The declaration of 9th May 1950 by the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman is the foundation of the European integration.
It was a proposal to Germany and other interested countries to create a common independent authority responsible for managing the French and German production of coal and steel.
Iron and coal mines are on the borders between France and Germany and they have been the reason for many wars between the two countries. Moreover, the two natural resources were -at the time- the very grounding of a prosperous economy. For this reason, what may appear as a mere economic agreement was in fact intended to preserve peace and foster prosperity.
The proposal, inspired by Jean Monnet, suggested that the classic diplomatic way to manage intergovernmental relation could be overcome by a new method: a conferral of powers to an independent authority able to bind with its decision the member states. The European Coal and Steel Community had from the very beginning a Court of Justice, whose decisions were binding, and a Parliamentary Assembly. The proposal was accepted by Germany, Belgium, Holland, Italy, and Luxembourg.
The vision was already clear in the Schuman’s declaration:
“World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it.
The contribution which an organised and living Europe can bring to civilisation is indispensable to the maintenance of peaceful relations. In taking upon herself for more than 20 years the role of champion of a united Europe, France has always had as her essential aim the service of peace. A united Europe was not achieved and we had war.
Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity. The coming together of the nations of Europe requires the elimination of the age-old opposition of France and Germany. Any action taken must in the first place concern these two countries.
With this aim in view, the French Government proposes that action be taken immediately on one limited but decisive point :
It proposes 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.
The pooling of coal and steel production should immediately provide for the setting up of common foundations for economic development as a first step in the federation of Europe, and will change the destinies of those regions which have long been devoted to the manufacture of munitions of war, of which they have been the most constant victims.
The solidarity in production thus established will make it plain that any war between France and Germany becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible. The setting up of this powerful productive unit, open to all countries willing to take part and bound ultimately to provide all the member countries with the basic elements of industrial production on the same terms, will lay a true foundation for their economic unification.
This production will be offered to the world as a whole without distinction or exception, with the aim of contributing to raising living standards and to promoting peaceful achievements. With increased resources Europe will be able to pursue the achievement of one of its essential tasks, namely, the development of the African continent.
In this way, there will be realised simply and speedily that fusion of interest which is indispensable to the establishment of a common economic system; it may be the leaven from which may grow a wider and deeper community between countries long opposed to one another by sanguinary divisions.
By pooling basic production and by instituting a new High Authority, whose decisions will bind France, Germany and other member countries, this proposal will lead to the realisation of the first concrete foundation of a European federation indispensable to the preservation of peace. (…)”
What we define as supranational, is the original approach to problems whose dimension is just out of reach for single states, it radically differs from the international approach as it creates an authority and a will over the states, subject to the rule of law.
We have to thank Jean Monnet for the elaboration and first experimentations of this conceptual model, but the political courage of Robert Schuman was the necessary ingredient to make it a reality. The prompt acceptance by Konrad Adenauer and Alcide De Gasperi allowed this proposal to become a shared political project.
The brave campaigns by the European Federalists, after the impetus by Altiero Spinelli, founder of this political movement and author of the Ventotene Manifesto made the project evolve over time, to meet expectations of integration and democracy.
A tribute to all our founding fathers. For many of us, your message is still alive.