Hendrik Vos - This is Europe

The History of a Union


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After centuries of division, six European countries joined forces. Borders and barriers disappeared and the continent was united by establishing institutions and signing treaties. Prime ministers, presidents, chancellors, and commissioners decided on the directions and pace of the unification. They became allies or enemies, where some could not stand each other and others became soul mates. They made history in musty conference halls, as well as in beautiful palaces, monastery basements, or castles. They met each other in sleazy hotels, in the mountains, or on boats.

This is Europe is about the journey across the European continent, where we follow the main characters and casual passers-by that accidentally entered the stage. The book describes how the European constitution ended up being stuffed in a roasted chicken, what a blow up doll says about the free economic market, and how cows ended up in the meeting in a conference room on the fourth floor. It is the story of cello-playing ministers, drinking cola with port, or walking the halls in knitted slippers.

The road towards European unity never had a fixed route, there was never a script or widely supported plan, yet still, step by step, the European Union arose. With this book, Hendrik Vos wrote a history of Europe that feels familiar yet still surprises, and tells the big adventure based upon the small stories.

Published in November 2021 | Hardcover | 632 pages | ca. 180,000 words
Over 10,000 copies sold
English sample translation available
Translation grant available from the Flemish Foundation for Literature
Dutch edition published by Borgerhoff & Lamberigts

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Hendrik Vos is political scientist for the University of Ghent, Belgium, and the authority on European politics. He has written several books on European politics, was awarded the Come Again?-award with Rob Heirbaut for using clear language, and is a regular contributor to the Flemish newspaper De Standaard.


‘Hendrik Vos is an authority on European politics. His book is a loving ode to compromises.’ – NRC Handelsblad ****

This is Europa by professor Hendrik Vos is a line-up of amazing anecdotes and reads like a novel.’ – VRT

‘I have learned a lot and laughed a lot too.’ – Bart Schols, presenter of De Afspraak (The Meeting)

This is Europe is a reconstructions of the true foundation of the European integration, and the result of years of research, accidental discoveries, and weird stories, also about the author’s own travels. In his own engaging writing style – more a novelist than an academic writer – the past seventy years flow by in a rapid pace.’ – Nieuwsblad.be



Chapter 1, The Unification of Europe: Pioneering Work – How the European Constitution ended up in a roasted chicken
Chapter 2, The Birth of the European Integration – The miracle of Robert Schuman
Chapter 3, A European Army – When they considered to castrate the son-in-law
Chapter 4, Ambition in Messina – When a Belgian head of state sings ‘O Sole Mio’
Chapter 5, Towards the Treaty of Rome – The treaties are a stack of blank papers
Chapter 6, The Europe of the Homelands – Attending meetings on knitted slippers
Chapter 7, The French-German Reconciliation – The difference between roses and young girls
Chapter 8, The Crisis of the Empty Chair – A slippery sidewalk in New York and a compromise in Luxemburg
Chapter 9, The First Expansion of the Community – Six plus four is nine
Chapter 10, The 1970s Crises – A cow in the hallway
Chapter 11, Europe Rights Itself – Last Summit in Paris
Chapter 12, Southern Expansion – The revolution that started with a Eurovision song
Chapter 13, Hidden Barriers Under Fire – About kir royal and a blow up doll dealer
Chapter 14, The British Penny Matter and the French-German Handshake – She had a mouth like Marilyn Monroe
Chapter 15, Jacques Delors Becomes the Chairman of the Committee – Top politicians wander around in cloisters in pajama's
Chapter 16, Free Travels Through Europe – A rickety boat in a forgettable village
Chapter 17, The European Identity – Bridges over a canal in a village near Rotterdam
Chapter 18, A Break-Through in Milan – Where Thatcher missed the opera
Chapter 19, The First Big Treaty Amendment – The snail makes a jump
Chapter 20, A Multi-Year Budget for Europe – Genghis Khan in Bruges
Chapter 21, The Single Currency Gets on Track – What the Steenbakkers Street in Oostende has to do with the euro
Chapter 22, The Pan-European Picknick – Hansi, Harpi, and the fence
Chapter 23, The World is Changing Drastically – When the German chancellor begins to bellow
Chapter 24, The Maastricht Treaty: A Temple on Three Pillars – The chainsaw massacre
Chapter 25, From Maastricht to Amsterdam: Disappointment and Disillusion – The deer and barbed wire
Chapter 26, A Constitution for the Union – A pizza quatro stagioni that is hard to swallow
Chapter 27, Towards the Treaty of Lisbon – About pralines and plasticine
Chapter 28, The Euro Crisis – The minister on the motorcycle clashes with the minister in the wheelchair
Chapter 29, The Turbulent World Surrounding Europe – Teddy bears on a white coffin
Chapter 30, A Country Leaves the Union – The Queen wears a remarkable hat

In conclusion
Time line
European member states

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