Schmal, J.J.R.: We are Europeans because we are Dutch

Handelingen der Staten-Generaal, Zitting , 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

schmalAs at present envisaged, the Council of Europe has room for all men of goodwill. In this line of thought I too venture to say that we are beginning something new. Such a new beginning always presents a target for destructive critics and, what is worse, sceptics who shrug their shoulders and ask ‘What good is it to me? What do I get out of it?’ To them I would reply, in the words of Scripture: ‘Quench not the Spirit.’ Nothing in this world was ever achieved by shrugging one’s shoulders. To succeed in anything, one must be ready for solid effort and sacrifice.

The good cause is also threatened from another quarter, and I believe this is more dangerous still: namely an excess of zeal on the part of some of its leaders. Recently on the other side of the Binnenhof, Prof. Anema spoke of a malady to which he gave the attractive name ‘federalitis’. I believe that the cause of federalism is not more harmed by sceptics than by those who are more particularly affected by this disease. (…)

Those responsible for the draft before us deserve credit, at all events, for having made a plan: they did not shrug their shoulders in apathy, as intellectuals are reputed to do, but set their hands to the plough and have done what seemed necessary in order to set nations on the right path.

Difficulties can be foreseen, and no doubt they will cause us trouble enough. Largely they are connected with the need for a limitation of sovereignty. Here there is a reassuring point in the Minister’s Memorandum of Reply, where he points out that some limitation of sovereignty is implied in the present draft and that it points in a federal direction. I will not pursue the point further at present except to say that I do not quite understand why all kinds of people, looking at the modern state, are so alarmed by the possibility of losing a measure of sovereignty. (…)

I would refer to one other point: Mme Klompé spoke of the need to ‘think as Europeans’. (…) The term ‘Europeans’ is a mere abstraction. The men of the French Revolution did not speak of Frenchmen, Germans and Englishmen, but only of mankind in general. But the true fact is that we are not human beings or Europeans first and Dutch men and women afterwards: we are, it seems to me, Europeans because we are Dutch. I say this to make clear, if possible, that those who want us to ‘think as Europeans’ are, to my mind, posing a problem rather than offering a solution. In this respect too it seems to me that we need much deeper reflection and hard work. (…)

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