In 1950, the nations of Europe were still struggling to overcome the devastation wrought by World War II, which had ended 5 years earlier. Determined to prevent another such terrible war, European governments concluded that pooling coal and steel production would — in the words of the Declaration — make war between historic rivals France and Germany “not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible.”

 

 

The Schuman Declaration was presented by French foreign minister Robert Schuman on May 9, 1950 in which he promised, “The pooling of coal and steel production… 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”.

 

Schuman said: “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 organization 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,” he said.

 

‘Part-Time Europeans’

 

Sixty-six years on, the “federation of Europe” looks a great deal less unified than he imagined. Trust in the main institutions — the Council, Parliament and Commission — is dropping away, the migrant crisis has shattered the Schengen borderless Europe idea and the Greek bailout crisis has plunged the Eurozone into crisis.

 

Apart from the UK — which is holding an In-Out referendum on its membership of the EU —  there are calls in other countries, including France and the Netherlands, for referendums on their memberships.

 

Speaking at the State of the Union debate in Rome on May 5, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker admitted: “In former times, we were working together, I remember the highly exciting period when we were preparing the Maastricht Treaty and when, step by step, we were moving into the direction of the single currency.

 

“Of course we had our debates. But nevertheless, there was this shared sentiment among the Finance Ministers — and later on the Prime Ministers — that we were in charge of a big piece of History. This has totally gone. The other day I was saying that we have full-time Europeans when it comes to taking, and we have part-time Europeans when it comes to giving. In former times, all those implied in the project were full-time Europeans. Now we have too many part-time Europeans,” he said.

 

 

 

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