The Historical Archives of the European Union has inserted the oral history programme The European Parliament Contribution to the European Project: Perspectives from insiders and associated actors (1979-2019) into its oral history holdings. The programme builds upon the earlier Collecting Memories: European Parliament 1979-2019 initiative and aims to provide unique insights into the evolution of the European Parliament since the establishment of direct elections in 1979 using oral archive material. It is one of the research outputs of a project at the Alcide de Gasperi Centre coordinated by the scholars Alfredo De Feo and Michael Shackleton, with the advice and support of Prof. Adrienne Héritier.
The new set of oral histories includes interviews not only with former MEPs, but also senior officials of the European Parliament and officials from other EU institutions. These interviews, along with other material held at the HAEU, are used to inform a series of short articles on the project’s blog. These blog posts seek to illuminate contrasting perspectives on the development of the Parliament using oral extracts from the various interviews. Their aim is to provide readers with a nuanced understanding of the various ways in which the European Parliament contributed to the European project, in the actors’ own words.
The initial blog posts cover a wide range of general themes, specific events and individual policy areas including:
- The struggle of the Parliament to get its voice heard in relations with the other institutions;
- The reasons for, nature of and consequences of the fall of the Santer Commission in 1999;
- The cooperation between Commission and Parliament in the reform of cohesion policy in the 1980s; and
- The role of the Parliament in the early years of the development of environmental policy at EU level.
Professors De Feo and Shackleton aim to expand the range of posts in the research project, using existing or new interviews, and to open it up to contributions from practitioners and scholars who share the spirit and approach of the research.
As they explain, “our intention with this project is twofold: first, to collect as wide a range of interviews as possible with the conviction that oral testimony from the actors involved can shed light on the development of the Parliament over the last forty years and second, to show how extracts from those interviews can be used to illuminate arguments presented in a written text about that development. Now the task is to encourage as broad a participation as possible in the development of the blog”.
Adrienne Héritier, the academic mentor of the project, notes that “the oral history project offers fascinating insights into the institutional change of the European Parliament since its beginnings. It helps understand the changing internal organization such as the work of committees as well as the developing dynamics of the interaction with the European Commission, sectoral Councils and the European Council in the legislative process. These insights are of lasting relevance for understanding the working of the European Parliament of today.”
Juan Alonso, audiovisual archivist at the HAEU, remarked that “This oral history programme not only commemorates the past, but also aims to provide an important resource for scholars, policymakers, and the general public, offering a firsthand account of the European Parliament's journey and its profound impact on the European project.”
Photo: General view of the hemicycle, Strasbourg - EP/Palais de l'Europe, by Jean-Louis Debaise. © European Communities, 1979