Following the two World Wars in a row, continental Europe as a whole was almost destroyed and divided into two parts: the West led by Western European states and the United States of America (USA), and the East led by the Soviet Union (SU) and other communist states bordered by the wall, what British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called “Iron Curtain” while giving a speech in the USA. It was also a division of different political and economic systems and powers. Thus, for more than half a century, Europe had two different systems: Communism and Capitalism, two different significant influencers: The Soviet Union and the West, respectively.
Many concerns were growing around the west of Europe in the post-war period. The general situation was complicated. On the one hand, the West had to deal with the USSR and pro-Soviet communist Central and Eastern European states as a part of the Cold War. On the other hand, European leaders were looking for a way that will prevent any possibility of war in Europe in the future. The latter was the most essential matter, and three options were found to keep Germany under control. The first option was to force Germany to promise not to take of its military advantage superiority once Germany is recovered, which had already been done after the first World War and was not sufficient to prevent the second World War. The second option was to restrain Germany by confiscating its advantage. The last was to build a supranational institution that would control German military growth. European leaders believed that integration among the states would be the only way to prevent future wars in Europe. In this rally, many leaders took place, among others, Winston Churchill, Paul-Henri Spaak, Robert Schuman, Altiero Spinelli played a significant role. The first attempt came from former British Prime Minister W. Churchill while giving a speech in Zurich. Throughout the speech, he appealed for the creation of a “United States of Europe” and as a first step, he suggested the creation of the Council of Europe (COE). Nevertheless, it was not the first time that Churchill was talking about United Europe. Four years earlier, in 1942, he sent a note to his foreign secretary, Anthony Eden:
“Hard as it is to say now, I trust that the European family may act unitedly as one under a Council of Europe. I look forward to a United States of Europe, in which the barriers between the nations will be greatly minimised and unrestricted travel will be possible.”
Churchill’s words were primarily full of ambiguities. Even politicians and scholars of modern days argue on what precisely he meant by the United States of Europe initiative. This is why Eurosceptics use his words against the European Union (EU); meanwhile, Europhiles do so in favour of it. Current British Prime Minister Boris Johnson devoted many pages in Churchill’s biography called The Churchill Factor, How One Man Made History, to proving that Churchill was never as pro-European as he was described by Europhiles.
Going back to 15 February 1930, Churchill wrote the following four sentences to America’s Saturday Evening Post: “We have our own dream and our own task. We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked but not combined. We are interested and associated but not absorbed.” Twenty-one years later, when he came back to power again, the West German Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, visited him in Downing Street. Churchill tried to assure the German Chancellor that Britain “would always stand side by side with Europe”. The West German leader added: “Mr. Prime Minister, you disappoint me. England is part of Europe”.
Former Belgian Prime Minister Paul-Henri Spaak, one of the founders of post-war European integration, supported the claim that Churchill meant continental Europe in Zurich speech. He wrote in his memoirs about Churchill’s Zurich speech:
“At the time, he appeared to include Great Britain in Europe, but in fact this was not the case. The united Europe which Churchill advocated was a continental Europe, of which France and Germany were to be the joint leaders; Great Britain was to befriend and support it. Churchill wanted Britain to promote the creation of a united Europe, but he did not want Britain to be part of it.”
Churchill’s united Europe desire gave rise to the European Movement (EM), which led to the creation of the Council of Europe, the European Convention, and the Court of Human Rights. From the beginning, he was not only taking a personal lead but also making sure that his Conservative Party is actively engaging. His son-in-law, Duncan Sandys, was one of the most significant contributors to European construction. He set up the United Europe Movement (UEM) and as a result of their efforts, the congress of the Committee for the Co-ordination of the European Movements took place in Paris on 17 July 1947 incorporating “La Ligue Européenne de Coopération Economique” (LECE), “l’Union Européenne des Fédéralistes” (UEF), “l’Union Parlementaire Européenne” (UPE) and the Anglo-French United European Movements. Soon after, the next meeting was arranged, and they changed their name to The Joint International Committee for European Unity (CICEU).
The first mostly influential meeting happened in the following year. The delegates from all around Europe, and observers from the US and Canada, came together in Hague, The Netherlands, for the Congress of Europe to discuss the ideas of European unity and the creation of supranational bodies. Churchill presided over the congress with the participation of important figures of the time, who soon later came to be known as the “founding fathers” of the European Union. This conference had a profound impact on the creation of the European Movement (EM), which happened formally on 25 October 1948 by changing the name of CICEU. Sir Duncan Sandys was elected as a president, Léon Blum, Winston Churchill, Alcide De Gasperi, and Paul-Henri Spaak were elected as Honorary Presidents. As a major achievement, the creation of the Council of Europe in May 1948 should be mentioned. The EM was also responsible for the foundation of the Collège d’Europe in Bruges and the European Centre of Culture in Geneva.
