerned I am the enemy of no race and no nation in the world. It is not against a race, it is not against any nation that we are meeting. It is against tyranny in all forms. Tyranny is always the same regardless of its false promises, regardless of the name it adopts, regard¬less of the disguises in which it dresses its henchmen. But if we wish to conquer our supreme reward, we must thrust away every hindrance and become our own masters. We must rise above those passions which have ravaged Europe and turned it into ruins. We must put an end to our old quarrels; we must renounce territorial ambi¬tions ; national rivalries must become a creative emulation in every area where we can render the most genuine services to our common cause.
Furthermore, we must take all of the necessary measures and precautions in order to be certain that we will have the power and that we will have the time to achieve that transformation of Europe in which the European Assembly, now effectively meeting in Strasbourg, has such a great role to play. It will only be able to play that role if it shows that it possesses those qualities of common sense, tolerance, independence and, above all, courage without which nothing great can be achieved in this world.
Finally I ask for the help of this great gathering of the citizens of Strasbourg; you are part of these enormous masses of people whom we claim to represent and whose rights and interests it is our duty to defend; there are in Europe on both sides of the iron curtain millions of simple homes whose hearts are with us. Will they ever be given a chance to prosper and flourish ? Will they ever live in security ? Will they ever be able to enjoy the simple joys and freedoms that God and nature have granted them ? Will the man honestly earning his bread ever be able to raise healthy and happy children in the hope of better days to come? Will he ever be free from fear, the fear of foreign invasion, the fear of the explosion of bombs and shells, the fear of the loud marching of enemy patrols and above all - and this is the worst of all - the fear of a knock at the door by the political police, coming to take away a father or brother from the normal protection of law and justice - whereas every day through a single spontaneous effort of his will that man, that European, could awake from that nightmare and stand up free and virile in the light of day?
In our long history we have triumphed over the dangers of religious and dynastic wars; after thirty years of fighting I am confident that we have reached the end of nationalist wars. After all our victories and all our suffering are we now going to slide into a final chaos, in the ideological wars unleashed among us by barbaric, criminal oligarchies, prepared by the agitators of the fifth column infiltrating and conspiring in so many countries?
No, I am certain that it is within our powers to overcome the dangers still before us, if we so wish. Our hopes and our work point to an era of peace, prosperity and abundance and the inexhaustible wealth and genius of Europe will turn it once again into the very source and inspi¬ration of the world's life. In all of this we advance with the support of the powerful republic across the Atlantic and the sovereign states which are members of the empire and commonwealth of Britannic nations. The dangers threatening us are great but great too is our strength, and there is no reason why we should not succeed in achieving our aims and establishing the structure of this united Europe whose moral concepts will be able to win the respect and recognition of mankind, and whose physical strength will be such that no one will dare to hold up its peaceful journey towards the future.
Chancellor and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany
10 December 1951
And it is also greatly significant that here, at any rate, there is a place where almost the whole of Europe gathers together
It is of great significance for the
political development of Europe that here, in the organs of
the Council of Europe, we have a platform on which the
representatives of Europe meet regularly, discuss their
worries and anxieties, their desires and their hopes, a
platform where they try to establish common criteria for
evaluating their requirements, and where, in general, they
co-operate with one another in a spirit of fairness and of
good neighbourliness. In other words, here we find an
expression of the European conscience. And it is also
greatly significant that here, at any rate, there is a place
where almost the whole of Europe gathers together, despite
all the different shades of opinion that have shown
themselves in our efforts to achieve closer organisational
European policy in every country will ultimately receive its impetus from the collective will of the European peoples. But nowhere is this so manifest as a collective will as it is in the Council of Europe.
French Republic Minister for Foreign Affairs
10 December 1951
The Council of Europe is, to be sure, the laboratory in which experiments in European co-operation are conducted
The Council of Europe is, to be
sure, the laboratory in which experiments in European
co-operation are conducted, until such time as it is
transformed into an organic institution of European unity.
