In 1950 the Schuman Declaration ended Europe’s disastrous arms race and opened up the cooperation which created the EU. It still offers lessons for both May and Macronby Paul Wallace / May 9, 2017 / Leave a comment
Today marks the anniversary of the Schuman Declaration of 9th May 1950. Few in Brexiteer Britain will know about this moment when French foreign minister Robert Schuman proposed what became the European Coal and Steel Community. This year’s anniversary is in any case eclipsed by the celebration in March of the 60th birthday of the Treaty of Rome, which created the far more ambitious European Economic Community, forerunner of today’s European Union. And that event was itself overshadowed by Britain’s decision to leave the EU, which formally took effect a few days later when Theresa May triggered the process that will lead to departure in two years’ time.
But the Schuman Declaration still holds lessons both for May—no matter whether she sweeps the board in June’s election—and for France’s president-elect Emmanuel Macron. For even more than the Treaty of Rome, the Schuman Declaration was the real turning-point in post-war European history leading towards the path of integration which Britain is now abandoning. Indeed Vernon Bogdanor, a research professor at King’s College London, has argued that May 9th 1950 was the most important date in the post-war history of western Europe.
That seems a tall claim for an arrangement covering two industries, today now shrunk to a small share of the European economy as services have become ever more pervasive. But at the time, coal and steel were central to heavy industry and manufacturing, which were then far more crucial. As importantly, they were the sinews of munitions in a Europe that had only just regained peace.
Above all, the coal and steel industries were wrapped in historical symbolism. France’s determination after the First World War to exact a Carthaginian peace brought about the occupation of Germany’s industrialised Ruhr in 1923 for the non-payment of war reparations. The intervention failed dismally as Germans adopted a policy of passive resistance. But it both contributed to the German hyperinflation of that year and ensured that France would bear some of the blame for an economic disaster that undermined faith in the Weimar Republic, making it vulnerable to Adolf Hitler during the Great Depression of the early 1930s.
The Schuman Declaration…