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Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly Historical Overview

The idea of a united Europe, and of the establishment of some body representatives of Europe as a whole and cometent to speak, perhaps to act, on its behalf, was commonly advanced at least as early as the XIXth century. Only in our own century, however, has that idea taken concrete form - and then not until the First world War had demonstrated its necessity. In the main the proponents of what is now customarily called the “European idea” have fallen into two groups, the first advocating co-operation and co-ordination of policies between European States without demanding of the latter formal surrenders of sovereignty, the second urging a Federation of Europe.

A. Birand (SDN - LN)The so-called “Briand Plan” of 1930 is an example of the first approach: the proposals put forward in the name of the French Government, for all that they appeared in a Memorandum “on the organisation of a system of European Federal Union”, required no more in effect than the creation of a European section, rather more closely-knit, of the League of Nations. The efforts of Count Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi are a notable example of the second.

W. Churchill (Zürich)During and after the Second World War the European idea gained greatly in force and in the number and, authority of its exponents. Twice during the War Winston Churchill publicly expressed his conviction that Europe, when hostilities had ceased, must join together; and on at least one occasion he wrote specifically of a “Council of Europe”‘. On 19th September, 1946, in a famous speech at Zürich, he called for the definitive ending of the feud between France and Germany and for these two States, in friendly alliance, to constitute the nucleus of “a kind of United States of Europe”. Later he was to write: “My counsel to Europe can be given in a single word: Unite!”

1949 : Congrès Mvt Européen (Bruxelles)His words met with widespread and enthusiastic response. No sooner had the War ended than a large number of private movements and organisations concerned to sponsor and foster the idea of a United Europe sprang up, arousing great interest among wide sections of the population. In 1947 these various groups decided to co-ordinate their activities and increase their effectiveness by jointly creating one central movement, to be known as the “European Movement”.

1948: La Haye / The HagueThe next important step was taken in 1948. In May of that year a Congress was convened at The Hague to discuss and make proposals for a body to represent democratic Europe. The Congress, in which some 800 Ministers, Members of Parliaments, trade unionists, artists, journalists, economist,s and members of the liberal professions took part, came out in favour of the creation of a European assembly and of various measures for bringing European policies into line economically, socially and politically, the whole resting on a common acceptance of human rights.

Redaction du Statut : délégation Mvt Européen (Paris)At the same time the idea of n European body had been taken up by the five Brussels Treaty Powers, to which M.Paul-Henri Spaak, then Prime Minister of Belgium, undertook to convey the Resolutions adopted by the Hague Congress. After some months of negotiations between the Governments as to whether this body should be purely inter-governmental or should follow more closely the ideas sponsored by the European Movement, a Conference of Ambassadors produced a plan for a new kind of European Organization in which the conventional Ministerial organ should have as counterpart a parliamentary Assembly. On 5th May, 1949 the five Governments Members of the Brussels Treaty and the Governments of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, Ireland and Italy signed in London the Statute of this new body, the Council of Europe.

1949 : Statut (Londres / London)On 5th May, 1949 the five Governments Members of the Brussels Treaty (1948: Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom) and the Governments of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, Ireland and Italy signed in London the Statute of this new body, the Council of Europe.