Briand, Aristide: The Unity of Europe

[From The United States of Europe by Edouard Herriot; transl. Reginald J. Dingle; © The Viking Press, New York, MCMXXX]

[…] Now, with some slight misgiving -I might say, with a feeling of anxiety productive of a certain fear which you will forgive in me- I have to approach another problem. I have been associated of recent years with active propaganda in favor of an idea that is politely described as magnanimous perhaps in order to avoid terming it rash. This idea, which was first conceived many years ago, which has haunted the imagination of philosophers and poets and has won for them a certain succes d’estime- this idea has now forged ahead in virtue of its own intrinsic worth, and has been seen at last to supply the answer to a real need. Propagandists have united to spread it abroad, to establish it more firmly in the minds of the nations, and among these propagandists I stand confessed.

At the same time, I have never closed my eyes to the difficulties of such an undertaking, nor failed to realize the doubtful expediency, for a statesman, of plunging into what might readily be termed such an adventure. But all man’s greatest and wisest acts, I think, contain some element of madness or temerity. So I absolved myself in advance and went on; but I proceeded cautiously. I realize to the full the dangers of over-hasty action, and I do not deny that the problem is perhaps outside the scope of the League’s program. It bears relation, however, to that program, for, ever since the Covenant was framed, the League has called for international reconciliation and urged the formation of regional associations, even on most comprehensive lines.

I think that between peoples constituting geographical groups, like the peoples of Europe, there should be some kind of federal bond; it should be possible for them to get into touch at any time, to confer about their interests, to agree on joint resolutions and to establish among themselves a bond of solidarity which will enable them, if need be, to meet any grave emergency that may arise. That is the link I wish to forge.

Obviously, this association will be primarily economic, for that is the most urgent aspect of the question, and I think we may look for success in that direction. Still, I am convinced that, politically and socially also, this federal link might, without affecting the sovereignty of any of the nations belonging to such an association, do useful work; and I propose during this session to ask those of my colleagues here who represent European nations to be good enough to consider this suggestion unofficially and submit it to their Governments for examination, so that those possibilities which I see in the suggestion may be translated into realities later -perhaps at the next session of the Assembly.

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