Simply a Generation Ahead: Madariaga’s Legacy in Today’s Europe

, by Aldan Creo, JEF Galicia, Lidia Docampo

Simply a Generation Ahead: Madariaga's Legacy in Today's Europe
Congress of Europe in Hague, where the college of Europe was founded, Snikkers / Anefo, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

A writer nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize on three occasions, a Charlemagne Prize winner, a diplomat, and ultimately, a visionary for a united Europe. This is the story of Salvador de Madariaga: a Galician born in 1886 and a major figure whose ideas live on.

Commitment to democracy

Despite coming from a lineage of military men (his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather served in the armed forces), his father was determined that none of his 11 children should follow in his footsteps. Instead, he sent Madariaga to Paris, where he pursued and completed his engineering studies.

Nevertheless, his career took a different turn as he became a writer and embarked on tours as a lecturer, achieving notable success across various countries, including the United States, Mexico, Cuba, England, and others. Additionally, his voice and thoughts reached a wide audience through his regular contributions to the BBC, where he shared his insights on various topics, further establishing his reputation as a respected intellectual and commentator on contemporary issues.

Thus, Madariaga was an intellectual, passionate about sharing his innovative ideas. His extensive writings, including essays and historical studies, explored the complexities of European identity and culture. He envisioned a united and peaceful continent and was a significant contributor to the journey towards European integration — at his time, a European Union was a distant dream.

One of his main reasons for advocating for European integration was the pursuit of peace. Madariaga experienced the horrors of two world wars, and he was convinced that the only way to avoid such tragedies was to unite the countries of Europe. He advocated for a federal Europe to bring prosperity and peace for all. For example, if France is the main importer of Germany, it would not be in their interest to go to war with them.

It was a revolutionary idea, part of why he was forced into exile in England to escape the Spanish Civil War. There, he became a vocal opponent and organized resistance to the Spanish regime of Francisco Franco. He joined Oxford University as its first Professor of Spanish Studies and was one of the principal authors of the Oxford Manifesto on liberalism. But he did not just write about his ideas — he took action as well. As a diplomat, he worked for the League of Nations and was the Spanish ambassador to the United States and France.

The College of Europe

According to him, the cooperation between nations needed to be enhanced by a specific, deeper unity, believing that a common sense of belonging was essential for successful integration. It was a priority to build a generation that could view Europe’s challenges without considering national borders. He believed that without this particular mindset, efforts towards unity would not be as ambitious.

This idea led him to propose the creation of the College of Europe at the Congress of The Hague 76 years ago. His proposal was very successful and based on an innovative combination of a university institution and a residence, where students learn to live with each other and build this mindset.

There, a group of citizens from Bruges, with Reverend Karel Verleye at the forefront, successfully fought to locate this new entity in their city, to restore its Flemish former European splendor.

In Madariaga’s opinion, co-funding the College of Europe is his greatest contribution to creating Europe, which has been crucial in educating future leaders (such as Parliament president Roberta Metsola!).

A work in progress

Madariaga was a generation ahead, advocating for a federal Europe. However, there is still much to be done, and it is up to us to continue his work. Several of the issues that he fought for are still relevant today. There is an ongoing war in Ukraine, and we are still dealing with the consequences of Brexit. The European Union, even though it has made great strides, is still a long way from ideal integration.

This is why the motto of the Young European Federalists, “Simply a generation ahead”, is so fitting. We are still fighting for the ideas that Madariaga and his peers defended decades ago.

Come talk with Madariaga yourself! Is it possible to speak to Madariaga today? Absolutely! At JEF Galicia, we’ve developed an AI chatbot that allows you to talk with him. Come learn about his life, ideas, and the European Union!

Chat with Salvador de Madariaga now!

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