The first recorded treaty appears to have been concluded around 2100 BC in Mesopotamia to settle a boundary dispute between the city states of Lagash and Umma. Even within the imagination of an expansionist Eurocrat this could not be described as the first European treaty. That honour falls to the Treaty of Cassius in 493 BC, which formed an alliance between the Roman Republic and the Latin League of thirty cities. This first treaty of Roman ended a war that started when Rome claimed surrounding countryside that was not theirs. The victorious Romans dictated conditions placing Rome on equal status to all of the Latin League combined. The terms provided for common private rights between citizens of Rome and any Latin city. It was agreed to set up joint colonies in captured territory so they might both prosper, with an equal share of the spoils and booty. It was mandated that the Roman and Latin armies would be combined, to provide mutual defence from Italic tribes, under a Roman commander. Changes could not be made to the Treaty without consent. In 486 BC the Treaty was extended to the Hernici. Thus greatly strengthened Rome expanded to conquer most of the Italian peninsula and the Treaty was renewed in 358 BC. Soon after that Rome reneged on the Treaty, winning the resulting Latin war and rendering the Treaty void. What followed was the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. It seems that nothing changes and the parallels with modern Europe are obvious, as are the dangers.
Leap forward two and half thousand years and to the Second World War. In August 1941, before the United States entered the War, the UK and US agreed the Atlantic Charter to set the goals of the war and the post-war world. A month later in London the exiled European governments and the Soviet Union endorsed the Charter, with a larger group of nations acting in solidarity issuing a joint Declaration of the United Nations in January 1942. From then on the Allies were termed the United Nations. An organisation was planned to replace the ineffective League of Nations with the UN Charter signed and coming into effect in 1945. The first meeting of the General Assembly of fifty-one nations took place in London in January 1946.
This Anglo-American initiative based on a shared idea of internationalism and security was to define post-war events with a concession that they together with the Republic of China and the Soviet Union would be the four peace-keepers of the world. The exclusion of France has shaped French attitudes ever since. However, France was to be inaugurated as the fifth founding and permanent member – with a veto – of the UN Security Council. In September 1946 Winston Churchill delivered his famous speech at the University of Zürich, when he concluded that a United States of Europe must be built. This is cited by the Remain campaigners in the EU Referendum debate, but in 1930 he favoured an isolationist attitude towards continental Europe, that was consistent with his belief in and support for Empire and the English speaking peoples, including of course his Mother’s country. He thought that a European Union was possible between continental states, but without Britain’s involvement: “We see nothing but good and hope in a richer, freer, more contented European commonality. But we have our own dream and our own task. We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked, but not compromised. We are interested and associated, but not absorbed.”
It is said that Americans and British speak the same language, only differently. The US perception of the ‘special relationship’ is rather like the Treaty of Cassius; they see themselves as the Romans with the Europeans (including the UK as the Hernici) as the Latin League. The UK on the other hand desperately maintains the duality of 1941 and the Atlantic Charter. Churchill’s more cautious approach to European integration has been described as the ‘unionist position’, while the continental approach has become known as the ‘federalist position’. The federalists advocated full integration with a constitution, while the unionists advocated a consultative body. The federalists view prevailed at the Congress of Europe held at The Hague in 1948.
Churchill was not the first person to suggest a United States of Europe or something like it. The King of Bohemia in 1464 appears to have been the first with a suggestion that differed from the Holy Roman Empire dominated by the Franks. Napoleon Bonaparte in exile on Saint Helena is said to have remarked: “Europe thus divided into nationalities freely formed and free internally, peace between states would have become easier; the United States of Europe would become a possibility”. In 1831 Wojciech Jastrzebowski [in – About eternal peace between the nations] envisioned the United States of Europe to be an international organisation rather than a superstate. Giuseppe Mazzini, who created the Young Europe movement, was an advocate of the United States of Europe, as he regarded European unification as a logical continuation of the unification of Italy.
At the International Peace Congress held in Paris in 1849, Victor Hugo advocated the creation of; “a supreme sovereign senate, which will be to Europe what Parliament is to England” and “A day will come when all nations on our continent will form a European brotherhood. A day will come when we shall see the United States of America and the United States of Europe face to face, reaching out to each other across the seas.” In 1867, at the Congress of the League for Peace and Freedom held in Geneva, anarchist Mikhail Bakunin stated: “That in order to achieve the triumph of liberty, justice and peace in the international relations of Europe, and to render civil war impossible among the various peoples which make up the European family, only a single course lies open – to constitute the United States of Europe.” In 1871 the French National Assembly called for a United States of Europe.
Prior to the Russian Revolution, Trotsky foresaw a Federated Republic of Europe, the United States of Europe, created by the proletariat. In 1923 Austrian Count Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi founded the Pan-Europa Movement, with its first Congress held in Vienna in 1926. The aim was for a Europe based on the principles of liberalism, Christianity and social responsibility. In 1929 Astride Briand, French Prime Minister, advocated to the Assembly of the League of Nations, a federation of European nations based on solidarity and in pursuit of economic prosperity and political and social co-operation; later he presented a ‘Memorandum on the organisation of a system of European Federal Union’. In 1931 French politician Edouard Herriot and British civil servant Arthur Salter both penned books titled – The United States of Europe. In 1941 Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi, Italian anti-fascists, published the Ventotene Manifesto encouraging a federation of European states. In the same year Kaiser Wilhelm II died in exile in the Netherlands. There was no love lost between the eighty year old deposed German Kaiser and Chancellor Adolf Hitler, but with the early German victories of the Second World War he was moved to say “the hand of God is creating a new world and working miracles. We are becoming the United States of Europe under German leadership, a united European Continent.” Exactly where we are at the present time.
The origins of the European Union can be traced to the 1947 Treaty of Dunkirk between France and the United Kingdom. This provided for mutual assistance against a possible German attack, because even in defeat Germany was feared as a threat to European stability. The plan had been for separate treaties with all the countries surrounding Germany so that any future German aggression could be contained. The 1948 Treaty of Brussels expanded the defence pledge to include Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg [BeNeLux]. There were also cultural and social clauses, and proposals for a Consultative Council. This was the first European Union. In 1954 Italy and West Germany were to become part of the organisation then called the Western European Union. In the 1990s Greece, Portugal and Spain joined, but with NATO taking over the defence role of the WEU and the cultural and social clauses being transferred to the Council of Europe, the WEU continued to exist but with limited activity. The UK brought it to an end by giving notice that the UK would withdraw from the organisation. When Germany followed suite the unconsolidated Community of the WEU was terminated in 2011.
If the UK withdraws from the European Union following the Referendum it is unlikely to lead to the winding-up of the EU, but if other countries follow that example anything is possible. At the very least a rethink followed by a real reformation.