This article proposes a temporal perspective for understanding the dynamics of political mobilisation around narratives and counter-narratives of European ‘union’, which extends back to the Cold War period. As a starting point, it focusses on the narratives by far left and far right Groups about European ‘union’ in the European Parliament during the 1980s. Analysing narrative entrepreneurs and their storytelling during six debates on reforming the European Communities in the mid-1980s, it shows that the far right at the time latched three functional purposes on to its pro-integration narratives: reducing immigration, facilitating economic reform, and providing security against the communist threat. In contrast, large parts of the far left opposed further integration with counter-narratives. It seems that under changing scope conditions like the end of the Cold War and the transformation of the EC into the EU, narrative entrepreneurs were subsequently able to reappropriate their relatively stable narratives for very different functional needs.