The Historical Archives is the official record keeper of the European Parliament. It manages and preserves the Parliament's official public documents and other archival fonds, dating back to 1952. It also assists researchers on the history of the Parliament and European integration, publishes studies and articles on these subjects, and works closely with the EU Historical Archives at the European University Institute and the House of European History.

In memoriam Nicole Fontaine

Nicole FONTAINE, EP President, presides over a plenary session in Strasbourg © Communautés européennes 2001

Nicole Fontaine, former Member and President of the European Parliament, died on 17 May 2018. 'It was with great sadness that I learnt of the passing of Nicole Fontaine, the second woman President of the European Parliament', Antonio Tajani, the President of the European Parliament, said after her death had been announced; 'her commitment to Europe and her values will continue to guide us'.

Born on 16 January 1942 in Grainville-Ymauville, Normandy, Nicole Fontaine obtained a law degree at the age of 20 and then a diploma from the Paris Institute of Political Studies in 1964. In 1969 she completed a doctorate in public law, writing a thesis on the relationship between the State and State-contracted private schools. After qualifying as a lawyer, she became a member of the bar in the Hauts-de-Seine department.

For almost 20 years, as part of her work in the Catholic Education Secretariat, first as legal adviser, then as Deputy Secretary-General from 1972 to 1981 and finally as chief representative from 1981 to 1984, Nicole Fontaine dealt with relations between private schools and the public authorities. She was a key discussion partner and initiated many law and rule changes which, over two decades, shaped the legal framework governing relations between the French State and private schools contracted to the public education service. She was a member of the National Education Council from 1975 to 1981 and a member of its standing committee from 1978 to 1981. From 1980 to 1984 she was a member of the Economic and Social Council, where she authored a report on publishing policy.

She was elected an MEP in 1984, and remained one until 2009, except for the period between 2002 and 2004, during which she was a member of the French Government.

In June 1984, she was elected to the European Parliament on the list headed by former President Simone Veil. During her first term of office, she concentrated on matters relating to a citizen's Europe. She lent her backing to proposals concerning young people, associations and the mutual recognition of qualifications, which she saw as a key factor in professional mobility and freedom of establishment throughout the European Community. The focus of her activities were the three parliamentary committees of which she was a member: the Committee on Legal Affairs and Citizens' Rights, the Committee on Culture, Youth, Education and the Media and the Committee on Women's Rights.

In June 1989, she was re-elected to the European Parliament. In her capacity as Vice-President and member of Parliament's Bureau, she represented the Assembly on the European Parliament-National Parliaments Joint Delegation. In January 1994, Nicole Fontaine was designated by her political group, the Group of the European People's Party, to sit on the Conciliation Committee set up under the Maastricht Treaty to settle disputes between the Council and the European Parliament which are still outstanding at the end of a legislative procedure. She also chaired the European Parliament delegation to the Conference of Bodies Specialising in Community Affairs (COSAC), the forum for cooperation between the national parliaments and the European Parliament.

Re-elected for a third term of office as an MEP in June 1994, Nicole Fontaine became first Vice-President of the European Parliament. In that capacity, she co-chaired the Conciliation Committee with the President-in-Office of the Council of Ministers. Re-elected in June 1999, she stood for election as the President of the European Parliament, with strong support from France and from President Jacques Chirac. Her election in the first ballot on 20 July 1999 against the former President of Portugal, Mario Soares, showed that MEPs were keen to choose one of their own, who had devoted much of her political career to the institution, rather than a major political leader. During her term of office as President, Nicole Fontaine did much to raise the European Parliament's profile and put Europe's message across on the international stage. It was during her Presidency that the motto Europe: united in diversity was officially handed over in the European Parliament's Chamber in Strasbourg, on 4 May 2000, in the presence of several hundred young people. Shortly after leaving office, Nicole Fontaine described this experience in her book "Mes combats. À la présidence du Parlement européen", published by Plon in Paris in 2002.

Nicole Fontaine's term of office as President of the European Parliament ended in January 2002. Five months later, she became a member of the French Government, as Minister of State for Industry; in that post she sponsored the law establishing the internet in France and the law on confidence in the digital economy.

In recent years she had been active as a university lecturer specialising in European affairs. She did not hesitate to intervene in the public debate in order to give her views on the future of the European Union, in particular against the background of Brexit. In 2015, Nicole Fontaine gave a long filmed interview to the European Parliament's Historical Archives as part of an ambitious oral history project about the institution and its presidents.

The Jean Monnet house

© European Union, 2018

In December 1982, the European Parliament purchased from its own budget the house belonging to Jean Monnet in Houjarray (a hamlet situated 45 km south-west of Paris near Monfort-l'Amaury), where he lived and worked for over thirty years.  Jean Monnet, who was recognised as a 'Founding Father of Europe', awarded the European Parliament gold medal in 1975 and declared an 'Honorary Citizen of Europe' in 1976, had acquired this old farm building in 1945 on his return from the US. It was there that he conceived the idea behind the Schuman Plan, giving rise to the European Coal and Steel Community in 1952. It was also there that he wrote his memoirs and received many European leaders and foreign heads of state. As early as in April 1979, a few days after his death, a number of his former colleagues suggested to Emilio Colombo, President of the European Parliament, that it would be a good idea to purchase the property, symbolising as it did the shared historic and cultural heritage of European citizens. However, it was not possible to conclude the sale until the death of his widow. The EP Committee on Youth, Culture, Education, Information and Sport immediately began to draw up proposals for possible uses of the Jean Monnet House, one suggestion being to renovate the property with its large garden and make it into a meeting place and information centre devoted to European integration. The advice of a number of media agencies was also sought as to how exactly this country house could be used. This was, however, a complicated task, given that all its furniture had been removed and the archives transferred to the Jean Monnet Foundation for Europe in Lausanne. At the same time, Jean Monnet's former colleagues in Paris were setting up the Friends of Jean Monnet Association for the purpose of keeping alive his memory, his work and his teachings. The Ile de France Regional Council agreed to subsidise the restoration of his office and library. The Jean Monnet House, which became a museum devoted to the life of its former owner and the work of the European Community, was accordingly inaugurated on 12 June 1987 in the presence of Pierre Pflimlin, President of the European Parliament. It currently hosts groups wishing to organise educational visits, conferences or professional seminars.

It happened in the EP

November 1988: the role and future of the European Parliament is debated

Sir LORD PLUMB, EP President, in Strasbourg © Communautes europeennes 1988 - Source : PE

On 17 and 18 November 1988, an international symposium on the present and future role of the European Parliament took place in Strasbourg at the initiative of the Trans European Policy Studies Association (TEPSA). Should the Parliament be a 'forum' or 'a representative' body with full budgetary and legislative powers and powers of scrutiny, or a 'co-deciding' institution whose agreement was needed for all important decisions? These were just some of the questions which national parliamentarians, political scientists and MEPs led by the President of the European Parliament, Lord Plumb, endeavoured to answer.


Historical Archives

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