Written by Clare Ferguson,
On 9 May, we celebrate Europe’s advances in peace, reconciliation, democracy and human rights. The day commemorates the Schuman Declaration, which set up the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), presented by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman in 1950. In 2016, therefore, we celebrate the 66th anniversary of the birth of the European Union.
Sixty-six years of integration, cooperation, and fruitful negotiation thus began with the creation of the ECSC, where six nation states pooled coal and steel production. Supported by an autonomous executive, a fiscal mechanism, and the capacity to contract loans and lend money, the ECSC was ahead of its time. The Declaration was followed by the Treaty establishing the European Parliamentary Assembly, of which Schuman became President in 1958, and which is now the European Parliament. Today’s European Union numbers 28 Member States who continue to pool forces, and, more importantly, 28 nation states that fight their battles in words around summit tables, rather than waging war against one another. On 9 May we celebrate that war in Europe has become, as the Declaration predicted, ‘unthinkable’.
Schuman himself saw little value in borders, and was particularly keen on forging strong ties between France, Germany and the United Kingdom. From the very beginning, the ECSC aimed to pursue the creation of single markets and the expansion of production. Schuman, a Luxembourger, was a former resistance fighter and a Vichy prisoner. His only book, ‘ For Europe ‘, demonstrates his argument that Europe should become a community of culture and a genuine democracy.
However, the world is no longer what it was. Technological advances and subsequent globalisation has changed our way of life for ever. What happens now in a far-flung place or our neighbouring country may affect many aspects of our life, from agriculture to economy, our health to our holidays, terrorist attacks to technology. The specific stresses the European Union faces today – humanitarian, economic and sovereign – find an echo in the words of the Schuman Declaration: ‘World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it.’
Schuman, now considered one of the Fathers of Europe, is also commemorated in other ways – the famous ‘Rond Point Schuman’ in Brussels, and the European Parliament’s first hemicycle in Luxembourg, with its distinctive bas-relief, among others.
Further works by Robert Schuman
Historical Archives of the European Parliament
Robert Schuman European Centre, Maison de l’Europe, Scy-Chazelles, France