The period saw the first moves towards European unity as the first bodies began to be established in the aftermath of the Second World War. In 1951 the first community, the European Coal and Steel Community was established and moves on new communities quickly began. Early attempts at military and political unity failed, eventually leading to the Treaties of Rome in 1957.
The Second World War from 1939 to 1945 saw an unprecedented human and economic cost, in which Europe was affected particularly severely through the totality of modern warfare and large scale massacres such as the Holocaust. Once again, there was a widespread desire amongst European governments to ensure it could never happen again, particularly with the war giving the world nuclear weapons and two ideologically opposed superpowers. (See: Cold War)
In 1946, war-time British Prime Minister Winston Churchill spoke at the University of Zurich on "The tragedy of Europe"; in which he called for a "United States of Europe", not including the UK, to be created on a regional level while strengthening the UN. He described the first step to a "USE" as a "Council of Europe". London would, in 1949, be the location for the signing of the Treaty of London, establishing the separate entity of the Council of Europe.
In 1948, the Congress of Europe was convened in the Hague, under Winston Churchill's chairmanship, by the European unification movements. It was the first time all the movements had come together under one roof and attracted a myriad of statesmen including many who would later become known as founding fathers of the European Union. The congress discussed the formation of a new Council of Europe and led to the establishment of the European Movement and the College of Europe, however it exposed a division between unionist (opposed to a loss of sovereignty) and federalist (desiring a federal Europe) supporters. This unionist-federalist divide was reflected in the establishment of the Council of Europe in 1949. The Council was designed with two main political bodies, one composed of governments, the other of national members of parliament. Based in Strasbourg, it is an organisation dealing with democracy and human rights issues (today covering nearly every European state).
With the start of the Cold War, the Treaty of Brussels was signed in 1948. It expanded upon the Dunkirk Treaty which was a military pact between France and the United Kingdom who were concerned about the threat from the USSR following the communist take over in Czechoslovakia. The new treaty included the Benelux countries and was to promote cooperation not only in the military matters but in economic, social and cultural spheres. These roles however were rapidly taken over by other organisations. In 1954 it would be amended by the Paris Agreements which created the Western European Union which would take on European defence and be merged into the EU in later decades. However the signatories of the Brussels treaty quickly realised their common defence was not enough against the USSR. However wider solitary, such as that seen over the Berlin Blockade in 1949, was seen to provide sufficient deterrent. Hence in 1949 the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was created. It expanded the Brussels treaty members to include Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Portugal as well as Canada and most notably the United States. Military integration in NATO sped up following the first Soviet atomic bomb test and the start of the Korean War which prompted a desire for the inclusion of West Germany.
In the same year as the Brussels treaty, Sweden plans for a Scandinavian defence union (of Sweden, Denmark and Norway) which would be neutral in regards to the proposed NATO. However, due to pressure from the United States, Norway and Denmark joined NATO and the plans collapsed. Although a "‘Scandinavian joint committee for economic cooperation" was established which led to a customs union under the Nordic Council which held its first meeting in 1953. Similar economic activity was taking place between the Benelux countries. The Benelux Customs Union became operative between Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg. During the war, the three governments in exile signed a customs convention between their countries. This followed a monetary agreement which fixed their currencies against each other. This integration would lead to an economic union and the countries cooperating in foreign affairs as the union was out of a desire to strengthen their position as small states. However the Benelux became a precursor and provided ground for later European integration.
Robert Schuman, as Prime Minister of France 1947-8 and Foreign Minister 1948–53 gradually but completely changed the Gaullist policy in Europe which aimed at weakening Germany and permanently taking over part of its borderlands. He gained increasing support for this policy both in the French Assembly and with European public opinion but it was fiercely opposed both by Gaullists and by Communists, and inside other parties including his own.
On 9 May 1950, the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman (on the basis of a text prepared by Schuman's colleagues Paul Reuter and Bernard Clappier working with Jean Monnet, Pierre Uri and Etienne Hirsch) made his Schuman declaration at the Quai d'Orsay,. He proposed that: "Franco-German production of coal and steel as a whole be placed under a common High Authority, within the framework of an organisation open to the participation of the other countries of Europe." Such an act was intended to help economic growth and cement peace between France and Germany, who had previously been longtime enemies. Coal and steel were particular symbolic as they were the resources necessary to wage war. It would also be a first step to a "European federation".
It is no longer a question of vain words but of a bold act, a constructive act. France has acted and the consequences of its action can be immense. We hope they will be. France has acted primarily for peace and to give peace a real chance.
