IATE term of the week: Schuman Declaration

May 9, 2014 9:00 am

schumanOn the occasion of the Day of Europe we have chosen “Schuman Declaration” as the IATE term of the week.

Read more on the Schuman declaration here.





Robert Schuman

Schuman was an influential political figure in post war France, serving as Prime Minister between 1947 and 1948. 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.

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. Schuman can take credit for ensuring French government backing for the project, which came to be known as The Schuman Plan. In 1950 Schuman understood that there was a narrow window in which to end the cycle of war and revenge with Germany. This window came in the form of a swing in French public opinion to be in economic accord with Germany.

Schuman’s involvement in European integration continued, in 1958 he was elected president of the European Assembly

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. 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.

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.

The Schuman Plan aimed to render war ‘not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible’. 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. 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.

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. 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. 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. 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. 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. With US and German support for the plan, Schuman had little trouble convincing the French cabinet. France wanted protection from Germany as had historically been the case; but now also to assert a position as a European power. 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.

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.

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


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