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“World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts”

From the very beginning, European integration strived to strengthen world peace. Already during World War II, a united Europe was seen by some as the only antidote to the dangers posed by nationalism.

One of the most remarkable achievements of the last 70 years of European integration has been to eradicate the possibility of war between European countries, that have long characterised the history of the continent.

Hans-Gert Pöttering (DE),
President of the European Parliament 2007-2009. HAEU, INT 796 

Margaret Brusasco-Mackenzie (UK),
European Commission official 1981-1999. HAEU, INT 114 

Demonstration at the Franco-German border in Wissembourg on 20 August 1950. HAEU, GR 3 – Photo: Carabin

The Ventotene Manifesto

The Manifesto “Towards a Free and United Europe” was drafted in 1941 by Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi, when they were exiled to the island of Ventotene, in the Mediterranean sea, by the Fascist regime. Subsequently it was edited by Eugenio Colorni and circulated clandestinely with the help of Ursula Hirschmann and Ada Rossi.

These Italian intellectuals and militant politicians envisioned the creation of a united and free Europe, to change the historical path that had led European countries for the second time to the brink of self-destruction.

Manifesto di Ventotene, with original manuscript notes by Altiero Spinelli, 1941. HAEU, AS 3
Portrait of Ernesto Rossi. © Fondazione Ernesto Rossi
Identity document of Altiero Spinelli. HAEU, AS 210

Along both the East/West and the North/South axis, Europe has also been at the forefront in the promotion of cooperation and dialogue with a view to creating a peaceful international community.  While in the area of common defence and foreign policy, initiatives have not always been successful, from the very beginning with the proposal for a European Defence Community in the early 1950s, which was rejected.

It is a subject in which the European Union still struggles to speak with one voice in the international arena, since Member States are reluctant to transfer sovereignty in this field to a supranational level.

The project of a European Defence Community

Alcide De Gasperi. HAEU, ME 1549 – Photo: Unknown

Italian Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi was among the most active promoters of the European Defence Community. The project sank in 1954 when it failed to be ratified by the French Parliament.

Looking East in times of the Cold War

German reunification took place on 3 October 1990, less than a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall. For the first time, the borders of the European Community moved to the East.​

Herman von Rompuy (BE), 
President of the European Council 2009-2014. HAEU, INT 885

Cooperation with Africa

The European Development Fund was launched in 1959, and is still the main source of EU development aid for the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.​

Celebrations for the signature of the first Lomé Convention between the European Community and 46 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, in Lomé (Togo) on 28 February 1975. HAEU, FXO 330 – Photo: Unknown