- Spaak, Paul-Henri Charles
- (1899-1972)Paul-Henri Spaak was born in Schaerbeek on 25 January 1899. He undertook secondary studies at the Athénée de Saint-Gilles and spent World War I as a prisoner of war in Germany. He earned a degree in law at the Université libre de Bruxelles and launched a career in law and politics, the latter of which quickly came to predominate. Elected a deputy from Brussels to the Chamber of Representatives on 27 November 1932 as a moderate Socialist, he held various cabinet posts after 1935 and served almost continuously as foreign minister from 1938 to 1945. Spaak spent World War II in exile in London where he worked on proposals for a postwar Benelux customs union. He served three times as prime minister (1938-1939, 1946, 1947-1949). Again foreign minister in postwar governments (1954-1957, 1961-1966), he earned international stature as the first president of the General Assembly of the United Nations (1946), chairman of the Council for European Recovery (1948-1949), and secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) (1957-1961). A strong promoter of European political and economic unification, Spaak worked with his counterparts from the Netherlands and Luxembourg and the resulting Spaak Report served as the basis for the creation of the Common Market (1957), the precursor of the European Union.Spaak surprised domestic public opinion in moving, during his last years, from advocacy of a unitary Belgian state to support for feder-alization. As a member of the opposition, he voted reluctantly against relocation of NATO headquarters to Belgium. He retired thereafter and died in Brussels on 31 July 1972.
Historical Dictionary of Brussels. Paul F. State.