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The Schuman Declaration

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The Schuman Declaration was proposed and declared by the then Foreign minister for France, Robert Schuman, in May 1950. It led to the formation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the predecessor to the European Union (EU). The main aim was to create organization and economic links between European countries with an overall objective of fostering peace and diplomatic relations.

The Schuman Declaration not only fostered peace but also ruled out the eventuality of war among European nations.  As Gowland states, war was ‘not only unthinkable, but (also) materially impossible. Europe, having experienced the Second World War, was keen to redevelop and revamp its institutions in order to ensure prosperity. If any rapid economic growth was to be achieved, there was a need to obtain coal and steel cheaply and easily from neighboring countries. Most of these resources were already available in Germany, a country that distrusted its fellow European countries for the chief reason that they were in opposition during the War. The European Coal and Steel Community ensured that Germany was recognized as an equal trading partner across Europe. An irrevocable tie was thus created via a supranational union.

Describe the general international situation at the time of the Schuman Declaration. 

Europe had just experienced the Second World War and there was great distrust among European nations, more so between Germany and the rest of the European nations. The two World Wars had almost split the continent apart and had seen a lot of bloodshed, financial losses and widespread destruction on both sides. In addition, there were fears about the possible emergence of a Third World War due to the escalating Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. Hence, there was a need to come up with a supranational community that would create sufficient momentum for the European nations to gel as partners in order to withstand any looming crises.

On the other hand, Germany recognized that the French distrusted them deeply and they feared the return of German nationalism. Chancellor Adenaur, the then German Chancellor, understood these difficulties. He shrewdly adopted the plan in order to advance Western Germany’s desire for equality and sovereignty without raising suspicion. Through regional integration, Germany would be accepted as an equal member, therefore facilitating its reconstruction and rehabilitation.

Explain what Schuman meant when he said: 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 pace concern these two countries.

The Second World War had led to a division between the then European superpowers. After Germany was defeated by the Allied forces and the war came to an end, Europe was in need of reconstruction.  For these to successfully take place, age-old enmity and mistrust had to be laid aside. The success of the Schuman Plan was heavily dependent on this. In addition, for the plan to be accepted internationally, three key actors needed to approve of the document: Germany, France and the United States. Although the United States was a major economic powerhouse and a world superpower that could not be ignored, the approval of the Schuman Declaration lay at the hands of the French and the Germans. Whereas it granted the Germans a means to re-establish their credentials across Europe and a viable method via which it could abolish all domestic and foreign policy controls, it availed a means through which  the French could stamp their authority as an European power in addition to gaining protection from Germany, as was traditionally the case. Therefore, the Schuman Declaration overturned previous French concepts. Instead of fighting in order to gain control over an enemy, the Declaration availed a means via which both nations would treat each other as equals.

What community was set up because of this Declaration and how was it run?

The Schuman Declaration proposes that all coal and steel produced by France and Germany be placed under a ‘higher authority.’  The production, distribution and marketing of these vital elements would be placed under the jurisdiction of this body and would be independent of the state’s governments. The higher authority was the precursor to the formation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). The Schuman Declaration was open for other European countries to join. Hence, in April 1951, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Belgium signed a treaty that led to the inception of the community.

The ECSC was created under the treaty of Paris and run by a higher authority. Checks were performed by bodies elected by member states, Members of Parliament from the member states and the Court of Justice. The higher authority was an independent, executive and supranational body that was charged with the responsibility of drafting and overseeing policies within the jurisdiction of the ECSC. Its headquarters were located in Luxembourg.  

What were the objectives of this community? (as described in this declaration)

The objectives of the ECSC can be derived from the Schuman Declaration. First, the declaration marked the onset of a unified Europe. Struggling to re-build various institutions, the community availed a means via which countries would quickly regain their status before the war. Secondly, the community aimed at fostering world peace and eliminating any eventualities of war between member states. This ensured that there would be no Third World War or inter-state wars. Thirdly, it created a common market across member countries. Raw materials produced in one country could be easily sold to a member state. Therefore, it lifted trade barriers. For instance, the rapid revitalization of the steel and coal sector led to the rapid economic expansion among member states. Finally, it led to a step-by-step redevelopment strategy that fostered democracy. Notably, the ECSC led to the dissolution of the Iron Curtain which existed between Eastern and Western Europe. This not only widened the market for European communities but also led to deeper diplomatic ties amongst member nations.


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