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The role of Robert Schuman and the Schuman Declaration

Page history last edited by Christopher Kirkland 13 years, 2 months ago


Robert Schuman 


Schuman was an influential political figure in post war France, serving as Prime Minister between 1947 and 1948 (Gowland et al 2006:280). He then took on the role of Foreign Minister between 1948 and 1953 and acted as the political advocate for the European Coal and Steel Community (Dinan 2005:36).


France’s main concern at this time was to prevent another invasion by Germany. The start of the Cold War and the subsequent division of Germany into two states - including the partially sovereign and so potentially powerful Federal Republic of Germany - which could participate in the international system caused France concern because it could do so without any specifically European controls. This is the background that led to Schuman presenting Jean Monnet’s proposal: to put all of France and Germany’s steel and coal production in an organisation under common authority which would also be open to other European countries (Gowland et al 2006:279).  Schuman can take credit for ensuring French government backing for the project, which came to be known as The Schuman Plan (2006:280).  In 1950 Schuman understood that there was a narrow window in which to end the cycle of war and revenge with Germany (Ginsberg 2007:47). This window came in the form of a swing in French public opinion to be in economic accord with Germany (Dinan 2005:23).


Schuman’s involvement in European integration continued, in 1958 he was elected president of the European Assembly (Ginsberg 2006:280).



Europe Day


The 9th of May is Europe Day and commemorates the first move towards the creation of what has become the European Union. This acknowledges how important the role Schuman played was in the beginning of the European Coal and Steel Community and the process of integration which this instigated (Europa: Europe Day).  Schuman and Monnet were visionaries and play a key part in the ‘official history’ of European integration emerging from the fragile post war Europe and this is why May 9th is Europe day (Dinan 2005:11).



The Schuman Plan


The Schuman Plan was proposed in the Schuman Declaration on the 9th May 1950. The Schuman Plan proposed the creation of a single authority to control the production of steel and coal in France and West Germany and would be opened up the membership of other European countries. This proposal was realised in the European Coal and Steel Community.


The Marshall Plan’s ideals and resources lay the basis for the formation of the Schuman Plan, which led to the European Coal and Steel Community (Ginsberg et al 2007:45). 


The Schuman Plan aimed to render war ‘not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible’ (Gowland et al 2006:280). The Schuman Plan would make France acknowledge the Federal Republic of Germany as an equal trading partner and the responsibility for both countries' coal and steel industries being handed over to a supranational authority (Dinan 2005:11). This would be a bold step for France to take, given the history between the countries. It was a clever step to take though because the Schuman plan meant that Germans became Europeanised, as opposed to Europeans becoming Germanised (Gowland et al 2006:280). 


It can be forgotten what an impressive achievement the Schuman Plan symbolised, this was a bold proposal and also had an element of foresight. It is important to remember the context with the great distrust in Germany and the importance of coal and steel for European prosperity (Dinan 2005:11).  Coal and steel production was essential and putting it under supranational control would tie France and Germany together irrevocably.


For the Schuman Plan to be successful, three key actors had to give their approval: the French, German and US governments (Dinan 2005:23).  Chancellor Adenauer of Germany cleverly used the Plan to further West German claims for full sovereignty and equality without giving suspicion of a return to the rise of German nationalism (Gowland et al 2006:280).  Adenauer realised the depth of French distrust for the Federal Republic of Germany could be overcome with integration and would aid Germany’s international rehabilitation. The German Chancellor's receptiveness to the proposal can be explained by his understanding that integration was the only viable method the Federal Republic of Germany could use to remove the remaining controls on its domestic and foreign policy (Dinan 2005:23).  To win over the Americans would not prove difficult: Secretary of State Dean Acheson was very much in favour of European integration, preferably with France taking the lead and so gave his support. There was initially some US concern that this was a cover for a ‘gigantic European cartel,’ this US insecurity would deepen over the years as the emphasis turned to acting competitively in the international economic arena.  Informing the US before the Schuman Plan was made public was an essential move, the US was too powerful to sideline (Dinan 2005:24).  With US and German support for the plan, Schuman had little trouble convincing the French cabinet (Dinan 2005:24).  France wanted protection from Germany as had historically been the case; but now also to assert a position as a European power (Nugent 2006:280).  The Schuman declaration proved in a way to be a reversal of traditional French policy - instead of keeping the enemy down, a new Europe would be built with France and Germany as equals (Dinan 2005:24­).


