Historical Atlas
European Integration
European Integration
since 1969

European Integration

RICHARD NIKOLAUS COUNT COUDENHOVE-KALERGI has envisioned European integration already in the early 1920es. In the late 1940es, European politicians made a new start, and many of those who were free to decide on their own political position chose European integration as one of their major goals. WINSTON CHURCHILL's 1946 ZÜRICH SPEECH aimed in the same direction, calling for European integration.
The foundation of the UNO and the IMF had already established first fora for such cooperation. In 1947 BeNeLux was founded to establish close cooperation between the Low Countries, with an emphasis on economic cooperation. Another great input came from the USA with the offer of MARSHALL PLAN aid, which was distributed by another international organization, the OEEC (1948). In 1949 the USSR responded by founding COMECON as an organization for economic cooperation of the socialist countries of Eastern Central Europe. The same year the Council of Europe was founded to provide a forum where European governments could discuss conflicting issues. Also in 1949, NATO was established as an organization of western democracies for mutual defense, to which the USSR responded in 1955 by setting up the WARSAW PACT.

In OEEC, COMECON and NATO, the superpowers - either the USA or the USSR, exercised dominating influence. Yet, European integration would be pushed forward from within. Success of BeNeLux inspired some European governments to try a wider approach; in 1951 the ECSC was founded, with 6 members - France, the BeNeLux countries, Italy and the FRG; in 1957 it was succeeded by the EEC. A number of countries wanting to enjoy the benefits of economic cooperation, but not devote themselves to a process of gradual political integration (as envisioned by Coudenhove-Kalergi, and an underlying structure of the EEC) established EFTA in 1960.
Economic integration, the abolition of import tariffs in inner-EEC resp. inner-EFTA trade, free flow of wares and capital etc., played an important role in European integration, but one has to be aware that the process affected other areas as well. The NORDIC COUNCIL, for instance, founded in 1952, aimed more at harmonizing relations between the Nordic governments and its peoples than in economic policies. EEC and non-EEC member nations encouraged inter-European cultural events such as sports competitions - annual competitions for the European champion's trophy (soccer) and Cup winner's trophy (soccer), European championships in various sport fields every four years, European chanson festivals etc. But not only on professional level were inner-European contacts arranged and promoted : the project of CITY PARTNERSHIPS brought people together on a local level.
While the sports and music contests where participated by (almost) all European nations, the city partnerships long were organized within the democratic respectively socialist block only.

European integration is the result of the combined activities of the organizations aforelisted. Some like the Council of Europe, trying hard not to antagonize and to be as inclusive as possible, worked to establish common European sets of values, such as the abolition of the death penalty, the recognition of human rights etc. Others, such as EEC and EFTA, sought a closer economic and political integration, with different visions of the future.
In the 1950es and 1960es, nationalist sentiment, which had poisoned inner-European relations in much of the previous decades, was at a historic low. Germans became accustomed to eating French cheese and Italian spaghetti, and to drinking French wine. Italians became accustomed to German cars and tourists. Economic prosperity seemed to prove that cooperation was the right policy. British pop songs, Italian arias, French movies became popular all over Europe and beyond, as did Hollywood movies and Dutch fast food.

Integration was most visible and successful in the democratic countries of western and central Europe. The dictatorships on the Iberian peninsula, the socialist PEOPLE'S DEMOCRACIES of Eastern Central Europe wrre less effected. A popular Polish joke goes as follows :

Question to Radio Warsaw : Are the Russians our friends or our brothers ?
Answer : They most be our brothers. Because we select our friends.

Both COMECON and the WARSAW PACT were perceived as organizations enforced on the member peoples. East Germans had to spend their vacation in Hungary or on Bulgaria's Black Sea shore, because they were barred from going to the west. Inner-COMECON trade was often an indirect subsidy of the other side, especially to the more advanced countries such as East Germany, or to the oil provider (USSR), as prices were fixed and did not reflect market prices.

European Integration History Index, from WWW Virtual Library
DOCUMENTS Historical Documents 1930- , from the History of European Integration Site at Leiden University
Winston Churchill's 1946 Zürich Speech, from peshawar.ch
REFERENCE Article European Unity, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1957, pp. 306-307 (on events in 1956) [G]
Article European Unity, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1963, pp. 353-354 (on events in 1962) [G]
Article European Unity, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1964, pp. 350-352 (on events in 1963) [G]
Article European Unity, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1965, pp. 343-344 (on events in 1964) [G]
Article European Unity, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1966, pp. 289-291 (on events in 1965) [G]
Article European Unity, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1967, pp. 332-334 (on events in 1966) [G]
Article European Unity, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1968, pp. 334-338 (on events in 1967) [G]
Article European Unity, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1969, pp. 333-335 (on events in 1968) [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on July 8th 2001, last revised on June 18th 2006

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