Every continent on earth has some form of an umbrella body subscribed to by the states that are part of the continent. Africa has the African Union and South American nations have the Union of South American Nations, while European countries have the European Union. The current European Union is made up of 28 states that cover a combined area of about 1.7 million square miles and are home to 510 million people. After the WWII there was a change in attitudes among Europeans, the ravages of war had destroyed their lives and most of the economies that managed to survive were unable to recover on their own. Leaders from each country came together, and as a result, the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community came into existence. These two organizations were the precursors to the formation of the European Union. About 11 leaders played a significant role in making this a reality.
11. Konrad Adenauer - West Germany
Considered by many to have played the most critical role in the formation of the EU, Konrad Adenauer was the first Chancellor of West Germany for a period that lasted from 1949-1963. He is known for having taken Germany through the problematic post WWII years as they had to deal with extreme punishments from other countries for their role in the war. Konrad, in conjunction with Charles de Gaulle, was instrumental in the creation of the Elysee Treaty that brought France and Germany together in 1963 bringing an end to their rivalry that had threatened to scuttle all attempts of a unified Europe. This treaty made it easy for the integration of the rest of the continent. Adenauer was a shrewd politician and he led the German Economic Miracle bolstering West Germany into a world economic power and made the country a close ally of the US and a member of the NATO. He died in 1967 at the age of 91 years.
10. Joseph Bech - Luxembourg
Bech was a politician and lawyer from Luxembourg, and he was the 15th Prime Minister before the start of the war, a post which he returned to after the war as the 17th Prime Minister. Bech was instrumental in the formation of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951. He was also among the participants of the Messina Conference which he helped set up in 1955 and which culminated into the treaty of Rome in 1957. He died in 1975 when he was aged 88 in 1975.
9. Johan Beyen - Netherlands
Beyen was a Dutch politician, banker, and businessman who came up with the Beyen Plan. His proposals of cooperation and common markets were adopted by the founders of the ESCS who were at the Messina Conference in 1955. His plan formed the fabric of the blueprints that later were used to create the European Union. Johan Beyen passed away in 1976.
8. Winston Churchill - United Kingdom
Churchill is the most famous Prime Minister of post-war England who started out as an army officer, a war reporter before transitioning into his most important role yet, a politician. Winston was the first person to call for the formation of a United European Bloc with the aim of preventing wars like the one that had just brought the whole continent to its knees. Churchill served as Prime Minister for two terms that lasted nine years. He died in 1965 aged 90 years.
7. Alcide De Gasperi - Italy
De Gasperi was the last Prime Minister of Italy who is known for being the longest-serving Prime Minister in the Italian history, a fete he achieved for eight years. Alcide worked closely with Konrad and Schuman in the formation of the ESCS. He notably advocated for a joint European army that would help defend the continent in the event of another war, but he was never successful in seeing this come to fruition.
6. Walter Hallstein - West Germany
Hallstein was a German politician, and a diplomat as well as an academician. He served as the first president of the newly formed European Economic Community for nine years. As president, he worked tirelessly towards the formation of a common market to serve all the member states without any restrictions.
5. Sicco Mansholt - Netherlands
Mansholt started out as a farmer before transitioning into a Dutch politician who went on to serve as the fourth president of the European Commission for a year. Besides his role as the president of the commission, he also served as a minister in various dockets like Agriculture, Economic Affairs and as a Mayor of Wieringermeer in the Netherlands.
4. Jean Monnet - France
Jean Monnet was a French diplomat and economist who was one of the most vocal supporters of European unity. In his capacity as an advisor, Jean contributed massively in the creation of the Schuman Declaration of 1950 which helped bring France and Germany together, a step that was necessary for the creation of the European Union.
3. Robert Schuman - France
Schuman served as the Foreign Minister in the French government from 1948 up to 1952. He was the brains behind the Schuman Declaration of 1950 which amalgamated France's and Germany's coal and steel production under a unitary authority, and this significantly boosted the formation of the European Coal and Steel Community. May 9th, 1950 was the day his declaration was published, and the date is regarded to this day as the official day that the European Community was born. He died in 1963 aged 77.
2. Paul-Henri Spaak - Belgium
Spaak was the Belgian Prime Minister on three different occasions throughout his illustrious political life. During that time he was involved in the negotiation of the Benelux Customs Union which propelled him to serve in United Nations, Council of Europe, NATO, and eventually the ECSC. He chaired the Spaak Committee that was set up to come up with a framework of a common European market. He was also the president of the working committee that directly created the Treaty of Rome that led to the formation of EEC.
1. Altiero Spinelli - Italy
Spinelli was an Italian politician who was the co-author of the Ventotene Manifesto which called for the Federation of Europe and the world as a whole. The Spinelli Plan as it was called was adopted in 1984 by a majority in the European Parliament, and it was used to strengthen other treaties that were already in place and those that were to be formulated in the future.