How was Winston Churchill's leadership described

Churchill: "Let Europe rise!" - but without us British

A speech that went down in the history books still sounds like today. In September 1946, Winston Churchill came up with the idea of ​​a European Union to save the continent. It was clear to him: Great Britain would not be there.

In the autumn of 1946 Europe was still traumatized by the Second World War, but Winston Churchill looked ahead undeterred. At that time he was opposition leader in the British House of Commons and was on vacation in Switzerland in September 1946, he painted pictures and wanted to be incognito. That was out of the question. Although no longer head of government, Churchill was a cult figure. Everywhere he went in Switzerland he was hailed as the savior of Europe who stood up to the Nazis and at the end of this stay he was invited by the University of Zurich to give a “speech to academic youth”.

It was his second big, internationally acclaimed speech this year: In March he sketched the division of Europe by the “Iron Curtain” in the USA. His brilliant rhetoric had changed: in times of war it was evidence of tough determination, now it was enriched by irony and humor, not least by the greeting to the Swiss listeners who filled the Münsterhof of the university to the last seat: it was in an ironic one Gesturing his hat on the walking stick and greeting the auditorium, showing his respect for the Confederates, who have not bowed to a tyrant's hat since the times of Governor Gessler.

"We must build a kind of United States of Europe"

Churchill talked about the terrible situation on the continent, the masses of hungry and desperate people, the destroyed cities, so at first there was nothing sensational to hear. But then came the appeal to look into the future, to turn your back on the horrors of the past, and it ended with an optimistic vision: “We must build a kind of United States of Europe.” The vision of a united Europe was not new, Churchill also appealed to Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, but now, given the situation, the old dream had to become a reality. The most important requirement for this: A Franco-German partnership: “I am now going to say something that will astonish you. The first step in the re-creation of the European Family must be a partnership between France and Germany. "

At that time this was only conceivable under the moral and cultural leadership of France. The idea was revolutionary, the two states had fought three wars against each other since 1870, the wounds of the last war were still bleeding. The danger that the hatred between the two neighboring countries would continue to glow inexorably was great and a serious threat to peace.

Europe should have lasting prosperity through a strong economy: “Great Britain, the British Commonwealth of Nations, mighty America and, I hope, Soviet Russia - for then everything would indeed be all right - the friends and sponsors of the new must To be Europe and to stand up for its right to life and splendor. ”So he did not count Great Britain in this European federation, which was supposed to be a kind of regional sub-organization of the UN. His country had major economic problems and had to be interested in cooperation with the continent, but relinquishing state sovereignty was out of the question for him. His thoughts were too much influenced by the old English empire politics, the Commonwealth world and the idea of ​​wanting to lead.

Churchill sketched out Sonderweg

Who else was supposed to show the way to a world that had fallen apart in 1946 than that country which, as a result of its global power role before the war, had the competence and experience in foreign policy? He thus outlined the special path that Great Britain would follow in the future in view of the European unification process, that of a "special relationship" with the USA with Great Britain as an equal partner, which should also act as an intermediary between the two great powers, the USA and the Soviet Union.

There was no question of active participation in European integration, only of accompanying and promoting this process in England's continental “apron”. Churchill was “not a staunch advocate of a united Europe, but the interest politician instrumentalized this idea in order to upgrade the British position as a moderator between the superpowers and to ensure the survival of Great Britain as a world power” (Michael Gehler).

Churchill had already written in an essay in 1930 that Great Britain would never belong to the United States of Europe and that the country had "its own dreams and tasks". “We don't belong to a single continent, but to all of them.” The fact that Churchill saw the United Kingdom on a par with the superpowers was no longer in line with geopolitical reality in 1946. In any case, he was not prepared to put his country on the same level as the continental European states; he ruled out integration into a supranational Europe, even in 1951 when he returned to Downing Street as prime minister at the age of 77. The following dialogue with the German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer dates from this year. Churchill: “You can rest assured that Great Britain will always stand on the side of Europe.” Then Adenauer: “Prime Minister, I am a little disappointed. England is part of Europe. "

The Dutch-American historian Felix Klos pointed out in his recently published book “Churchill on Europe” that “it would be highly misleading to claim that Churchill never wanted Britain to participate in Europe” (FAZ 13.6. 2016) Churchill's 1946 speech should be seen as part of his tactical maneuvers to calm the Soviet Union, which would turn against a European bloc dominated by England.

As the “godfather” of the European association, he played an important role in the founding of the Council of Europe, the European Convention on Human Rights and the admission of Germany, but his aversion was primarily directed against the idea that his country would be an “ordinary” member of the Union should. So it is not surprising that in the run-up to the Brexit vote, both supporters and opponents of leaving the European Union refer to the great statesman.