The Fonds of Emilio Colombo

European Parliament President Colombo EmilioEuropean Parliament President Emilio Colombo during a session in Strasbourg in November 1977 © European Communities 1977 – European Parliament
"Europe is the natural context in which solutions for social and economic progress will find their true meaning and true value."


Emilio Colombo was born on the 11th of April 1920 in Potenza, Italy. At the age of 26 he was elected a Member of the Constituent Assembly, the body responsible for drafting Italy's new post-war constitution. He was appointed afterwards as secretary to the Agriculture Committee. In 1948 he was elected a Member of the Italian Parliament; he would hold this seat until 2003, having been appointed a Senator for life by the President of Italy. Colombo was a minister in several Italian centre and centre-left governments between 1955 and 1976 and held the position of the President of the Italian Government's Council of Ministers from 1970 to 1972. In 1985 he became President of the European Union of Christian Democrats. On 12 July 1990, he was appointed President of the Italian Atlantic Committee. From March 1993 to June 1995, he was President of Christian Democrats International.

Political posts held

In 1976 Colombo became a Member of the European Parliament, where he sat until 1992 in the Christian-Democratic Group (which later became the Group of the European People's Party). In March 1977 he was elected President of the European Parliament and led it towards its first elections by direct universal suffrage. In May 1979 he received the Charlemagne Prize in Aachen, the third Italian politician to receive this honour after Alcide de Gasperi and Antonio Segni. From February to May 1992 he was Chairman of the Temporary Committee on the Delors II package (From the Single Act to Maastricht and beyond: the means to match our ambitions), which had a remit concerning the achievement of the Maastricht Treaty objectives.

What's in the Archives

The officials of President Veil's Office merged the archives of the Offices of President Colombo (1977-1979), as well as those of President Cornelis Berkhouwer (1973-1975) and President Georges Spénale (1975-1977), with the archives of the first President of the elected Parliament. Given the way the European Parliament archives are indexed, however, it is possible to identify all documents sent or received by President Colombo during his term of office. We can therefore reconstruct his activities comprehensively and precisely. 

President Colombo's documents are included in the following four series of the fonds of the Cabinet of Simone Veil:

Public Figure

PE1 P1 100/PERS

See the fonds of Simone Veil.

Presidency of the Parliament

PE1 P1 200/PRES

See the fonds of Simone Veil.

Secretariat of the Parliament

PE1 P1 300/SECR

See the fonds of Simone Veil.


See the fonds of Simone Veil.

Reflections of former Presidents of the European Parliament: Emilio Colombo

I view the years from early 1977 to 1979 as being the most rewarding of my lengthy commitment to Europe. Having been elected Member of the European Parliament for Italy in 1976, I was elected its President in 1977. I am grateful to the Members of the European Parliament during that parliamentary term, who three times in succession, from 1977 to 1979 (an uncommon occurrence under the regulatory framework of the time), decided to re-elect me in order to ensure the success, under my presidency and with their full cooperation, of the greatest of European democratic undertakings: election of the European Parliament by universal suffrage.

European Parliament President Colombo Emilio
Emilio Colombo during the European Parliament Presidential election in 1977 (Strasbourg)  © European Communities 1977 – European Parliament

It was an intense and exhilarating period: we were at last shouting our belief in Europe from every town square, in different languages, and when knowing the language was of no assistance, our belief in Europe served to convey our convictions on the future of Europe. When the elections results were announced, we saw that 114 375 367 voters, in nine Member States, had elected 410 Members. However, alongside the already significant advent of elections to the European Parliament by universal suffrage, there were also other events which helped to raise the political and economic importance of the process of European integration.

In the late 1970s, during my presidency and as the European election process progressed, the Europe of six, and then of nine, trapped to the east and west between the ideologies of the 19th Century, not only witnessed but also precipitated, through its faith in democratic ideals, the fall of two right-wing dictatorships – first of Franco in Spain, and then of Salazar in Portugal. It was my honour, as the President of the European Parliament, to give the first pro-European speech in the Spanish Cortes, solemnly convened in Madrid, and later to the Portuguese Parliament which, appropriately, was meeting in Lisbon.

European Parliament President Colombo EmilioEP President Emilio Colombo shaking hands with the Spanish President of the Consejo del Reino, Antonio Hernández Gil (1978)  © European Communities 1978 – European Parliament

Furthermore, although relations with the East remained impervious – given the tight grip maintained on the Soviet countries in application of the principle of limited sovereignty – our Europe, which was managing to forge itself into an area of peace, freedom, economic development, free markets and social solidarity, nevertheless held a fascination, or at least an attraction, for the countries of the East. One should not forget, however, that the on-going process of the construction of Europe periodically experienced major or minor crises attributable to the permanent conflict between upholding the principle of nationality and extensive supranational initiatives.

European Parliament President Colombo EmilioEmilio Colombo presiding a session © European Communities 1977 – European Parliament

I will conclude my inevitably hazy recollections at that point, noting that, under my presidency, Parliament triggered the process which led, on 13 December 1979, to the budget presented by the Council of Ministers being thrown out. In doing so, it wished not only to draw attention to aspects of the budget approach which it considered unacceptable, but also fully to assert its budget authority role within the Community financial system.

Emilio Colombo Signature