Paul-Henri Spaak, founding father of the European Union
It could be said that Paul-Henri Spaak, grandson of Paul Janson, a famous member of the Liberal Party, son of Marie Janson, the first woman to enter the Belgian Senate, and nephew of Paul-Emile Janson, Belgian Prime Minister in the late 1930s, was born into politics. Although his grandfather, mother and uncle all enjoyed their own level of recognition, his own influence on the Belgian stage is almost unsurpassable and unsurpassed.
Famous for his political career, rhetorical skills and powers of persuasion, Paul-Henri Spaak was less well known for other aspects of his life, such as the fact that he was held as a German prisoner of war during the First World War and the fact that he took part in the Davis Cup international tennis tournament in 1922. These are two completely different ways of representing your country, but they demonstrate the patriotism of a man prepared to lie about his age to join the army and defend his homeland.
Spaak studied law after the War and joined the Belgian Workers' Party in 1920. He was appointed Prime Minister 18 years later, just before the Second World War. This meteoric rise was halted by the war and the exile of the Belgian government, during which time he served as Foreign Minister. It was during this exile that he, and others, began to think about the future of Europe, a Europe that was strong and united thanks to political and economic cooperation. After all, he did come from a country which claimed that Unity makes strength!
"The Europe of tomorrow must be a supranational Europe"
In 1944, the highly innovative and ambitious Benelux project was born, a Customs union between the three 'small' neighbouring nations of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. This saw the first free movement of capital, people, goods and services and served as real inspiration for the future European Union. Spaak remained Foreign Minister for a time after returning to Brussels in 1944, later becoming Prime Minister again in the post-war government.
The man considered one of the founding fathers of the European Union was appointed Chairman of the first session of the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1945, one of the most important assemblies ever held, as well as Secretary General of the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in 1956.
In 1955, European Heads of State and Government met at the Messina Conference. Paul-Henri Spaak was appointed Chairman of the committee in charge of preparing a report on the creation of a possible common European market; this committee was unofficially named the “Spaak Committee”. The report, which soon became known as the “Spaak Report”, was the basis of the Intergovernmental Conference on the Common Market and Euratom in 1956, and also led to the drafting of the Treaties of Rome in 1957, establishing a European Economic Community. It is not hard to guess who signed these treaties on behalf of Belgium ...