Abstract

The goal of this article is to highlight Joseph (in Polish Józef) Retinger’s ideas and concepts of a united Europe after World War II. Retinger was a Polish politician and advisor to Prime Minister Władysław Sikorski. After the war, he remained in exile and became one of the most significant builders of a united Europe. Though working in the West, he had not forgotten about Poland and other countries in Eastern Europe. He believed that Western Europe should not forget the countries behind the Iron Curtain and that they should be included in the trend toward integration as soon as they gained their freedom. Retinger maintained that Poland, just like the other countries in Central and Eastern Europe, could not remain independent other than within wider integrating structures. Thus he promoted the construction of European unity and created Central and Eastern European Commission of European Movement (1947–73). He fully realized that, without radical political changes in the East, the freedom of the countries as well as the prospect of the continent’s unity were far away. Still, he preferred to advocate closing the gap rather than isolation of the countries under Soviet domination. Wherever possible, the commission would take initiatives meant to develop economic and cultural cooperation, as this was, in its view, the way to transpose the ideas of freedom and unity to communist countries. Simultaneously, Western politicians and public opinion in the West were reminded of the true aspirations of the states behind the Iron Curtain. It was stressed that satellite countries, as soon as they regained their freedom, had to have an “open door” to integration with Western Europe. For over twenty years of its existence, the commission had many active and influential members and did a lot of valuable work in support of a united Europe. It operated and succeeded mostly thanks to its originator, Józef Retinger, and, after his death, to Jan Pomian

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.