We are still at the stage of early disappointments and
apparent failures, but they are never sufficient
justification for discouragement, through they may sometimes
justify a salutary impatience. Like the laws of nature, true
ideas come to be recognised and applied in the end. It is
our inadequacies, our lack of courage and our passions that
are responsible for the delay in their discovery and
It would be wrong, as well as dangerous to underestimate the difficulties of achieving the integration of Europe. To achieve success we shall need a great deal of tenacity and patience, both within our own countries and in negotiations between the Governments themselves. But, whatever the result we achieve, the problem of the unification of Europe has been raised, and it can no longer be eluded. Should we show ourselves powerless to solve it as a result of our hesitancy, events and the aspirations of the peoples would take it upon themselves to force us to make the necessary decisions. If we do not make up our minds in time, Ladies and Gentlemen, we shall run the risk of letting slip the last chance of salvation for Europe and for our countries.
Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Belgium in the 40s and 50s
15 May 1962
Because it is here that all of Europe comes together, and because there are occasions like today's when problems arise [...] and need to be examined by all the countries of Europe
Mr President, ladies and gentlemen,
perhaps I may begin by saying how gratified I am to return
to this rostrum. My gratification is tinged with a little
emotion, as I think about all that has happened in this
Assembly, about all the debates in which I have taken part
and about our successes and failures. It is a long time
since I was here, and I have been told that the Assembly has
sometimes been a little disheartened and felt doubts as to
its own usefulness.
It might be immodest of me to say that my presence here today at least proves that a number of ministers remain confident in this organisation and consider that more and better use than in the past ought to be made of the Assembly. For my part, I could in fact have opted for any one of several organisations and spoken in another assembly. Why did I opt for this one? Because it has its own vocation, because it is here that all of Europe comes together, and because there are occasions like today's when problems arise which go beyond the framework of the six countries, and need to be examined by all the countries of Europe.
Alcide de Gasperi
Prime Minister of the Republic of Italy
10 December 1951
While we are building it our action must always be such that the goal remains clear, definite, and generally agreed
If we do no more than set up common
administrations, without any higher political will, drawing
life from a central organisation, in which the wills of the
various nations can come together, to gain fresh decision
and warmth in a higher union, there will be a danger that
this European activity may prove, in comparison with the
dynamic force of the individual nations, to lack warmth and
spiritual vitality; it might even seem, at times, to be mere
superfluous and burdensome trappings, comparable to what
over-burdened the Holy Roman Empire at certain period of
In that case, the young people of Europe, harkening to the clearer call of their blood and their homeland, would regard the European entity, if thus constructed, as an obstacle or as an incubus. In that case there would be an obvious danger of degeneration.
That is why, despite our clear awareness of the need to build this construction by gradual stages, we consider that while we are building it our action must always be such that the goal remains clear, definite, and generally agreed.
I am well aware that this European ideal has not yet taken a sufficiently strong hold on the public mind: there is only a group of politicians, intellectuals and idealists who are ready to turn aside from their constant preoccupation with the problems of their countries' reconstruction, in order to devote their efforts to the preparation of a common future. You, the members of this Assembly, are among their number, through the trust that has been laid upon you by your colleagues, who, like yourselves, were elected by the people.
United Kingdom Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
5 May 1949
We are witnessing today the establishment of a common democratic institution on this ancient continent of Europe
Gentlemen, We have met together now
for the ceremony of signature of the Statute of the Council
of Europe, and of the agreement concerning the establishment
of the preparatory commission.
Like the rest of my colleagues I want to express my feeling that this is a truly historic occasion. This Statute which we are signing today is the result of many months of friendly negotiations between ten of the principal countries of Western Europe. It took shape in Paris during the discussions at the end of last year under the chairmanship of that distinguished French statesman Monsieur Herriot, and it has been continued in London by the diplomatic representatives of the ten countries. Now it has been put into final shape in this treaty. This agreement lays the foundations of something new and hopeful in European life. We are witnessing today the establishment of a common democratic institution on this ancient continent of Europe.