The Schuman Plan was successful because it was used by governments for their different national interests.  With Italy for example, the Schuman Plan provided the opportunity to restore its European credentials after its part in the Second World War (Nugent 2006:280).


The Schuman Plan was the result of clever political thinking as were the institutions it gave rise to (Dinan 2005:11).  The Treaty of Paris signed by the six charter members on April the 18th 1951 was based on the Schuman Declaration (Ginsberg 2007:46).  This established the European Coal and Steel Community, with supranational powers independent from national governments, this was the first step towards the EC (Gowland 2006:280).



The Schuman Declaration


‘World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it.


The contribution which an organized and living Europe can bring to civilization is indispensable to the maintenance of peaceful relations. In taking upon herself for more than 20 years the role of champion of a united Europe, France has always had as her essential aim the service of peace. A united Europe was not achieved and we had war.


Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity. The coming together of the nations of Europe requires the elimination of the age-old opposition of France and Germany. Any action taken must in the first place concern these two countries.


With this aim in view, the French Government proposes that action be taken immediately on one limited but decisive point.


It proposes that Franco-German production of coal and steel as a whole be placed under a common High Authority, within the framework of an organization open to the participation of the other countries of Europe.  The pooling of coal and steel production should immediately provide for the setting up of common foundations for economic development as a first step in the federation of Europe, and will change the destinies of those regions which have long been devoted to the manufacture of munitions of war, of which they have been the most constant victims.


The solidarity in production thus established will make it plain that any war between France and Germany becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible. The setting up of this powerful productive unit, open to all countries willing to take part and bound ultimately to provide all the member countries with the basic elements of industrial production on the same terms, will lay a true foundation for their economic unification.


This production will be offered to the world as a whole without distinction or exception, with the aim of contributing to raising living standards and to promoting peaceful achievements. With increased resources Europe will be able to pursue the achievement of one of its essential tasks, namely, the development of the African continent. In this way, there will be realised simply and speedily that fusion of interest which is indispensable to the establishment of a common economic system; it may be the leaven from which may grow a wider and deeper community between countries long opposed to one another by sanguinary divisions.


By pooling basic production and by instituting a new High Authority, whose decisions will bind France, Germany and other member countries, this proposal will lead to the realization of the first concrete foundation of a European federation indispensable to the preservation of peace. 


To promote the realization of the objectives defined, the French Government is ready to open negotiations on the following bases.


The task with which this common High Authority will be charged will be that of securing in the shortest possible time the modernisation of production and the improvement of its quality; the supply of coal and steel on identical terms to the French and German markets, as well as to the markets of other member countries; the development in common of exports to other countries; the equalization and improvement of the living conditions of workers in these industries. 


To achieve these objectives, starting from the very different conditions in which the production of member countries is at present situated, it is proposed that certain transitional measures should be instituted, such as the application of a production and investment plan, the establishment of compensating machinery for equating prices, and the creation of a restructuring fund to facilitate the rationalization of production. The movement of coal and steel between member countries will immediately be freed from all customs duty, and will not be affected by differential transport rates. Conditions will gradually be created which will spontaneously provide for the more rational distribution of production at the highest level of productivity.


In contrast to international cartels, which tend to impose restrictive practices on distribution and the exploitation of national markets, and to maintain high profits, the organization will ensure the fusion of markets and the expansion of production.


The essential principles and undertakings defined above will be the subject of a treaty signed between the States and submitted for the ratification of their parliaments. The negotiations required to settle details of applications will be undertaken with the help of an arbitrator appointed by common agreement. He will be entrusted with the task of seeing that the agreements reached conform with the principles laid down, and, in the event of a deadlock, he will decide what solution is to be adopted. 


The common High Authority entrusted with the management of the scheme will be composed of independent persons appointed by the governments, giving equal representation. A chairman will be chosen by common agreement between the governments. The Authority's decisions will be enforceable in France, Germany and other member countries. Appropriate measures will be provided for means of appeal against the decisions of the Authority.


A representative of the United Nations will be accredited to the Authority, and will be instructed to make a public report to the United Nations twice yearly, giving an account of the working of the new organization, particularly as concerns the safeguarding of its objectives.


The institution of the High Authority will in no way prejudge the methods of ownership of enterprises. In the exercise of its functions, the common High Authority will take into account the powers conferred upon the International Ruhr Authority and the obligations of all kinds imposed upon Germany, so long as these remain in force.’

-Robert Schuman, The Schuman Declaration, May 9th 1950 (Europa 1/12/8) 




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