Visions of Europe and the Post: Stamps as Messengers of Europe?
Mid-January, I had the chance to participate in an interdisciplinary conference of our faculty in Düsseldorf. The general topic was European Utopias and I applied with a reflection on the choice of graphics on the “Europe”-stamps.
I came up with the topic when realizing that the stamp of the series “Europe” of the Deutsche Post showcased the Rheinkniebrücke in Düsseldorf. Bridges had been the overall topic.
From 1956 until 1973, so called “Europe”-stamps issued together by some European postal administrations (CEPT). From 1956-1960, this initiative came mainly from the six member of the European Coal and Steel Community; from 1960 onwards the member administrations of the newly founded European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations decided together upon the graphic of the stamp. It is noticeable that the stamps become less and less political as time goes on. Especially in the years of 1956 until 1960, the stamps showed an idea of a Europe that connects and is under construction as well as fosters growth and peace. When the responsibility for choosing a graphic was handed over to the CEPT, the stamps quickly stopped demonstrating a bigger idea of Europe but rather focused on the cooperation within the CEPT. The CEPT sees itself as a political independent organization that remains outside of the European integration process as shaped by the European Union. After 1973, the CEPT decided upon a theme that was then implemented nationally. This way, there was no common graphic anymore, and the only way to recognize the fact that this was a “Europe”-stamp was and is by reading the word “Europe” on the stamps. Consequently, the idea of community seems to have been abandoned by underlining the national aspects.
As such, these later stamps have much in common with the stamps that were given out by the Deutsche Reichspost on the occasion of the European postal congress of 1942: The post and a postal Europe without borders is in the focus, thus simply representing a postal idea of Europe. Thereby, the Deutsche Reichspost puts the cooperation between PTT administration at the forefront of the efforts but not any possible other vision of a united Europe. A similar approach can be seen from 1960 onwards.