Pierre Pflimlin, elected President of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
Photo in the European Parliament

5 February 1907 : Born in Roubaix
1914 : Student of the German high school of Mulhouse
17 November 1918 : The French troops make their entry at Mulhouse
1929 : Doctoral thesis in law about the industry of Mulhouse
1933 : : Registration in the Bar of Strasbourg
1938 : Acquaintance of Robert Schuman
1940 : Mobilization in the Aisne, then in the Ardennes
1940 : Prisoner
1940 : Set free after 6 months of imprisonment in Germany
1941 : Crossing on safe grounds
1941-1945 : Examining magistrate in Thonon (Haute-Savoie)
15 August 1945 : Return to Strasbourg
1945 : Affiliation to the PRM (Popular Republican Movement)
30 September 1945 : Elections at the local Council of Strasbourg
1945 et 1946 : Member of two Constituent Assemblies
1946-1971 : Deputy of Bas-Rhin (Lower-Rhine)
1946 : Under-secretary of State to the Minister of Health and Population
1946 : Under-secretary of State to the Finance Minister
1947 - 1951 : Minister of Agriculture in Robert Schuman’s Government

1947 : Encounter with Jean Monnet

1950 : Proposition for founding an European organisation of agricultural markets « green pool »
1951 : Minister of Trade and Foreign Affairs
1951-1976 : President of the Council of Bas-Rhin
1952 : Minister of the Overseas departments and territories of France
1955 : Finance Minister
1957-1958 : Finance, Economic Affairs and Plan Minister
13 to 28 Mai 1958 : President of the Council
June 1958 : Secretary of State in de Gaulle’s Government
1958 : Takes part in the elaboration of the Constitution of the 5th Republic and instigator of the well-known article number 49.3

1959-1967 : French Representative at the Assembly of the Council of Europe and of the European Parliament
1959-1983 : Mayor of Strasbourg (alliance of the PRM and the Gaullists)
1962 : Secretary of State in charge with the cooperation
1962 : Resignation in the Government, disagreement with de Gaulle concerning the European politics
1963-1966 : Presides the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
1973-1983 : Member of the Regional Council of Alsace
1979-1989 : European deputy
1984-1987 : President of the European Parliament
1991 : Publishes his memories “An European’s memories” (les Mémoires d’un Européen)
1997 : Speech about “The Europe to become” ( l’Europe en devenir)


Pierre PflimlinAfter the armistice of 1945, Pierre Pflimlin put an end to his career as a judge in Metz in order to return to Strasbourg, and coincidentally lets himself “caught” in the world of politics. Thank to the liberation, the local political life takes a new turn along with the foundation of the “Popular Republican Party,” which will soon be integrated into the Popular Republican Movement (PRM), presided over by Georges Bidault. During the municipal elections in September 1945, making an alliance with Charles Frey, the future mayor of Strasbourg and member of the “Democratic Party of the Bas-Rhin”, Pierre Pflimlin is elected to the municipal Council of Strasbourg.

No sooner than the next month, elections for the first National Assembly are organised. The PRM chooses as his “young protégé” the new arrived and completely unknown Pierre Pflimlin, and places him on the fourth position on the list. The list of the PRM gets five seats, and two months after his return to Strasbourg, he becomes a deputy in the National Assembly. Pierre Pflimlin encounters at the Assembly the PRM Robert Schuman (future founder of the United Europe). It is under his guidance that the Alsatian deputy will make his first parliamentary steps.

In 1946, Pierre Pflimlin will become under-secretary of State for the Minister of Health and Population. He will soon after take part in numerous governments of the 5th Republic. Robert Schuman will appoint him as the Minister of Agriculture in 1947, and he will be given the hard task of modernising the agriculture and of putting an end to the food shortages after the war. Due to the governmental insecurity, there are five governments that follow one after another. Pierre Pflimlin will spend three years as the Minister of Agriculture. He was Minister of Trade from 1951 to 1952, Minister of the Overseas departments and territories of France from 1952 to 1953, and the Finance and Economic Affairs Minister from 1955 to 1956 and from 1957 to 1958, before taking the role of President of the Council on 13th of May 1958, in particularly dramatic conditions. Being in charge of the presidency of the Council, Pierre Pflimlin knew that in order to solve the problems in Algeria, he had to start a State Reform as well as a Constitutional one. But the new president of the Council was reputed for having a “liberal” vision regarding the Algerian issue. Pierre Pflimlin couldn’t bare the situation of conflict in Algeria, and thus he legally negotiated the act of giving the presidency to General de Gaulle. He resigned on May 28.

Pierre Pflimlin agreed to take part in the last government of the 5th Republic, the one of General de Gaulle, as President of the PRM. In order to elaborate the new Constitution, General de Gaulle created an interdepartmental committee, Pierre Pflimlin being part of it. Among the laws proposed by Pierre Pflimlin, certainly the most known is the article 49-3 which allows the Prime-minister to pass a law that he proposes, without asking for the vote of confidence.

In 1962, Pierre Pflimlin took part in the government of Georges Pompidou, wanting thus to influence, from inside, the opinions of General de Gaulle towards Europe. Barely one month after his nomination, a press conference during which General de Gaulle ridiculed the supporters of the European construction led to his resignation of the government, together with three other ministers of the PRM.

Pierre Pflimlin thus dedicated the rest of his time to another two beloved things: his town (Strasbourg) and the European construction.


