Enjoy Europe Day? Churchill would have done

Last Wednesday, 9 May, was Europe Day.  If celebration of this day here in Britain passed you by then you might enjoy Winston Churchill’s Zurich Speech in 1946, calling for a United States of Europe.

You can read the full text here and can listen to the former Liberal Home Secretary delivering the speech in two parts here and here.

Council of Europe

Churchill (right) with Adenauer, Spaak, Bevin, Schuman and de Gasperi as members of the Council of Europe

In this seminal speech, Churchill said,

“If Europe were once united in the sharing of its common inheritance, there would be no limit to the happiness, to the prosperity and glory which its three or four hundred million people would enjoy.”

He called for a “sovereign remedy” to Europe’s troubled past and said,

“What is this sovereign remedy?

It is to re-create the European Family, or as much of it as we can, and provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom.

We must build a kind of United States of Europe.”

As a half-American, who had travelled extensively in the place he referred to as “the Great Republic” and having imagined that in slightly different circumstances he might have been a Congressman rather than an MP, Churchill would probably have had a clear idea about the constitutional structure implied by “United States”.

In case there is any doubt as to whether Churchill imagined British participation in the project, he said,

“The first step is to form a Council of Europe.”

Three years later in Strasbourg, Churchill spoke as a member of the Council of Europe:

“We are meeting here in this new Assembly not as representatives of our different countries or different political parties but as Europeans marching forward.”

The Strasbourg speech (full text here) was as influential as Zurich in leading to 9 May 1950, the first Europe Day, when Robert Schuman announced a plan to create a Coal and Steel Community, leading to the European Economic Community in 1957.

I think our school children should learn more about Winston Churchill.  I am sure all the newspapers would agree.

* Antony Hook is a Liberal Democrat MEP for South East England and has practised as a barrister since 2003.

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This entry was posted in Europe / International and News.


  • SSSHHHHhhhhh don’t let the Tories hear you telling the inconvenient truth that Churchill was pro European…

  • Churchill never intended Britain to be part of his United States of Europe because he thought the Commonwealth was going to be much more central to Britain’s future economy and foreign policy.

    Unfortunately for modern europhobes, the Commonwealth idea is one that is forty years out of date as a bloc of nations with Britain providing the economic engine, and forty years too soon as a bloc of nations around India’s economy.

    And of course there’s the issue of whether said europhobes would be any happier cooperating on equal terms with India et al than they currently are with France, Germany and friends.

  • This is all interesting stuff to one who failed History at school. Perhaps more interesting than what he actually said (or meant) then, would be a projection of what he might be saying were he around today.

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