For this it is necessary that Europe should exist. Five years, almost to the day, after the unconditional surrender of Germany, France is accomplishing the first decisive act for European construction and is associating Germany with this. Conditions in Europe are going to be entirely changed because of it. This transformation will facilitate other action which has been impossible until this day.
Europe will be born from this, a Europe which is solidly united and constructed around a strong framework. It will be a Europe where the standard of living will rise by grouping together production and expanding markets, thus encouraging the lowering of prices.
In this Europe, the Ruhr, the Saar and the French industrial basins will work together for common goals and their progress will be followed by observers from the United Nations. All Europeans without distinction, whether from east or west, and all the overseas territories, especially Africa, which awaits development and prosperity from this old continent, will gain benefits from their labour of peace. Schuman Declaration
By the signature of this Treaty, the participating Parties give proof of their determination to create the first supranational institution and that thus they are laying the true foundation of an organised Europe. This Europe remains open to all nations. We profoundly hope that other nations will join us in our common endeavour.
The declaration led to the Treaty of Paris (1951) forming the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), it was formed by "the inner six": France, Italy, the Benelux countries (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg) together with West Germany. The United Kingdom refused to participate due to a rejection of supranational authority. The common market was opened on 10 February 1953 for coal, and on 1 May 1953 for steel.
During the existence of the ECSC, steel production would improve and increase fourfold. Coal production however would decline but its technology, safety and environmental quality would improve. ECSC helped deal with crises in the industry and ensured balanced development and distribution of resources. However the treaty, unlike its successors, was designed to expire after 50 years. Therefore, the Community ceased to exist on 2002-07-23 with all its activities and finances being transferred to the European Community.
With the treaty of Paris, the first institutions were created. At its centre was the High Authority (what is now the European Commission), the first ever supranational body which served as the Community's executive, the first president of which was Jean Monnet. The President was elected by the eight other members he presided over. The nine members were appointed by the member states (two for the larger three states, one for the smaller three) but they did not represent their member states, rather the common interest.
The member states' governments were represented by the Council of Ministers, the Presidency of which rotated between each state every three months in alphabetical order. It was added at the request of smaller states, fearing undue influence from the High Authority. Its task was to harmonise the work of national governments with the acts of the High Authority, as well as issue opinions on the work of the Authority when needed. Hence, unlike the modern Council, this body had limited powers as issues relating only to coal and steel were in the Authority's domain, whereas the Council only had to give its consent to decisions outside coal and steel. As a whole, it only scrutinised and advised the executive which was independent.
The Common Assembly, what is now the European Parliament, was composed of 78 representatives. The Assembly exercised supervisory powers over the executive. The representatives were to be national MPs elected by their Parliaments to the Assembly, or directly elected. Though in practice it was the former as there was no requirement until the Treaties of Rome and no election until 1979. However, to emphasise that the chamber was not to be that of a traditional international organisation, whereby it would be composed of representatives of national governments, the Treaty of Paris used the term "representatives of the peoples". The Assembly was not originally mentioned in the Schuman Declaration but put forward by Jean Monnet on the second day of treaty negotiations. It was still hoped that the Assembly of the Council of Europe would be the active body and the supranational Community would be inserted inside as one of the Council's institutions. The assembly was intended as a democratic counter-weight and check to the High Authority. It had formal powers to sack the High Authority, following investigation of abuse.
The Court of Justice was to ensure the observation of ECSC law along with the interpretation and application of the Treaty. The Court was composed of seven judges, appointed by common accord of the national governments for six years. There were no requirements that the judges had to be of a certain nationality, simply that they be qualified and that their independence be beyond doubt. The Court was assisted by two Advocates General.
Finally, there was a Consultative Committee (what is now the Economic and Social Committee) which had between 30 and 50 members, equally divided between producers, workers, consumers and dealers in the coal and steel sector. This grouping provided a chamber of professional associations for civil society and was in permanent dialogue with the High Authority on policy and proposals for legislation. Its Opinions were necessary before such action could take place. The threefold division of its members prevented any one group, whether business, labour or consumers, from dominating proceedings, as majority voting was required. Its existence curtailed the activity of lobbyists acting to influence governments on such policy. The Consultative Committee had an important action in controlling the budget and expenditures, drawn from the first European tax on coal and steel producers. The Community money was spent on re-employment and social housing activities within the sectors concerned.
