end of the war to Schuman Declaration (1945-1950)
Europe had to witness a second
catastrophe, World War II (1939-1945), so that it fully becomes aware of the suicidal absurdity
that nationalist rivalry had led the continent to. The necessity of some type of European integration
in a new way to reorder the European political map became evident.
Three realities evinced the
necessity of this new orientation towards the European integration:
Firstly, the Europeans'
awareness of their own weakness. Second World War had
put a definitive end to the traditional European hegemony in the world. The
two new superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, had a very
superior economic, political and military might than the heterogeneous
group of European States.
conviction that it was necessary to avoid, by all possible means, coming
a confrontation among European States. The two world wars had begun as
European civil wars and our continent had been the main battle field in both.
Essentially, it was a question of searching an accommodation between France and
Germany. A compromise that would be endorsed by the USA. The European
integration will paved the way to
Thirdly, the extended
desire among many Europeans to create a freer, fairer and more prosperous
continent in which the international relationships were developed in a
framework of concord.
In 1946, the former British Prime
Churchill pronounced a celebrated speech at Zurich University (Switzerland).
It was considered by many people as the first step towards European integration
in the postwar period.
wish to speak to you today about the tragedy of Europe. (...) Yet
all the while there is a remedy which, if it were generally and spontaneously
adopted by the great majority of people in many lands, would as if by a
miracle transform the whole scene, and would in a few years make all Europe,
or the greater part of it, as free and as happy as Switzerland is today. What
is this sovereign remedy? It is to recreate the European Family, or as much
of it as we can, and to provide it with a structure under which it can dwell
in peace, in safety and in freedom. We must build a kind of United States of
Europe. (...) The first step in the recreation of the European Family must be
a partnership between France and Germany."
Speech at Zurich University
19th September 1946
The United States, unlike after First World
War, didn't opt for isolation and assumed its responsibility as the first world power
by adopting a policy based on resolved intervention in European matters.
The American government was
convinced that obstacles to free trade, spread after
the 1929 slump and risen to its maximum expression in the
Nazi and Fascist autarchy, had been largely responsible of the
international tensions that led to the Second World War. The implementation of a
free trade policy became a basic condition for any country to receive the
so desired American economic aid.
Moreover, in that time the world
witnessed the beginning of Cold War. The United States, applying the denominated
Truman Doctrine to curb the expansion of communism and of the
Soviet Union, launched the Marshall Plan to alleviate the
difficulties of European countries. It was to foster economic development in
Europe with the political objective of impeding the extension of the communism.
The Marshall Plan
The USA promoted the foundation of a centralised European organization
that administered and organised the delivery of the massive economic help of the
Plan Marshall. In 1948, the Organisation for
European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) was established with this aim. This was one of the first
institutions that involved a great part of Western European countries. OEEC helped
to liberalise the trade among the member States, introduced ideas in favour of monetary
In 1949, following again an American initiative, most of
Western European democratic States founded, alongside the USA and Canada, the NATO, the great
Western military alliance confronted with the Soviet Union.
One year before, in 1948, the Benelux
(Customs Union between Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) had started
introducing a common external tariff. This Union had
been created in 1944, before the end of the Second World War.
The setting up of the Council of Europe, in
1949, meant another major step forward. The Council tried to incite political cooperation among
European countries. However, its statutes did not claim as an objective neither the
union, nor the federation of States, and no sort of surrender of sovereignty is expected from the member States. Their main
function has been to reinforce the democratic system and the human rights in the
From Schuman Declaration to the
Treaty of Rome (1950-1957)
The first step in the process of
the European Community was given by the French Foreign Minister, Robert
Schuman. In a speech inspired by Jean Monnet, Schuman proposed that France
and Germany and any other European country wishing to join them pool their coal
and steel resources. This plan of economic integration looked for developing
the approach between France and Germany, moving definitively away the haunt of war
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 (...)"
9th May 1950
That same year, the French
government proposed the establishment of an European Defence Community (EDC). This
project was aborted in 1954, when the French Legislative Assembly vetoed its application. The
EDC, that implied a strong military and political
integration, was substituted by the Western
European Union (WEU). Since NATO
overlap, it has had a minor role in European defence.
In spite of this mishap, the
integration process went on. The Treaty of Paris was signed in April of 1951,
establishing the European Coal and Steel Community
(ECSC). The common High Authority common
was presided by Jean Monnet. The Six:
France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Low Countries and Luxemburg
made up this first European Community.
It was evident that economic
integration was the only practical way toward a political union that should be
achieved after a
long time. The failure of the EDC had demonstrated that political and
military union was still an utopian objective.
The foreign ministers of the Six,
presided over by the Belgian Paul Henri Spaak,
met in a Conference in Messina (Italy) in 1955. The agreements they reached
there meant a definitive step in the European construction: the 25th March 1957,
the Six signed the Treaties of
Rome, establishing the European
Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community