25th anniversary of the death of Altiero Spinelli

Altiero Spinelli

Statement on the 25th anniversary of the death of Altiero Spinelli by Andrew Duff MEP, president of the Union of European Federalists

On Monday we will recall with great respect the passing of one of the major figures of twentieth century Europe, Altiero Spinelli.

The main features of his life are well known. Imprisoned by the fascist regime in Italy between 1927 and 1943, he was one of the main authors of the Ventotene Manifesto in 1941 which called for a united federal Europe.

Spinelli worked closely with the founding fathers of the European Union, De Gasperi, Spaak and Monnet. Whereas Jean Monnet’s main focus was on the need for European government, Spinelli was foremost a parliamentarian. When I first met him in 1974 Spinelli was an energetic member of the European Commission. Even then, however, he rightly insisted on the need to bring a real popular legitimacy to the building of a united Europe. He was to serve himself as a Member of the European Parliament from 1979 until his death.

Spinelli launched the federalist movement in Italy which led to the establishment of the Union of European Federalists. As an MEP he created the famous Crocodile Club and chaired the Federalist Intergroup. His 1984 Draft Treaty on European Union — passed by 237 votes to 31 (with 43 abstentions) — is the historical precursor of the Treaty of Lisbon now in force.

The best way to honour the memory of Altiero Spinelli is to affirm our commitment to the values which inspired him of liberty, democracy and solidarity. Spinelli’s legacy of federalist thought and action has seldom been more needed than it is today. Europe’s leaders would be wise to emulate his political skills of courage, compromise and perseverance in the search for the common interest of Europe’s states and citizens.

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