Founding fathers of the EU: Paul-Henri Spaak
‘A European statesman’ – Belgian Paul-Henri Spaak’s long political career fully
merits this title.
Lying about his age, he was accepted into the Belgian Army during the
First World War, and consequently spent two years as a German prisoner of war.
During the Second World War, now as foreign minister, he attempted in vain to
preserve Belgium’s neutrality. Together with the government he went into exile,
first to Paris, and later to London.
After the liberation of Belgium, Spaak served both as Foreign Minister and as
Prime Minister. Even during the Second World War, he had formulated plans for a
merger of the Benelux countries, and directly after the war he campaigned for the
unification of Europe, supporting the European Coal and Steel Community and a
European defence community.
For Spaak, uniting countries through binding treaty obligations was the most effective means of guaranteeing
peace and stability. He was able to help achieve these aims as president of the first full meeting of the
United Nations (1946) and as Secretary General of NATO (1957-61).
Spaak was a leading figure in formulating the content of the Treaty of Rome. At the ‘Messina Conference’ in
1955, the six participating governments appointed him president of the working committee that prepared the
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© European Union, 2012
/ Source: EC - Audiovisual Service
Director: Diana Cioponea
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