Henri RiebenLe chemin européen

2.9    Henri Rieben, Le chemin européen, Lausanne, 1963, 17 pages

[ The Path of Europe ]

a) Background

In order to grasp the full picture of the international impact of Swiss law and legal culture it is essential to pay attention to the effects of the Swiss institutional landscape and Swiss practitioners as shapers. The text at hand En Chemin (On the road) by Henri Rieben is a testimony of such an extended view. Rieben was a prominent Swiss actor on the international scene in post-war Europe who had an impact way beyond Switzerland.

Rieben was a “Swiss European” and a visionary promoter of European integration. He studied economics at the University of Lausanne and became in 1956 the first full professor on a newly instituted chair on questions on European integration, the first of its kind in Europe. Rieben founded the Institute for European Research in Lausanne. In the 50s and the 60s he cooperated with Jean Monnet, the French statesmen and visionary for Europe, which led in 1978 to the forming of the foundation “Jean Monnet for Europe”. This foundation provides scientists and students with archived documentation containing among others approximately twelve tons of documents left by Monnet. Rieben has been awarded several prizes, among others in 1973 the Gold Medal for European achievements and in 1990 the Freedom Prize.

b) Summary

The text at hand has appeared in a legendary series of essays under the title Cahiers Rouge (red booklets), which have been published starting in 1957. Henri Rieben has penned more than forty of those texts. The text at hand is a bibliographical account of the rich life of the author Written with a true European and cosmopolitan spirit. Rieben’s uses plain and measured words in his mother tongue French while reflecting on the stages of his life in a very personal manner:

Under the title In the heart of Europe and the memory of a universe preserved in a threatened world he writes about the village in which he grew up, the high school he went to and the university he studied at as well as the period during World War II. Under the title Another epoch, another world he expounds his views on the role of basic industries in national economies and his encounter with Jean Monnet and what followed. The text is a perceptive walk through the landscapes of industries in Europe at the end of World War II seen through the eyes of a Swiss who became a European visionary through his thinking, writing and his research.
The text ends with the following passages in Henri Riebens mother tongue French, in which the text was written and published:

“Je crois que la vision de ces hommes d’Etat se réalisera. Certes, beaucoup d’obstacles se dresseront sur ce chemin. Mais, comme le pensait Jean Monnet, à celui qui a un but tout peut server, meme et surtout l’obstacle. Il importera donc que des hommes et des femmes, conscients de la nécessité et du fait que l’Histoire est par essence tragique, fassent ce qu’ils doivent pour que l’action maîtrise la fatalité. Ainsi sera peut-être renouvelée au profit de la generation qui monte et par elle l’observation capitale de Theodore H. White sur l’action des homes dans l’histoire. Il sera vital que cette generation bénéficie d’une qualité de reflexion, de decision et d’action équivalente à celle qui a valu à la nôtre, après la nouvelle Guerre de Trente ans, plus de trente années de paix. Deux pensées aideront à porter cet effort au niveau qui convient: celle d’Eschyle qui, dans Prométhée enchaîné, a écrit que “Le savoir-faire est bien moins fort que la nécessité est le vrai fédérateur de l’Europe. Quand une idée correspond à la nécessité de l’époque, elle cesse d’appartenir à ceux qui l’ont inventée et elle est plus forte ceux qui en ont la charge, a dit un jour l’Architecte de l’Europe.”

c) Text

You can find a scan (PDF) of the original text here:
E_2.9_RIEBEN_Chemin européen

© Prof. Jens Drolshammer, office@drolshammer.com,  www.drolshammer.net

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