Pierre Pflimlin

Europe was the primary concern of Pierre Pflimlin. Having experienced the First World War, as well as the Second World War, he was convinced that the creation of a political Europe was the best means to establish a long-lasting peace between the two hereditary enemies: France and Germany. Together with Robert Schuman, he was one of the biggest instigators of reconciliation between the two countries. Deeply touched by Robert Schuman’s historical declaration which gave life to a European Coal and Steel Community, he contributed to the European “building” that was emerging, by proposing in June 1950 the foundation of a “European organisation of the main agricultural markets” (mainly known as “Green Pool”). For Pierre Pflimlin, as Minister of Agriculture, this new integration plan of this specific sector had two functions: on the one hand, the creation of an European agricultural area, competitive on the global scale and able to serve as an answer to the problems posed by the supplies in Europe and the development of its agriculture; and on the other hand, this plan would serve the national interests of France, ensuring new markets for certain products currently in the state of overproduction, like the wheat, the butter or even the wine. But there were many who opposed this plan, and the French government chose in the end to focus on the European collaboration launched on the domain of coal and steel. In July 1954, after several attempts to realize his plan, Pierre Pflimlin’s idea of a European agricultural organisation was ultimately abandoned. The main ideas of this “Green Pool” was nevertheless restated some years later, at the founding of the Common Agricultural Politic (CAP).

After resigning the French government, Pierre Pflimlin kept on working for the foundation of a « Big Europe ». From 1959 to 1967, he was the French Representative at the Assembly of the Council of Europe. From 1963 to 1966, he had the function of president of this assembly. From 1962 to 1967, Pierre Pflimlin held the position of French representative in the European Parliament. He will soon after come to the European Parliament in 1979, on the occasion of the first European elections with universal suffrage, as European deputy belonging to the European People’s Party. Vice-president of the European Parliament from 1979 to 1984, he consequently became president of the European Parliament from 1984 to 1987, a period marked by several symbolic events for the continuity of the European construction: the signing of the Single European Act, the addition of Spain and Portugal to the Community, as well as the adoption of the European flag and anthem by the European Community

During his two and a half year mandate at the head of the European Parliament, Pierre Pflimlin considerably contributed to the strength of the powers of the Assembly concerning European decisions. He did this in such a way that the Parliament could be closely associated with the idea of “Big Market,” thanks to the establishment of the “cooperation proceedings” included in the Single European Act, giving the European Parliament a greater possibility to influence the European legislative process by means of a “double reading” of the legislative proposals of the European Commission. This procedure served as a step between the simple consulting procedure, which was the case of the Parliament at the beginning of the European construction, restraining the role of the Parliamentary Assembly to that of a Advisory Assembly, and the co-decisional procedure (decisional procedure officiated in the Treaty of Maastricht) giving equal rights to both the Parliament and the Council of the European Union regarding decisional aspects today. Pierre Pflimlin also underlined the importance of the European Parliament on the matter of community budget. Refusing to sign the budget plan for the year 1985, which was, according to him, insufficient to cover the needs of the Community (yet identified “formally” at a political level by the European Council), he proved that the European Community can not have a budget without the signature of the president of the European Parliament, the assembly being just part of the European budgetary authority.

Pierre Pflimlin was a member of the European Parliament until June 1989. He permanently left the European Parliamentary Assembly in July 1989, which was the end of his public life.


- “Mulhousien (inhabitant of Mulhouse) by origin and Strasbourgeois (inhabitant of Strasbourg) by adoption, I consider myself a French Alsacien (inhabitant of the region of Alsace), European activist”, A European’s memories (Mémoires d’un Européen). Paris, Fayard, 1991

- ”I am European because I am Alsatian (inhabitant of the region of Alsace, France)”

- “Since I was a young man, I had the conviction that it should be put an end to secular hostility between France and Germany, that Alsace could have the vocation to serve as a link. The war, I lived it, it has been terrible, and we could have thought that it will leave resentments and hate for a long period of time, and I really felt as some sort of miracle that only three years after the war, in 1948, some responsible men from different countries meet at the Hague and tell: we will found an European Union”. Audio archives of the Council of Europe, the 5th of May 1998.

- “I hope there will be enough determined men and women to undertake this big task of the construction of the 21st century Europe. Europe of prosperity, yes, Europe of power for peace, and especially Europe determined to assert in front of the world the importance of the values of mind.” Council of Europe, the 90th anniversary of Pierre Pflimlin

- "Common Europe" (L’Europe communautaire), in association with Raymond Legrand-Lane, Paris, Plon, 1966.

- "The path of the european idea" ('Le Cheminement de l’idée européenne) Fribourg, Ed. Univers, 1977.

- "Interviews with Pierre Pflimlin. A European's Itineraries" (Entretiens avec Pierre Pflimlin.Itinéraires d’un Européen), Jean-Louis English et Daniel Riot, Strasbourg, La Nuée Bleue, 1989.

- "A European's Memories, from the Fourth to the Fifth Republic" (Mémoires d’un Européen, de la IVe à la Ve République), Paris, Fayard, 1991.


Interview Pierre Pflimlin (fr.)
Speech in the Council of Europe 1949-1999 / Council of Europe - Strasbourg: Council of Europe [Prod.], 1999. Council of Europe, Strasbourg. - (05:43, Montage, Son original).
Copyright © Council of Europe.

Pierre Pflimlin's Speech (fr.)
Interference Pflimlin - Council of Europe - Strasbourg / Pierre Pflimlin.- Strasbourg: 24th September 1962. RTL, Paris. - (03:39, Montage, Son original). RTL, Paris, 22, rue Bayard.

Pierre Pflimlin's Speech (fr.), Mayor of Strasbourg (Strasbourg, 28th January 1977)
Inauguration of the Palace of Europe on the 28th of January 1977, Speech. Strasbourg: Council of Europe, 1977, p. 7.Copyright © Council of Europe

Interview by Philippe Edel (fr.), Pierre Pflimlin's parliamentary assistant in the European Parliament