|Jean Monnet • Gustav Stresemann • N. von Coudenhove-Kalergi|
Many people know that today’s European Union and the euro currency evolved out of 1950s treaties between France, West Germany, Italy, and others that kick-started European integration.
Less well known is that the basic idea—to build a peace-loving European federation through practical economic ties—was a result of World War I. It lost out to national animosities in the interwar period. Only after another war did it become politically realistic.
There is no future for the people of Europe other than in union.
Among the progenitors was a young French official and cognac dealer, Jean Monnet, who worked on a proposal for European economic cooperation at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. Few governments were interested. Instead, the conference imposed the punitive Treaty of Versailles on Germany.
European intellectuals were more enthusiastic. An Austrian count, Richard Nikolaus von Coudenhove-Kalergi, in 1923 published the book Pan-Europa, calling for a European political and economic union, and founded a movement for European unification that won the support of many of the Continent’s leading minds, including Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, and Thomas Mann. Early members of Coudenhove’s movement included the mayor of Cologne, Konrad Adenauer.
The Pan-Europa Program is the only possible solution to the European border problem. The incompatibility of all national aspirations, as well as the tension between geographic -strategic, historical-economic and national borders in Europe makes a fair border management impossible. A change of the borders would eliminate old injustices, but put new ones in their place.
Nikolaus von Coudenhove-Kalergi
French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand took up Coudenhove’s ideas and proposed a European federation in September 1929. The same month, Mr. Briand’s ally and German counterpart Gustav Stresemann, the most notable statesman produced by the wobbly Weimar Republic, called for common European money.
Here we encounter two conflicting concepts with which we must come to grips in our time: the idea of national solidarity and the idea of international cooperation.
Soon afterward, Mr. Stresemann died, the New York Stock Exchange crashed, and the crisis-plagued 1930s buried Mr. Briand’s plan for a “European Federal Union.”
Mr. Monnet and Mr. Adenauer were among those who revived the idea after the next war left Europe in ruins. This time, it took root.
Source: Wall Street Journal, 100 Years, 100 Legacies from World War I