Magazine article The Spectator

Guess Who Invented the EU? It Was Quisling

Magazine article The Spectator

Guess Who Invented the EU? It Was Quisling

Article excerpt

Ten years ago I wrote a book the first chapter of which examined Nazi and fascist arguments in favour of a united Europe. I used this Nazi pro-Europeanism scurrilously to discredit the claim made by today's pro-Europeans that the European idea was born out of reaction against Hitler, and to show that hostility to national sovereignty has an anti-democratic pedigree.

Most of the quotations dated from 1941, European propaganda having been emphasised when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. By 1942, a conference was organised in Berlin by leading Nazi party officials and industrialists entitled 'European Economic Community'.

Of course, the Nazis did not invent the idea of a united Europe. That dream has been around since the collapse of the Roman empire, gaining new attractiveness after the Reformation and after the first world war. But Nazi pro-Europeanism was very detailed, concentrating on many of the technical aspects which we associate with the EU today, especially the Europeanisation of industry and agriculture.

However, in the course of writing A History of Political Trials from Charles I to Saddam Hussein, I have discovered that another European statesman had conceived ideas of European unity even before they became popular in Berlin in 1941. On 11 October 1939, Germany's Polish campaign having come to an end, a Norwegian politician sent a telegram to the British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, in which he made a last-minute plea for peace between Britain and Germany. The only way to achieve this, he said, was 'to fuse British, French and German interests into a European Confederation on the initiative of Great Britain, in order to create a community of interests and co-operation, beneficent to all parties. Under these circumstances . . .

I deferentially appeal to your immense authority and responsibility to suggest that the British government -- in accordance with the method of federalisation in America, South Africa and Australia -- invite every European State to choose ten representatives to a congress charged with the task of preparing a constitution for an empire of European nations, to be submitted to a plebiscite in each country for acceptance or rejection.'

The author of this imaginative idea was a then relatively obscure former Norwegian minister of defence, Major Vidkun Quisling, CBE. Quisling had been decorated for his services as British chargé d'affaires in Moscow from 1927 to 1929, at a time when the United Kingdom had broken off relations with the USSR and when Quisling resided temporarily in the British embassy on the banks of the Moscow river.

As a friend of Britain and Germany alike, Quisling paid fulsome tribute to Chamberlain's 'peace for our time' speech of 30 September 1938, the one he delivered on his return from Munich, and promptly sat down to write a detailed draft for an armistice between the two countries.

Quisling was catapulted into notoriety six months later when he installed himself as leader of Norway following the German invasion of that country on 9 April 1940. As a result of certain unfortunate misunderstandings, the German Chancellor had been obliged to send troops into Norway pre-emptively to prevent the British from violating her neutrality by mining her ports.

Quisling was the first collaborationist leader in Western Europe, and his surname passed into the language as a byword for all that is most contemptible about treachery. …

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