In 2009, one is inclined to establish a parallel between two eras: today's, with its financial storm and economic recession, and the Great Depression of the 1930s. On the one hand, both sparked initiatives to stimulate economic recovery through massive investments in major infrastructure works and substantial aid to industry, and on the other, both brought to light the need for greater European solidarity and more institutional cooperation to optimise the initiatives.

In the collective work published under the auspices of the European Investment Bank (EIB)(1), Michel Dumoulin, who wrote the chapter on the origins and history of this institution, nevertheless does not go as far as drawing such a parallel, even though he was one of the first to speak of a "depression" last autumn. His chapter nonetheless opens with a review of the initiatives that sprang up after World War One to promote political integration in the Old Continent, first with the aim of safeguarding peace, but then soon afterwards as a springboard for more effective action to overcome the economic crisis. The debates that took place between the two wars, at political level, with a memorandum from the French government on "the organisation of a European federal union," and at economic level, with proposals from the director-general of the International Labour Organisation, nevertheless came to a sudden end.

As Dumoulin notes, however, these attempts created a foundation on which subsequent debates and initiatives would build after 1945. The most notable of these were a proposal, before the outbreak of World War Two, to establish structures that would take into account "the ever increasing interdependence of European countries" and the proposal to create "an institution that would act as a medium and long-term credit bank".


One of the key differences with the post-1914-1918 era highlighted in this work is that the United States was actively committed to helping the European countries to rebuild and become prosperous again, whatever its real motivations: the expression of transatlantic solidarity already demonstrated in 1918, the fear of the spread of Communism in an impoverished Western Europe or the will to conquer new markets. This was the heyday of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), followed by the European Recovery Programme (better known as the Marshall Plan) which, as Dumoulin notes, paved the way for cooperation...

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