The Origins 1919-1939

For the majority of Europeans, World War I meant the beginning of the end of the European civilization. The minority, however, drew the conclusion that Europe’s capacity to react to war depended on its ability to overcome the aggressive nationalisms that had dragged our continent to the catastrophe and to adopt the ideal of a united and peaceful Europe as a common project.

In 1923, the Austrian Count Coudenhove Kalergi founded the  Pan-European Movement. In 1926, he managed to bring together diverse political figures in the First Pan-European Congress, held in Vienna.


"Europe as a political concept does not exist. This part of the world includes nations and states installed in the chaos, in a barrel of gunpowder of international conflicts, in a field of future conflicts. This is the European Question: the mutual hate of the Europeans that poisons the atmosphere. (....) The European Question will only be solved by means of the union of  Europe's nations. (...) The biggest obstacle to the accomplishment of the United States of Europe is the one thousand years old rivalry between the two most populated nations of Pan-Europe: Germany and France..."

Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi

The Paneuropean movement passed through its golden age in the second half of the 20s, the Concord Years, during which were signed the Locarno Treaty and the Pact Briand-Kellog.

In 1929, Aristide Briand, French Prime Minister, gave a speech, which was later to become celebrated, before the Assembly of the League of Nations at which he formulated the idea of a federation of European nations based on solidarity and on the pursuit of  economic prosperity and political and social cooperation. The speech was greatly welcomed by the German government.  Many economists, among them John Maynard Keynes, applauded Briand's view.

"I believe that a sort of federal bond should exist between the nations geographically gathered as Europe countries; these nations should, at any moment, have the possibility of establishing contact, of discussing their interests, of adopting common resolutions, of creating amongst themselves a bond of solidarity that allows them, on suitable occasions, to face up to serious circumstances, in case they arise. (...) Evidently, the association will take place mainly in the economic domain: this is the most pressing question..."

Speech of Aristide Briand in the presence of League of Nations General Assembly, Geneva,
 5th September 1929

Council of the League of Nations

The League of Nations asked Briand to  present a memorandum with a detailed project. The French politician submitted a  Memorandum on the organisation of a system of European Federal Union in 1930. It was too late. The economic depression had begun to sweep away the ideas of solidarity and cooperation in international relations.  People who went on advocating the European union, such as the French politician Edouard Herriot who published The United States of Europe in 1931, were a  minority. 

Adolf Hitler's rise to the post of German chancellery in 1933 involved the definitive end of the European harmony and the rebirth of the monster of nationalism in its worst form.  Europe and, with her, the world were heading for a new catastrophe.