Swiss professor Henri Rieben, one of the original architects of what is now the European Union who was once described by former EU chief Jacques Delors as the "guardian of the European flame," has died, his former assistant said Friday. He was 84. Rieben died Jan. 11 of cancer in his hometown just north of Lausanne, Alexander Bergmann told The Associated Press.
Bergmann succeeded Rieben last year as director of the Lausanne-based Jean Monnet Foundation for Europe, which is entrusted with keeping the archives of the 25-nation European Union's founding fathers. Rieben was a longtime friend of Jean Monnet a staunch advocate of a federal European superstate, and together the two founded in 1955 the Lausanne-based Action Committee for the United States of Europe, which in the wake of World War II advocated the creation of a federalist Europe modeled on the United States.
In 1978, Monnet named Rieben director of a new organization commissioned with keeping his and former French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman's personal archives, and using them to expound their vision of a peaceful and unified Europe.
Rieben, who wrote or edited more than 200 books, was also a close friend and adviser to Delors, a former French Finance Minister who served two terms as head of the European Commission, and former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, the main author of a proposed new EU constitution which was rejected last year by referendums in France and the Netherlands.
"He was the contrary of a showman, but he worked with many very important people," Bergmann said of Rieben in a telephone interview from Lausanne. "He was still very active until his very last days", reports the AP. N.U.