After World War II many European leaders came together with the same goal in mind: create a United Europe to prevent another world war from occurring. Below are four leaders whose actions and ideas helped in the process of creating the European Union.
Joseph Bech was an active politician and prime minister from Luxembourg. He represented Luxembourg at the Benelux union and in international organizations such as N.A.T.O. and the United Nations. Bech welcomed the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, (E.C.S.C.), the predecessor to the European Union, and assisted in moving its headquarters to Luxembourg. He was a representative of his country at the Messina Conference, a meeting where three Benelux countries (Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands) submitted a memorandum. This memorandum “combined the French and Dutch plans offering both to undertake new activities in the fields of transportation and energy, especially nuclear, and a general common market.” Bech helped lay the foundation for the European Union and gave Luxembourg an important voice at the table.
Alcide De Gasperi was an Italian Prime Minister who helped Italy recover from World War II through the “establishment of a republican constitution” as well as integrating Italy into international organizations and treaties, such as NATO and the Marshall Plan. Like Bech, his shared dream of European cooperation contributed to the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community. He later became president of the E.C.S.C. parliamentary assembly and received the Charlemagne Prize for “Pro-European Commitment” in 1952. His belief that European unity would prevent further world wars assisted in providing the basis for the European Union’s modern structure: preserving each country's sovereignty, while, at the same time, coming together to make a, “peaceful, united, and prosperous Europe.”
Sicco Mansholt was a former farmer and minister from the Netherlands, who helped develop a common agricultural policy in Europe. Later he became the Commissioner for Agriculture in the first European Commision in 1958. In 1950 his proposed idea of a European Common Market failed, but ultimately led to the creation of the European Economic Community. In 1957, “the treaty of Rome established the European Economic Community and provided a common market in Europe to be set up in three four year stages.” This plan utilized “direct subsidy payments, [...] minimum prices, and tariffs and quotas on imports of certain goods.” The treaty aimed to ensure a stable and affordable supply of crops for European residents, while building a strong agricultural basis for Europe. Additionally, he is known for the Mansholt Plan, which was a method to modernise agriculture. This plan aimed to “guarantee productivity and enable European farmers to become self sufficient with food products.” The Dutch famine that he witnessed at the end of World War II inspired him to establish an inventive solution to enhance the economic and physical well-being of European inhabitants.
Robert Schuman was a French Foreign Minister and Prime Minister whose contributions to the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community laid the foundation for European Unity. On May 9th, 1950, now known as Europe Day, he proposed the Schuman Declaration which was a speech that called for German and French “ productions of coal and steel to come under one common high authority.” This speech was powerful because it pioneered the way for further European integration and inspired other countries to unite and create the European Coal and Steel Community. Additionally, Schumann became the first President of the European Parliamentary Assembly. According to the article “EU Pioneers” he is considered the “father of Europe” and many European Union institutions have been named after him.
"EU Pioneers." European Union. February 13, 2019. Accessed February 28, 2019. https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/history/eu-pioneers_en.