Churchill personally gave a speech in Place Kléber, Strasbourg, in the first meeting of the Council of Europe. A year later, throughout the speech again in the Consultative Assembly of Council of Europe, he called for “the immediate creation of a unified European Army” against Communism. His desire for European unification inspired other crucial European politicians as well. Once, he told his wife: “If I were 10 years younger, I might be the first President of the United States of Europe”.
Throughout his premiership break, between 1945-1951, he helped to build Europe as a political activist. Meanwhile, key decisions have been taken by the Labour government at home. Therefore, he was not overconcerned about European integration in his second premiership. He neither excluded the UK from Europe nor included it. He told General De Gaulle in 1944: “Every time Britain has to decide between Europe and the open sea, it is always the open sea that we shall choose. Every time I have to choose between you (General De Gaulle) and Roosevelt (the US president), I will always choose Roosevelt”. On the contrary, once he was elected as a PM for the second time, he went further in the direction of transferring the powers to a supranational European body. Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, Churchill’s home secretary, drafted the European Convention on Human Rights. Furthermore, his Conservative government inaugurated the European Court of Human Rights which has absolute power on ultimate appeals and rulings over the national courts and parliamentary decisions of member states.
The astonishing thing is that in the wake of war, Churchill had already had a clear plan for Europe which was quite political. He drew his plan in a 1946 Telegraph article for European integration. It started with the creation of the Council of Europe. Firstly, he argued, the Council of Europe would have to work steadily toward “the abolition or at least the diminution of tariff and customs barriers”. Secondly, it would “strive for economic harmony as a stepping-stone to economic unity”. Thirdly, it would have to “reach some common form of defense.” Lastly, it would have to establish a common currency. European postage stamps, passports, and trading facilities would all flow out naturally from the “main channel” of the Council.
As controversial statements were being given by Churchill, it will never be possible to find out his opinions on current integrated Europe. We cannot find an answer to the question “what would he have wanted to vote for in the Brexit referendum?” Even though his legacy on Europe is still being carried by the European Union, many scholars and politicians are still arguing if he really was Europhile. When the UK was ready to join the European Economic Community (EEC) under Harold Macmillan’s premiership in 1962, Churchill was hospitalized and unable to comment on the plan. Field Marshal Montgomery visited him in hospital and boldly stated to the press that Churchill opposed the application. The response to Marshal Montgomery’s representation came from Churchill’s secretary, Anthony Montague Browne, without consulting anyone, released to the press a statement of Churchill’s views on the subject that he had embodied in a private and unpublished letter to his Constituency Chairman, Mrs. Moss, in August 1961. The statement read:
“I think that the government is right to apply to join the European Economic Community, not because I am yet convinced that we shall be able to join, but because there appears to be no other way by which we can find out exactly whether the conditions of membership are acceptable.”
 Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech given in the USA, at Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri, Tuesday, March 5, 1946 (Catalogue ref: FO 371/51624) available at: https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/resources/cold-war-on-file/iron-curtain-speech/
 M. EILSTRUP-SANGIOVANNI and D. VERDIER, European Integration as a Solution to War, University of Cambridge, UK and Ohio State University, USA, pp. 104-111, available at: https://polisci.osu.edu/sites/polisci.osu.edu/files/European%20integration%20as%20a%20solution%20to%20war.pdf
 Winston Churchill, Universität Zürich, 19 September 1946, available at: https://www.churchill-in-zurich.ch/site/assets/files/1807/rede_winston_churchill_englisch.pdf
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 Website of European Union: https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/history/eu-pioneers_en
 The College of Europe was the world’s first institute of postgraduate studies and training in European affairs. It was founded in 1949 by leading European figures such as Salvador De Madariaga, Winston Churchill, Paul Henri Spaak and Alcide De GasperI in the wake of the first Congress of the European Movement in Hague in 1948. Available at: https://www.coleurope.eu/about-college/history
 Council of Europe – Consultative Assembly. Reports. Second session. 7th-28th August 1950. Part I. Sittings 1 to 12. 1950. Strasbourg: Council of Europe. “Speech by Winston Churchill”, pp. 121 – 124. Available at: https://www.cvce.eu/content/publication/1997/10/13/ed9e513b-af3b-47a0-b03c-8335a7aa237d/publishable_en.pdf#:~:text=Address%20given%20by%20Winston%20Churchill%20to%20the%20Council,so%20as%20to%20form%20a%20bulwark%20against%20Communism
 N. ASHFORD, “The Conservative Party and European Integration 1945–75”, PhD diss., University of Warwick, 1983, p. 43.
 G. WHEATCROFT, Europhobia: a very British problem, The Guardian, 21 June 2016, available at: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/21/brexit-euroscepticism-history
 D. MACSHANE, Brexit: How Britain Will Leave Europe, p. 33.
 W. DOCKTER, ed., Winston Churchill at The Telegraph, London, Aurum press, 2015, pp. 191 – 196.
 A. M. BROWNE, Long Sunset: Memoirs of Winston Churchill’s Last Private Secretary, London, Cassell press, 1995, pp. 273 – 74.