TEPSA History

TEPSA was established in 1974 as an international non-profit association under Belgian law (AISBL). During its long history, TEPSA has increased its membership in response to the enlargement rounds of the European Union. 

You can learn everything you need to know about TEPSA here, including our ‘Triple A’ approach to producing leading expertise in European affairs, our decentralised structure as a network stretching all across Europe, and how we reach people where they are, learning from the expertise of researchers on the ground in the European Union Member States and beyond. 

To celebrate the history Europe’s first trans-European research network in the field of European affairs, and to learn more about the role of TEPSA from the people who lived it, we have been sitting down to interview key figures in TEPSA’s history. They give their insights into our role in the European project over decades and into the future.

“It remains my full conviction that the future of civilisation – and indeed of our species – depends on humanity progressing towards supranational government” – Robert Toulemon, in “Souvenirs Européens”,  2005.

On 5 July 2020, TEPSA founding member from France and tireless champion of the European project, Robert Toulemon, passed away peacefully in Paris.

Robert Toulemon made a valuable contribution to the European project during his long career. After brushing shoulders with prominent European federalists such as Étienne Hirsch, André Jeanson, and Jacques Delors in his early career, Toulemon moved to Brussels in 1962 on the advice of the Élysée, to serve as Chief of Staff to the French Vice-President of the European Commission, Robert Marjolin. 

After working tirelessly in the Commission during the remainder of the 1960s, Toulemon embarked on a three-year stint from 1970-1973 working alongside Altiero Spinelli. The prospect of working with Spinelli delighted Toulemon, who fondly remembered the Italian as a “troublemaker […] who arrived in Brussels crowned with the glory of having converted the Italian left to European federalism”. 

The 1970s marked a return to the French national scene for Toulemon, serving variously as Chief of Staff to Pierre Abelin, Minister of Cooperation (1974-1976), Representative of André Fosset, Minister for Quality of Life (1976), and as Inspector General of Finances (1977).

Amongst this work, Toulemon still found time to champion the European project. Representing l’Association Française pour l’Union Européenne, Robert Toulemon co-founded the Trans-European Policy Studies Association (TEPSA) in 1974 as the first trans-European research network in the field of European affairs.

Robert Toulemon, a lifelong European federalist and tireless advocate for the European project, later noted that “I discover a European civil society thirsting for peace, freedom, democracy and aware of the threats posed to the new Europe by the resurgence of ethno-nationalist confrontations”. It is in his spirit that we should all aim to move forward in support of a united Europe, as he put it, thirsting for peace, freedom, and democracy.

Gianni Bonvicini, expert in European issues and foreign policy, was one of the founding fathers of TEPSA in 1974. He was Director (1987-2008) and then Executive Vice President (2008–2017) of TEPSA’s founding member Istituto Affari Internazionali, and served as a member of the TEPSA Board until 2016. Next to his career at the Istituto Affari Internazionali, where he continues to serve as a Scientific Advisor and member of the Board of Trustees, Prof. Bonvicini has also lectured in several universities such as the Johns Hopkins University in Bologna and Roma Tre University. In 2010 he was awarded with the title of Commendatore, Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana for his services to his country.

In 2018, TEPSA sat down with one of our founding fathers: Gianni Bonvicini from Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI). He spoke passionately about the European project, the founding days of TEPSA and his early responsibilities in growing our network. He also had great stories from the early Pre-Presidency Conferences.

Jacques Vandamme’s contribution to the European project has been enormous, both as a practitioner in his institutional roles as Head of Division in the Commission of the European Communities (1960-73) and Adviser of the Belgian Prime Minister Leo Tindemans (1974-77), and as a scholar and bright thinker in the years when he was lecturing in several European universities (Université Catholique de Louvain, Centre Européen Universitaire in Nancy, René Descartes University in Paris). In particular, he contributed to the preparation of the so-called “Tindemans report” on the European Union (1975), which advocated for the consolidation of community institutions and the development of common European policies, and set the basis for the European Union as it was developed in the following decades.

In the framework of Tindemans’ consultations during the preparation of the report, Jacques Vandamme suggested that also scholars and researchers be consulted, and TEPSA was selected for this purpose as a trans-European network of research institutes. TEPSA representatives thus had the chance to meet the Prime Minister and present their views on the Future of Europe. After this experience, Jacques Vandamme took upon himself the task to create a Belgian member of TEPSA, the Groupe d’Etudes Politiques Européennes (GEPE), and became fully involved in the Association, becoming the Chairman of the Association in 1982.