70 Years Ago . . . Signs of Hope

The Treaty of Paris, 18 April 1951

Back in 1950 I was 16 years old. Foreign countries making declarations and signing treaties did not mean much to me. But I sensed that the Schuman Declaration seemed to be generally thought of as a “good thing” (1066 And All That), but many years had to elapse before I realised its significance and just how correct M. Schuman had been, and how far sighted. Now, alas, subsequent generations who know little of their history have failed to see and share his vision and all that he and others had hoped for has been abandoned by our country.

The Schuman Declaration was a speech made by the French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs, Robert Schuman, on 9 May 1950. It proposed placing French and West German production of coal and steel under a single authority that would later be opened to other European countries. The ultimate goal was to pacify relations, between France and West Germany in particular, through gradual political integration, which would be achieved by creating common interests. Schuman asserted that “[t]he coming together of the countries of Europe requires the elimination of the age-old opposition of France and Germany…the solidarity in production thus established will make it plain that any war between France and Germany becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible.”[1]

Konrad Adenauer, the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, responded positively to the Declaration, as did the governments of the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, and Luxembourg. On 18 April 1951, the six founding members signed the Treaty of Paris. It created the European Coal and Steel Community – Europe’s first supranational community, which paved the way for the European Economic Community and subsequently the European Union.

The Treaty of Paris (formally the Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community) was signed on 18 April 1951 between France, Italy, West Germany, and the three Benelux countries (Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands), establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which subsequently became part of the European Union. The treaty came into force on 23 July 1952 and expired on 23 July 2002, exactly fifty years after it came into effect.

The treaty was intended to bring diplomatic and economic stability in western Europe after the Second World War. Some of the main enemies during the war were now sharing production of coal and steel, the key resources which previously had been central to the war effort.

The Europe Declaration, issued by the representatives of the six nations, declared that the Treaty had given birth to Europe. The Declaration emphasised that the supranational principle was the foundation of the new democratic organisation of Europe. The supranational concept was opposed by Charles de Gaulle.

Since the end of World War II, sovereign European countries have entered into treaties and thereby co-operated and harmonised policies (or pooled sovereignty) in an increasing number of areas, in the so-called European integration project or the construction of Europe (French: la construction européenne). The following timeline outlines the legal inception of the European Union (EU)—the principal framework for this unification. The EU inherited many of its present responsibilities from the European Communities (EC), which were founded in the 1950s in the spirit of the Schuman Declaration.

About The Author

Born 9 December 1933. Former Royal Air Force person. Retired Church of England Clergyman. Father. Grandfather, and now, Great Grandfather. Citizen of Europe and Fervent Remainer. Thinks that Members of Parliament and especially Ministers of the Crown, who lie to Parliament should be brought before a public tribunal where the evidence can be heard, and examined, and suitable penalties awarded.
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