Churchill and Hertenstein

By Raymond M. Jung d’Arsac.

Edited extracts from the speech delivered at the 60th anniversary celebrations, September, 2006

While still a student in July 1946, I was authorised by Europa-Union [Switzerland] to contact similar pressure groups in other countries inviting them to a conference to set up a federalist umbrella organisation to which we could all belong. The event took place at Hertenstein on the banks of Lake Lucerne and I was appointed rapporteur. Our conclusions—the Hertenstein Programme—set out the basic principles for a European Community on federal lines as ‘a necessary and essential contribution to world union’.

These principles were publicly announced in Lucerne’s large Congress Hall on the 19th of September 1946 while—by a happy coincidence--Britain’s famous wartime prime minister Winston Churchill, speaking at Zurich University that very same day, called on our continent’s war-torn countries to work together to create what he called a sort of United States of Europe. ‘Let Europe Arise!’ was the key message.

Over our long history many thinkers and political or military leaders from Charlemagne onwards have spoken of our continent’s geographical and cultural unity. Some have tried to achieve political unity by force. But no such attempts succeeded. A Europe built by undemocratic inter-state agreements—that is, on a non-federalist basis –has no chance of survival.

With the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire after Word War I the Viennese found themselves living in a world capital ten times larger than was necessary for the administration of a small country such as Austria. It was then that Count Coudenhove-Kalergi thought of restoring the empire in a new form: namely, a confederation extending over the whole of Europe with Vienna as its capital and the Hofburg occupied by a president, replacing the emperor. Coudenhove thus joined the long list of prominent persons aiming to unite Europe from the top down.

His campaign, under the name ‘Pan-European Union’, was the beginning of the modern movement advocating a European Union. By holding meetings, publishing books, and above all by organising congresses and influencing political leaders, Coudenhove won the support of the majority of the contemporary heads of state and government such as Masaryk, Stresemann, Benesch, Mussolini, Briand, Dollfus and others—an élite circle with no democratic base who believed they could reach their goal without taking public opinion into account and without support from the citizens of those states they wished to unite.

Not only did this constitute what was later to be called ‘unionism’—that is, confederalism as opposed to the creation of an American-style federal state—but it also looked at Switzerland which, with 22 sovereign states and four different languages, might have seemed the ideal embryonic model for Europe. It also anticipated the ‘institutionalist’ principle which postulates the primacy of the economy over politics.

Supporters of the pan-European idea undertook certain initiatives in the League of Nations among other bodies. The Briand Plan was one example. In the interwar period the French foreign minister Herriot and other statesmen also tried to put Coudenhove’s ideas into practice, but without success. They were joined after World War II, and after Churchill’s Zurich speech, by Robert Schuman [the Monnet Plan], Konrad Ardenauer, Paul-Henri-Spaak, etc. What they all had in common was that they were addressing the heads of state and government, and at best the national parliaments.
    
Coudenhove’s initiative did not succeed in the interwar period, nor did it prevent the outbreak of a second World War. Nevertheless, it was in line with this tradition that Churchill re-launched the call for a European Union in his memorable speech in 1946 at Zurich University. This found  support in the European Movement led by his son-in-law Duncan Sandys and was later developed by the Belgian Paul-Henri Spaak and taken up by the two Frenchmen Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman, leading in the end to the European structure with which we are today familiar.
    
In parenthesis it must be said that under pressure from the changed situation after World War II, Coudenhove-Kalergi’s organisation    lowered its sights from the dizzy heights of prime ministers and heads of state and turned its attention to the level of parliamentarians.
    
Yet the history of the European Union can be viewed from another angle. The participants at the Hertenstein conference of September 1946 were not politicians nor government representatives. They were members of voluntary organisations representing no-one but themselves and their views were rooted in the general thrust of public opinion. For them, the European unification process should begin with the election of a constituent assembly to draw up a European constitution. These ‘constitutionalists’ or ‘federalists’ expressed doubts about the effectiveness of the alternative, inter-governmental  approach.

At that time the Swiss branch of Coudenhove’s Pan-Europe Union was led by Hans Bauer, then a young student, and the dramatic split in1934  between these pioneers of the two different approaches will not be forgotten. Bauer dropped the word ‘Pan’, merged with the Young Europe organisation, and under the name ‘Europa-Union’ launched the Swiss Movement for the foundation of a United States of Europe by democratic means through the ballot box and on the basis of the majority expression of the will of the people. The historical impact of this change of direction, rooted in Switzerland’s long democratic and federalist traditions, should not be under-estimated.
    
The centre for all such activity was in French-speaking Switzerland and so the task of organising the 1947 Europa-Congress in Montreux also became our responsibility. So many people registered for this event that it became necessary to hold two separate congresses : one aiming for a world federation, and the other for European unification. This last led to the foundation of the European Federalist Union under the leadership of Hendrick Brugmans.
    
In May 1948 came the Congress at The Hague. All organisations promoting European unity were present, including Pan-Europa, the federalist UEF, and the unionist European Movement which dominated the proceedings. During the debates dramatic and fundamental differences between the two approaches became very clear.
    
Under pressure from the institutionalist-orientated organisations, and from the European Movement led by Churchill’s son-in-law Duncan Sandys, the ‘constitutionalists’ began to give way. The fatal idea, by then established in the European Movement, that economic ties alone would slowly and automatically lead  Europe towards political union predominated, while the ‘federalists’—including even committee members of their umbrella organisation, the Union of European Federalists—reacted passively, with disbelief, even naively to this development. The Congress, dominated by Winston Churchill, agreed to establish the Council of Europe and opened the door to ‘institutionalism’.
    
Both approaches shared the strategic aim of unifying Europe though they were divided on tactics. The politicians’ purpose was to foster a European awareness by establishing institutions such as the Coal and Steel Community, for example, which would lead more or less automatically to political union. Whether this ‘institutional’ or ‘functionalist’ tactic will lead to a clear strategic goal—namely, establishing what form of political structure Europe will adopt--is so far unclear. The evidence indicates that ‘institutionalists’ were and are mostly proponents of a looser European association—a position which led to the Rome treaties of 1951 and ultimately to the present status quo.
    
The question remains, is it possible—with their two different and often antagonistic visions of Europe--to celebrate the 60th anniversary of both the Churchill speech in Zurich and the Hertenstein conference? After a short hesitation the answer must be Yes! It was hard wrangling over disparate goals which led to the agreement to meet at Hertenstein in order to work out common positions which could form a programme for action.

For what is federalism? It is indisputable that the principle of equality first enunciated by the USA , then in the French Revolution, and now accepted by western society is the sine qua non of every community, whether long established or still in the process of formation. Federalism between nations is the equivalent of equality between human beings. If our aim is to unite peoples and nations through an inter-state system, we cannot ignore this principle of equality. Any lack of autonomous freedom, or of equality of opportunity and power could have the consequence of leading to conflict and possibly civil war.

The wheel of history has no reverse gear. But we can learn from history. Our contribution to Europe should be to restate the values set out in the Hertenstein Declaration and to bring into the ongoing process of unification the insights then achieved--namely, that Europe must be federal in structure and be built from the bottom up. “Let Europe Arise!” Yes, but as a federal state with a constitution which is close to the people and drawn up by the European Parliament.

Translated and edited by John Parry
© 2015 Union of European Federalists
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