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Europe between Imperial Decline and Quest for Integration

Pro-European Groups and the French, Belgian and British Empires (1947–1957)


Laura Kottos

The book assesses the role of three pro-European pressure groups (the European Union of Federalists, the Socialist Movement for the United States of Europe and the European League for Economic Cooperation) and their impact in fostering new relations between Europe and the colonies between 1947 and 1957. It argues that the association of the overseas territories into the European Economic Community in 1957, the founding stone of today’s European policy for aid and development, was to a large extent the result of the intense intellectual activity that took place in these transnational groups upstream of the signature of the Treaty of Rome.

A transnational approach of these groups uncovers the broader objectives of the European policy: that the association would in the long run revive the declining links between Europe and its overseas territories. On the one hand, part of the influential British and continental pro-European elites wanted to create a European Commonwealth which would establish new preferential and intergovernmental links between countries of the Council of Europe, the British Dominions and the European colonies. On the other hand, a number of French and Belgian pro-Europeans wanted to create a Eurafrican community, a federation linking Europe and Africa economically and politically. Both the European Commonwealth and the Eurafrican community were designed in response to postwar challenges: the dollar gap, the communist threat in the Third World, the rise of new African and Asian nationalisms or the position of European powers in a new globalised world.

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Chapter 3. A Political Eurafrica


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A Political Eurafrica

Envisaged in the early 1950s, the project of European Federation failed. Many authors have emphasised the content and contemporary legacies of the unsuccessful plans for a European constitution and a European Political Community (EPC). The colonial dimension of this early European federalism, however, is systematically downplayed because of its dark implications. European federalism was not, as it is often suggested in the historiography, just about joining European peoples against nationalism, totalitarianism and fratricidal wars. It was also about joining forces to perpetuate European domination over Africa. It was not only about reuniting Europeans, it was also about joining together European and secessionist Africans. This chapter aims to uncover a forgotten aspect of the European federalism of the late 1940s and 1950s by studying projects for a political federation between Europe and Africa.

European federalism is not a theme of recent Eurafrican literature, which generally focuses on the national interests underlying the project.1 This chapter concentrates on the imperial ideas and projects of two federalist groups: SMUSE and the UEF. The chapter approaches Eurafrica in a European perspective by focusing on the ideas of these European transnational networks. Whilst the transnational character of the SMUSE and the UEF networks has already been emphasised, this chapter argues that Eurafrica had its supporters among French, Belgian and British pro-European elites and that the idea of federating Europe and Africa went beyond national interests. The purpose of this chapter is...

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