Oral history of the European Parliament Presidents

With the aim of complementing and illustrating its archives, the Historical Archives decided to launch in 2009 a project to collect oral memory. Initially dedicated to collecting testimonies of former Presidents of the European Parliament, the project has gradually expanded to also include former Secretaries-General, MEPs and politicians who played a major role in European construction. These video sequences are unique and exceptional testimonies of the men and women involved and key players in the history of Europe.

Emilio Colombo (1977-1979)

" Europe is the natural context in which solutions for social and economic progress will find their true meaning and true value."

Interview in detail


Emilio Colombo archives: Inter-institutionnal relations

Emilio Colombo archives: Direct elections to the European Parliament

Emilio Colombo archives: Political, economic and social situation in Europe

Emilio Colombo archives: International relations and the new accessions to the European Communities

Emilio Colombo archives: Charlemagne Prize

Emilio Colombo archives: presentation of the fonds

Simone Veil (1979 - 1982)

"The basic idea uniting us, namely that without an ever greater solidarity, none of our countries will be capable of holding on to their power, their independence and maybe even of continuing to exist, is firmly anchored in the democratic interaction between voters and those they elect."


Simone Veil archives: Interinstitutional relations

Simone Veil archives: Human rights

Simone Veil archives: Relations with the press

Simone Veil archives: The stages in European integration

Simone Veil archives: The international political situation

Simone Veil archives: The international economic situation

Simone Veil archives: Equal opportunities

Simone Veil archives: Relations with Israel and the Jewish community

Simone Veil archives: Presentation of the fonds

Piet Dankert (1982 - 1984)

"I have made my own commitment to Europe. [...] By that, I mean that I am determined to make Europe part of my life and to help take the European project forward."


Pieter Dankert archives: War between the United Kingdom and Argentina over the Falkland Islands

Pieter Dankert archives: Banning of the Solidarność trade union in Poland

Pieter Dankert archives: Situation in the Middle East - Operation Peace for Galilee

Pieter Dankert archives: The 1984 European Parliament elections - the information campaign

Pieter Dankert archives: Presentation of the fonds

Pierre Pflimlin (1984 - 1987)

"I hope there will be no shortage of determined men and women to undertake the great task of forging a Europe for the 21st century. Obviously this will be a prosperous Europe, and a powerful Europe committed to the pursuit of peace, but also, and most importantly, it will be a Europe resolved to assert, before the whole world, the primacy of non-material values."


Pierre Pflimlin archives: Drafting and signing of the Single European Act

Pierre Pflimlin archives: Accession of Spain and Portugal to the European Community

Pierre Pflimlin archives: Crisis surrounding the adoption of the 1985 Community budget

Pierre Pflimlin archives: Official adoption of the European flag and anthem

Pierre Pflimlin archives: Presentation of the fonds

Lord Plumb (1987 - 1989)

"...I was born an Englishman. I shall die a European... an English European"

Interview in detail


Lord Plumb archives: The Single European Act - new powers for the European Parliament

Lord Plumb archives: Integration, Euro-scepticism, and Mrs Thatcher

Lord Plumb archives: International relations - a world about to turn upside down

Lord Plumb archives: Advocacy of human rights

Lord Plumb archives: Presentation of the fonds

Enrique Barón Crespo (1989 - 1992)

"I [too] see myself as a European pilgrim in search of truth, without superfluous clothing, leaning on the staff offered me by this House."

Interview in detail


Enrique Barón Crespo archives: From the fall of the Berlin Wall to German reunification

Enrique Barón Crespo archives: The call for a political Union

Enrique Barón Crespo archives: Dialogue with the national parliaments

Enrique Barón Crespo archives: Maastricht European Council

Enrique Barón Crespo archives: The Yugoslav tragedy

Enrique Barón Crespo archives: The Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought

Enrique Barón Crespo archives: Presentation of the fonds

Egon A. Klepsch (1992 - 1994)

"I always endeavoured to ensure that Parliament's work embodied the spirit of a united Europe. When all is said and done, memories of the daily grind are eclipsed by those of Parliament's moments of glory."

