Klompé, Margaretha: The Council of Europe and the spiritual crisis of mass society

Handelingen der Staten-Generaal, Zitting 1948-49, Tweede Kamer, 63ste Vergadering, 5 July 1949.
From W.Lipgens and W. Loth, Documents on the History of European Integration, De Gruyter, 1988

klompe1Let me begin, Mr. President, by saying that my political friends and I welcome most warmly the establishment of the Council of Europe. It is the nucleus of a new community -a very modest beginning, but one which may in future grow into a true European community, something more than a system of cooperation in narrowly circumscribed areas- though such cooperation is useful too, and we are fortunate to enjoy its benefits in several fields. But in expectation of a wider development we perceive in this draft Statute the two main organs of a new Council.

Firstly there is the Committee of Ministers -a group that will have a measure of executive power, though its supranational character is much weakened by the requirement of unanimity, especially for important decisions. However, the Commissions that the Committee may set up under Article 17 may be of great importance: we see them as the nucleus of the future supranational functional agencies.

Then we have the Consultative Assembly, whose powers indeed seem to me very restricted: for instance, it is not even free to determine its own agenda. Moreover the number of deputies is very limited, so that small countries will hardly be able to appoint sufficient representatives of intellectual and political trends among their population. This may of course make the debates more expeditious, but it may also impair their quality in some important respects. Again, the Assembly is to have no secretariat of its own and only a very indirect influence on the appointment of the Secretary-General, as it can only accept or reject the nominees proposed by the Committee of Ministers. (…)

In this connection I would warn emphatically against expecting too much from this first general assembly. Cooperation must develop gradually. This is the first type of meeting on a new basis, and if we are too hopeful disappointment will be all the greater. If the first meeting in Strasburg succeeds in making it possible for particular groups to cooperate across frontiers, I think we shall have good reason for self-congratulation.

Having made these critical remarks, I would observe that I am fully aware that we must make a firm distinction between what we hope to achieve in the future and what can be accomplished now. If too much is attempted at the outset it may be fatal to the chances of harmonious development. We have seen in the past how intensified contact among nations has led to conflicts and difficulties, crises and new political formations. We are in the middle of such a crisis now, and we must allow the new forms to develop. But it will take a decade at least, not just a few years.

Looking back at the history of our own country we recall that it took us two and a half centuries to progress from an alliance among the Provinces, concluded in 1579 for a specific purpose, to a unitary state under the influence of the French Revolution and its aftermath. This being so, we can understand that the new European forms cannot come about in two or three years. Of course events move quickly nowadays, and I do not mean to imply that the task before us will take centuries to accomplish. We must make haste -the times demand it of us.

If we want a federal Europe in the future, it will only be successful if the states concerned are prepared to cede part of their sovereignty to the new community. But if we are honest we must admit that most states, including ours, are not always ready to do this. The reason is partly that nationalist feelings have been much intensified in Europe as a result of the last war. An international community offers many advantages, but it demands sacrifices as well.

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