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January 14, 1963

Discussion in '"Today in History", Literature & Media Review' started by Martin Antonenko, Jan 14, 2022.

  1. Martin Antonenko A Fixture

    "Grande-Bretagne..? Non!"

    On January 14, 1963, French President Charles de Gaulle surprisingly invited to an unannounced press conference at his official residence, the Elysée Palace.

    The surprised journalists are only informed in advance that the President intends to make an important declaration of principle on the "European Economic Community" (EEC).

    The EEC is the predecessor organization of today's "European Union" (EU). In 1963, apart from France and the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg also belonged to it...


    ... with Great Britain, Ireland, Denmark and Norway, all of which have submitted applications for membership, are currently being negotiated over accession.

    What de Gaulle is now declaring during the televised and live radio press conference is far more than just a declaration of principle, it is a veritable political bombshell that he is detonating.


    French President declares he will veto Britain's accession!

    "The Treaty of Rome was concluded between six continental states which, economically speaking, are of the same kind," he begins. "There is no contention between [those six], no border issues, no rivalry at all in matters of power or dominance."

    In addition, none of the six countries is "bound by a political or military treaty outside of the common commitments".

    Britain, on the other hand, continues de Gaulle, is "insular, maritime, linked by its trade and markets to the most diverse and often distant countries".

    "The country also has very idiosyncratic habits and traditions in everything it does." Accession by the British in particular, but by the other candidates, would therefore irrevocably change the community. "A huge Atlantic community" would emerge that would be dependent on the United States. The USA, however, would "quickly absorb" the European community.

    France under his leadership, de Gaulle concludes his statement, is striving for a future common foreign and security policy - this would be impossible if Great Britain joined.


    The President's declaration hits the rest of the EEC capitals like a bomb! It was neither announced in advance nor coordinated in terms of content.

    British Prime Minister Harold Mcmillan...


    ...whom France had at least hinted at before de Gaulle's statement is stunned and seething with anger!

    Trembling with anger, Mcmillan calls US President John Kennedy and literally declares: "This man is crazy, completely crazy! De Gaulle would rather be the rooster on a small dunghill than accept two roosters on a larger one!"


    The other five EEC member countries protest, but very quietly and only to save face, because de Gaulle has his ambassadors declare that he will stand by his position and his veto, come what may.

    At the same time, however, he also makes it clear what he understands by "European integration": A week after his press conference, de Gaulle, also in the Élysée, signs the Franco-German treaty of friendship with Konrad Adenauer!


    "Quality before sheer size!"
    This is how one could summarize de Gaulle's policy, perhaps supplemented by the phrase "...while maintaining French dominance."

    The EEC bureaucracy (yes, it existed back then, albeit not as expansively as it is today!) has no choice but to break off the EEC accession negotiations with Great Britain, Ireland, Denmark and Norway on January 31, 1963.

    Nevertheless, in 1967 the British will again apply for membership. The kingdom's economic situation had deteriorated. In addition, the British government – Harold Wilson and Labor had been in office at 10 Downing Street since October 1964 – feared a further loss of power and influence in the country.

    But again, de Gaulle will veto British accession!


    Only in 1969, during a summit meeting in The Hague, will the other EEC states formally buy France's consent to British accession from Georges Pompidou, the successor to the resigned de Gaulle!


    France received extremely far-reaching financial concessions in agricultural policy for agreeing to this.

    This "give and take policy" has determined the agenda of the European Union ever since!

    On January 1, 1973, Great Britain...


    ...Ireland and Denmark join what is now the "European Community" (EC).

    Today 27 countries are members of the EU:


    Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Czech Republic, Hungary and Cyprus - five other countries (marked yellow in the map below) are being negotiated for accession. These candidate countries are Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and (still!) Turkey.

    Great Britain left again in 2021...


    And the only thing these 27 countries can usually agree on is that they can't agree on any issue.

    European integration has degenerated into a caricature that costs huge sums of money and is ruled by a monster bureaucracy!

    The words of the French President on January 14, 1963 were downright prophetic!

    If only de Gaulle had prevailed in the long term and only let those into the European Community who weren't squinting at the "give and take" from the many funding pots, but who were willing to work together really politically (including foreign and security policy!).
    Billy Dickinson and akaryu like this.
  2. Nap A Fixture

    In or out ...its chaos !

    Martin Rohmann likes this.
  3. Airkid PlanetFigure Supporter

    Brilliant post Martin. We only joined because Wilson's pathetic administration, along with militant unionism had truly f#$@ed up our economy. De Gaulle was right, we didn't fit. He should know - he spent 4+ years here protecting his own arse while his countrymen suffered occupation. Harold McMillan was a true statesman and realised that our future security lay not with Europe, but with the US. Now we're run by a comedy club but their jokes ain't funny any more.

    Martin Rohmann and OldTaff like this.
  4. akaryu PlanetFigure Supporter

    Sadly, recent history proves that this was one of De Gaulle's rare moments of politic acumen!

    Now we're stuck with too many unwanted 'guests' at our table and with politicians who ignore the saying "Gouverner, c'est prévoir". We're taking turns 'protecting' Baltic airspace with our puny F-16's and poking our noses in other countries' troubles.

    The fundament of the EU was the Europe of the six, the so-called European Coal and Steel Community of Robert Schumann ,as a means of reconciliation between post-war Germany and France with Italy and the Benelux thrown in for good measure and for monitoring the production of coal and steel, thereby preventing any country a too massive arms build-up.

    Martin Rohmann and Airkid like this.

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