Members were appointed for two years and were not bound by any mandate or instruction of the organisations which appointed them. The Committee had a plenary assembly, bureau and a president. The High Authority was obliged to consult the committee in certain cases where it was appropriate and to keep it informed.
The treaty however made no decision on where to base the institutions of the new community. The treaties allowed for the seat(s) to be decided by common accord of governments yet at a conference of the ECSC members on 23 July 1952 no permanent seat was decided. The seat was contested with Liège, Luxembourg, Strasbourg and Turin all considered. While Saarbrücken had a status as a "European city", the ongoing dispute over Saarland made it a problematic choice. Brussels would have been accepted at the time, but divisions within the then-unstable Belgian government ruled that option out.
To break the deadlock, Joseph Bech, then Prime Minister of Luxembourg, proposed that Luxembourg be made the provisional seat of the institutions until a permanent agreement was reached. However, it was decided that the Common Assembly, which became the Parliament, should instead be based in Strasbourg—the Council of Europe (CoE) was already based there, in the House of Europe. The chamber of the CoE's Parliamentary Assembly could also serve the Common Assembly, and they did so until 1999, when a new complex of buildings was built across the river from the Palace.
The early French plans were concerned with keeping Germany weak and strengthening the French economy at the expense of that of Germany. (see the Monnet plan) French foreign policy aimed at dismantling German heavy industry, place the coal rich Ruhr area and Rhineland under French control or at a minimum internationalize them, and also to join the coal rich Saarland with the iron rich province of Lorraine (which had been handed over from Germany to France again in 1944). When American diplomats reminded the French of what a devastating effect this would have on the German economy, France's response was to suggest the Germans would just have to "make [the] necessary adjustments" to deal with the inevitable foreign exchange deficit"."
According to some historians the U.S. government abandoned the Morgenthau plan as policy in September 1946 with Secretary of State James F. Byrnes' speech Restatement of Policy on Germany. Others have argued that credit should be given to former U.S. President Herbert Hoover who in one of his reports from Germany, dated 18 March 1947, argued for a change in occupation policy, amongst other things stating:
Worries about the sluggish recovery of the European economy, which before the war had depended on the German industrial base, and growing Soviet influence amongst a German population subject to food shortages and economic misery, caused the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Generals Clay and Marshall to start lobbying the Truman administration for a change of policy. General Clay stated
In July 1947, President Harry S. Truman rescinded on "national security grounds" the punitive occupation directive JCS 1067, which had directed the U.S. forces of occupation in Germany to "take no steps looking toward the economic rehabilitation of Germany [or] designed to maintain or strengthen the German economy", it was replaced by JCS 1779, which instead noted that "[a]n orderly, prosperous Europe requires the economic contributions of a stable and productive Germany." It took over two months for General Clay to overcome continued resistance to the new U.S. occupation directive JCS 1779, but on 10 July 1947, it was finally approved at a meeting of the SWNCC. The final version of the document "was purged of the most important elements of the Morgenthau plan."
The dismantling of the German heavy industry was in its later stages supported mainly by France, the Petersberg Agreement of November 1949 reduced the levels vastly, though dismantling of minor German factories continued until 1951. The final limitations on German industrial levels were lifted after the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951, though arms manufacture remained prohibited. With U.S. support, (as given in the September 1946 Stuttgart Speech), France in 1947 turned the coal rich Saarland into the Saar protectorate and integrated it into the French economy. The Franco-German conflict over the Saarland was later to prove one of the major hurdles to the integration of the European communities.
The Ruhr Agreement was imposed on the Germans as a condition for permitting them to establish the Federal Republic of Germany. By controlling the production and distribution of coal and steel (i.e. how much coal and steel the Germans themselves would get), the International Authority for the Ruhr in effect controlled the entire West German economy, much to the dismay of the Germans. They were however permitted to send their delegations to the authority after the Petersberg agreement. With the West German agreement to join the European Coal and Steel Community in order to lift the restrictions imposed by the IAR, thus also ensuring French security by perpetuating French access to Ruhr coal, the role of the IAR was taken over by the ECSC.
