On April 18 1951, in Paris Konrad Adenauer (West Germany), Paul van Zeeland, Joseph Meurice (Belgium), Robert Schuman (France), Count Sforza (Italy), Joseph Bech (Luxembourg), Dirk Stikker and J. R. M. van den Brink (Netherlands) signed what Schuman called “the Great Charter of Europe”. It was the document that created the European Coal and Steel Community, the first manifestation of what is today the European Union.
The history and signification of this treaty have been long discussed by politicians and historians alike and there is a wealth of information available online and offline. I have however decided to discuss it, because it holds keys for developing our future together, and above all it shows that the ideas that Federalists promote now are neither new nor unheard off. Schuman was probably on the most notable European Federalists of the past century.
The preamble to the document is very interesting in itself:
Convaincus que la contribution qu’une Europe organisée et vivante peut apporter à la civilisation est indispensable au maintien de relations pacifiques ;
Consciente que l’Europe ne se construira que par des réalisations concrètes créant d’abord une solidarité de fait, et par l’établissement de bases communes de développement économique;
Soucieux de concourir par l’expansion de leurs productions fondamentales au relèvement du niveau de vie et au progrès des œuvres de paix ;
Résolves à substituer aux rivalités séculaires une fusion de leur intérêts essentiels, à fonder par l’instauration d’une communauté économique les premiers assises d’une communauté plus large et plus profonde entre des peuples longtemps opposes par des divisons sanglantes, et à jeter les bases d’institutions capables d’orienter un destin désormais partage;
… ˝ [original text here]
I highlighted some pieces of this text because they are important – under the cover of well written words are ideas that have transcended through time. Organized and “alive”, solidarity de facto and common basis for economic development, raising the standard of living and most important replacing secular rivalries with a fusion of common interests – the key elements of a united and unitary Europe are here.
Today these things have a very different meaning, and sometimes I think we managed to lose sight of the goal, while trying to figure it all out, even when not needed. I already hear complaints that we are going down a path that threatens our way of life, in favor of a more regulated lifestyle as in the US.
And nobody seems to remember the things set forth in this document that dates back 51 years ago. We got lost in bureaucracy and a certain Brussels wooden tongue that overcomplicates matters for everyone. Regaining our clarity in action is essential, especially now when Europe is plagued by economic conflict and budget closed-doors wars.
The text continues to be outspokenly federalist, when three paragraphs down from where we left off lies the following:
“En signant le Traite qui institue la Communauté Européenne du Charbon et de l’Acier, communauté de 160 millions d’habitants européens, les parties contractantes ont marqué leur résolution de créer la première institution supranationale et de fonder ainsi les assises réelles d’une Europe organisée.
Cette Europe est ouverte à tous les pays européens libres de leur choix. Nous espérons fermement que d’autres pays s’associeront à notre effort.˝
This resolution is so primarily Federal, that no comment is needed. Sure, there have been those who have sought to minimize its importance over the years, starting with De Gaulle all the way back in 1951. But the idea has lived on, and the European project has moved forward.
Today is marked by controversy – to go forward, and which way forward. Europe is once more divided. Consensus has not been yet reached. The question of national interest, in the common frame of the EU, has risen at an alarming rate in the last year. More and more issues that have nothing to do with Europe are being involved and used as pressure points in EU negotiations. Have we lost the path set in front of us by our forefathers? Have we forgotten their project?
Schuman in his now famous 1950 speech, dubbed The Schuman Declaration delivered on the 9th of May (ring any bells?) set forth this dream. Some aspects of the Declaration have since become obsolete, but the “step by step” process to unify Europe, Western and Eastern is not yet complete. And in order to complete it, we need to move forward.
Back in 1951 they were out of a terrible war and at the doorstep of the Cold War. Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech in 1946 highlighted the gloom that had come over Europe. Schuman’s Declaration showed the world that the sun still shines in Europe.
They left us with a purpose. With a goal. It’s time to push forward.