After the Second World War, European visionary leaders have set the foundations of European construction: Robert Schuman, Jean Monnet, Konrad Adenauer, Winston Churchill, Alcide de Gasperi, Walter Hallstein.
Robert Schuman is recognized as the architect of the European integration project.
The statesman Robert Schuman, a qualified lawyer and French foreign minister between 1948 and 1952, is regarded as one of the founding fathers of European unity.
In cooperation with Jean Monnet he drew up the internationally renowned Schuman Plan, which he published on 9 May 1950 ((Schuman Declaration), the date now regarded as the birth of the European Union. He proposed joint control of coal and steel production, the most important materials for the armaments industry. The basic idea was that whoever did not have control over coal and steel production would not be able to fight a war.
His vision led to the unification of Europe.
The French political and economic adviser Jean Monnet dedicated himself to the cause of European integration. He was the inspiration behind the ‘Schuman Plan’, which foresaw the merger of west European heavy industry.
Monnet was from the Cognac region of France. When he left school at 16 he travelled internationally as a cognac dealer, later also as a banker. During both world wars he held high-level positions relating to the coordination of industrial production in France and the United Kingdom.
The first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, who stood at the head of the newly-formed state from 1949-63, changed the face of post-war German and European history more than any other individual.
A cornerstone of Adenauer’s foreign policy was reconciliation with France. Together with French President Charles de Gaulle a historic turning point was achieved: in 1963 the one-time arch-enemies Germany and France signed a treaty of friendship, which became one of the milestones on the road to European integration.
Winston Churchill, a former army officer, war reporter and British Prime Minister (1940-45 and 1951-55), was one of the first to call for the creation of a ‘United States of Europe’.
Following the Second World War, he was convinced that only a united Europe could guarantee peace. His aim was to eliminate the European ills of nationalism and war-mongering once and for all.
Alcide De Gasperi
From 1945 to 1953, in his roles as Italian Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister, Alcide De Gasperi forged the path of the country’s destiny in the post-war years.
Time and time again he promoted initiatives aimed at the fusion of Western Europe, working on the realisation of the Marshall Plan and creating close economic ties with other European countries, in particular France.
Walter Hallstein was the first President of the European Commission from 1958 to 1967, a committed European and a decisive proponent of European integration.
As President of the European Commission, Hallstein worked towards a rapid realisation of the Common Market. His energetic enthusiasm and powers of persuasion furthered the cause of integration even beyond the period of his presidency. During his mandate, the integration advanced significantly.
Source: Official web site of the European Union: http://europa.eu/about-eu/eu-history/founding-fathers/index_en.htm)