Berlin in the middle of the Cold War. It was often said, during these uncertain times, that if World War 3 was to break out, Berlin would be ground zero. A city divided since 1945 – a city that had a British Sector, American Sector, French Sector and Russian Sector – which comprised all of East Berlin. In fact, Berlin itself sat in the middle of what was East Germany, the part of Germany under the watchful eye of Russia and the source of considerable tensions all the way until 1990 when the wall, which had been built in 1961, finally came down.
But in this broadcast interview with Paul-Henri Spaak, Belgian politician and statesman, Secretary – General of NATO, the alliance formed in 1949 to combat what was considered to be an imposing presence of the Soviet Union in Europe, concerns were mounting over increased pressure and friction between East and West, which many feared would lead to an armed confrontation, and possibly worse.
Spaak was very much in favor of a United Europe. He became a staunch supporter of regional co-operation and collective security after 1944. While still in exile in London, he promoted the creation of a customs union uniting Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. In August 1949, he was elected President of the first session of the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe. From 1952 to 1953, he presided over the Common Assembly of the European Coal and Steel Community, and from 1950 to 1955 he presided over the European Movement.
In 1955, the Messina Conference of European leaders appointed him as chairman of a preparatory committee (Spaak Committee) charged with the preparation of a report on the creation of a common European market. The so-called “Spaak Report ” formed the cornerstone of the Intergovernmental Conference on the Common Market and Euratom at Val Duchesse in 1956 and led to the signature, on 25 March 1957, of the Treaties of Rome establishing a European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). Spaak signed the treaty for Belgium, together with Jean Charles Snoy et d’Oppuers. His role in the creation of the EEC earned Spaak a place among the Founding fathers of the European Union.
This interview, part of the Meet The Press series of interview/discussions on contemporary political issues, features Paul-Henri Spaak discussing the German question and specifically, the potential flash-point of Berlin.
We lived in very unsure times in the 1950s – small wonder the 60s came about the way they did – it was the critical mass from Cold War tensions, culminating in the overnight construction of the Berlin Wall on August 13, 1961 that led many to question what was life all about anyway. Spaak couldn’t answer that, but he did give ample proof why he was dubbed “Mister Europe.
Here is that interview from April 5, 1959.