France had broken off the coal rich Saar from Germany and made it into a protectorate, economically integrated with France and nominally politically independent although security and foreign policy was dictated from France. In addition, France maintained a High Commissioner in the Saar with wide-ranging powers. Parties advocating a return of the Saar to Germany were banned, with the consequence that West Germany did not recognise the democratic legality of the Saar government. In view of continued conflict between Germany and France over the future of the Saarland efforts were made by the other Western European nations to find a solution to the potentially dangerous problem. Placed under increasing international pressure France finally agreed to a compromise. The Saar territory was to be Europeanised under the context of the Western European Union. France and Germany agreed in the Paris Agreements that until a peace treaty was signed with Germany, the Saar area would be governed under a "statute" that was to be supervised by a European Commissioner who in turn would be responsible to the Council of Ministers of the Western European Union. The Saarland would however have to remain in economic union with France.
Despite the endorsement of the statute by West Germany, in the 1955 referendum amongst the Saarlanders that was needed for it to come into effect the statute was rejected by 67.7% of the population. Despite French pre-referendum assertions that a no to the statute would simply result in the Saarland remaining in its previous status as a French controlled territory, the claim of the campaign group for a "no" to the statute that it would lead to unification with West Germany turned out to be correct. The Saarland was politically reintegrated with West Germany on 1 January 1957, but economic reintegration took many additional years. In return for agreeing to return the Saar France demanded and gained the following concessions: France was permitted to extract coal from the Warndt coal deposit until 1981. Germany had to agree to the channelisation of the Moselle. This reduced French freight costs in the Lorraine steel industry. Germany had to agree to the teaching of French as the first foreign language in schools in the Saarland. Although no longer binding, the agreement is still in the main followed.
Following on the heels of the creation of the ECSC, the European Defence Community (EDC) was drawn up and signed on 27 May 1952. It would combine national armies and allow West Germany to rearm under the control of the new Community. However, in 1954, the treaty was rejected by the French National Assembly. The rejection also derailed further plans for a European Political Community, being drawn up by members of the Common Assembly which would have created a federation to ensure democratic control over the future European army. In response to the rejection of the EDC, Jean Monnet resigned as President of the High Authority and began work on new integration efforts in the field of the economy. In 1955, the Council of Europe adopted an emblem for all Europe, twelve golden stars in a circle upon a blue field. It would later be adopted by the European Communities
In 1956, the Egyptian government under Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalised the Suez canal and closing it to Israeli traffic, sparking the Suez Crisis. This was in response to the withdrawal of funding for the Aswan Dam by the UK and United States due to Egypt's ties to the Soviet Union. The canal was owned by the UK and French investors and had been a neutral zone under British control. The nationalisation and closure to Israeli traffic prompted a military response by the UK, France and Israel, a move opposed by the United States. It was a military success but a political disaster for the UK and France. The UK in particular saw it could not operate alone, instead turning to the US, and it also prompted the next British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, to look towards joining the European Community. Equally France saw its future with the Community but opposed British entry, with then French President Charles de Gaulle stating he would veto British entry out of a fear it would lead to US domination.
As a result of the crisis, the Common Assembly proposed extending the powers of the ECSC to cover other sources of energy. However Jean Monnet desired a separate community to cover nuclear power and Louis Armand was put in charge of a study into the prospects of nuclear energy use in Europe. The report concluded further nuclear development was needed to fill the deficit left by the exhaustion of coal deposits and to reduce dependence on oil producers. However the Benelux states and Germany were also keen on creating a general common market, although it was opposed by France due to its protectionism and Jean Monnet thought it too large and difficult a task. In the end, Monnet proposed the creating of both, as separate communities, to reconcile both groups.
As a result of the Messina Conference of 1955, Paul-Henri Spaak was appointed as chairman of a preparatory committee (Spaak Committee) charged with the preparation of a report on the creation of a common European market.
The Spaak Report drawn up by the Spaak Committee provided the basis for further progress and was accepted at the Venice Conference (29 and 30 May 1956) where the decision was taken to organize an Intergovernmental Conference. The report formed the cornerstone of the Intergovernmental Conference on the Common Market and Euratom at Val Duchesse in 1956. The outcome of the conference was that new communities would share the Common Assembly (now Parliamentary Assembly) with the ECSC, as it would with the Court of Justice. However they would not share the ECSC's Council of High Authority. The two new High Authorities would be called Commissions, this was due to a reduction in their powers. France was reluctant to agree to more supranational powers and hence the new Commissions would only have basic powers and important decisions would have to be approved by the Council, which now adopted majority voting. Thus, on 25 March 1957, the Treaties of Rome were signed. They came into force on 1958-01-01 establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). The latter body fostered co-operation in the nuclear field, at the time a very popular area, and the EEC was to create a full customs union between members. Louis Armand became the first President of Euratom Commission and Walter Hallstein became the first President of the EEC Commission.
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