Interview in detail


Egon Klepsch archives: From the signature of the Maastricht Treaty to its difficult ratification

Egon Klepsch archives: Increased powers for the European Parliament

Egon Klepsch archives: European Union enlargement

Egon Klepsch archives: External relations - Human rights

Egon Klepsch archives: Presentation of the fonds

Klaus Hänsch (1994 - 1997)

"The Union undoubtedly still plays a vital role in dispelling the darkest shadows of the 20th century; but we will find it even more invaluable in helping us to meet the challenges of the 21st."

Interview in detail


Klaus Hänsch archives: Hearing of Commissioners-designate

Klaus Hänsch archives: Implementation of the Treaty of Maastricht within the European Parliament

Klaus Hänsch archives: The European Parliament and the 1996 IGC

Klaus Hänsch archives: The European Parliament and the Central and Eastern European Countries

Klaus Hänsch archives: Visits to the regions

Klaus Hänsch archives: Presentation of the fonds

José María Gil-Robles Gil-Delgado (1997 - 1999)

"It was Kant who most perceptively said that 'the struggle for Parliament is the struggle for freedom'. Yesterday, today and forever, it is, has been and will be also the struggle for equality and solidarity, the struggle for a future of peace."

Interview in detail



José María Gil-Robles archives: Negotiation of the Treaty of Amsterdam

José María Gil-Robles archives: Agenda 2000

José María Gil-Robles archives: The institutional crisis - resignation of the ‘Santer’ Commission

José María Gil-Robles archives: European Parliament’s involvement in the third stage of the single currency

José María Gil-Robles archives: Internal reforms

José María Gil-Robles archives: Presentation of the fonds

Nicole Fontaine (1999 - 2002)

"Never before in our common history have we had more the 50 years without armed warfare between European states, to the point where the younger generations take peace in Europe for granted"

Interview in detail



Nicole Fontaine archives: Afghanistan and al-Qa’ida: the attacks of 11 September 2001

Nicole Fontaine archives: The advent of the single currency

Nicole Fontaine archives: Drafting of the Charter of Fundamental Rights

Nicole Fontaine archives: Re-establishment of good relations between the European Parliament and the Commission

Nicole Fontaine archives: Presentation of the fonds

Pat Cox (2002 - 2004)

"Together we can build a continent wide European Union that for the first time in millennia unites us through a Europe of common values, not at the point of a sword, not from the barrel of an ideological gun, but by the free will of free and sovereign peoples."

Interview in detail


Pat Cox archives: Enlargement of 2004

Pat Cox archives: Institutional Reform

Pat Cox archives: European Elections 2004

Pat Cox archives: The situation in Iraq and relations with the U.S.

Pat Cox archives: Presentation of the fonds

Josep Borrell Fontelles (2004-2007)

" I am neither of the old nor of the new Europe. I am simply a European who rejects denominations intended to perpetuate our division."


Josep Borrell Fontelles archives: From rejection of the Constitutional Treaty to interparliamentary and citizens’ forums

Josep Borrell Fontelles archives: Legislative work - major advances thanks to the European Parliament

Josep Borrell Fontelles archives: International relations: the launch of the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly EUROLAT

Josep Borrell Fontelles archives: The fight against terrorism

Josep Borrell Fontelles archives: Presentation of the fonds


Former EP Presidents

Emilio Colombo 1977 - 1979

Simone Veil 1979 - 1982

Piet Dankert 1982 - 1984

Pierre Pflimlin 1984 - 1987

Lord Plumb 1987 - 1989

Enrique Barón Crespo 1989 - 1992

Egon A. Klepsch 1992 - 1994

Klaus Hänsch 1994 - 1997

José María Gil-Robles 1997 - 1999

Nicole Fontaine 1999 - 2002

Pat Cox 2002 - 2004

Josep Borrell Fontelles 2004 - 2007

Hans-Gert Poettering 2007 - 2009

Jerzy Buzek 2009 - 2012

Martin Schulz 2012 - 2014

Our methodology

A thorough analysis of the interviewee's archives was conducted, which resulted in the preparation of a list of questions in connection with the main events and actions that marked the mandate. These questions are submitted prior to the interview and lead to a filmed interview conducted in the native language of the interviewee.

Based on the full interview, thematic sequences are assembled and presented here with, for better understanding, a short biography and a thematic and archival presentation of the archives. In case a person is not available for an interview (refusal or death) a montage with audiovisual archives is performed. Soon, the videos will benefit from subtitling and / or transcription in EN, FR and DE.