From 8 to 13 August 1949, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe met for the first time, in Strasbourg City Hall.
As part of the French Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers and the 70th anniversary of the Council of Europe, the ambassadors of the organisation’s current 47 member countries will come together there for a commemorative meeting on 18 September.
The event will be an opportunity to reproduce the room and the atmosphere in which the Committee of Ministers’ first meeting was held in Strasbourg City Hall. An exhibition entitled “Europe 1949 : l’Histoire s’écrit à Strasbourg”, will also be staged in City Hall, accompanied by the projection of a nine-minute historic film.
A book of 30 personal accounts of the history of the Council of Europe, “Europe: a human enterprise” (with contributions from Charles Kohler, Catherine Lalumière, Guido Raimondi and Catherine Trautmann, among others), published by Editions de la Nuée Bleue, will also be presented to the members of the diplomatic corps during the meeting.
As the highlight of the European Heritage Days, the exhibition, which goes over the birth of the Council of Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War and the first achievements of the new international organisation in Strasbourg, will be open to the public on Saturday 21 September from 2 to 6 pm and Sunday 22 September from 10 am to 12 noon and 2 to 6 pm. There will also be guided tours every hour.
The exhibition is the result of co-operation between the City of Strasbourg and the Permanent Delegation of France to the Council of Europe. It has been staged with the support, in particular, of Strasbourg Municipal Archives, the Bas-Rhin Archives, Strasbourg National and University Library, the Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace newspaper, the Saisons d’Alsace magazine, the French National Audiovisual Institute (INA), the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs and the Council of Europe.
“This magnificent gathering of the people of Strasbourg was summoned to show the world what strength lies in the idea of a united Europe” – it was by quoting that statement by Winston Churchill in front of 25 000 people in Strasbourg on 12 August 1949 that the Mayor of Strasbourg, Roland Ries, opened the ceremony re-enacting the first meeting of the Committee of Ministers. “At that time of new beginning after tragedy, Europe and European unity were inspiring hope and enthusiasm. Europe was popular. Europe was necessary. It is that spirit and that passion which Strasbourg keeps alive by constantly championing the Europe of values”, he said.
Also referring to Winston Churchill, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland quoted the speech Churchill had made at the University of Zurich 73 years ago, in which he said: “we must recreate the European family in a regional structure … and the first practical step will be to form a Council of Europe.” “He was speaking against the background of an aspiration for a new world order in which multilateralism and internationalism could prosper”, Mr Jagland said.
“Like a wink to history, this commemoration is taking place while the Chairmanship is being held by France, one of the 10 founding countries and the host country of the organisation, to which we are very committed”, added Jean-Baptiste Mattéi, Ambassador of France to the Council of Europe.