Written by EPRS Historical Archives
‘World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it’. These words, pronounced by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman on 9 May 1950, illustrate the underlying message of the Schuman Declaration, in a Europe left ravaged by two world wars and determined to avoid further conflict through integration and cooperation. These efforts laid the foundations for the European Union.
In the declaration of 9 May, the French Government proposed 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´. A year later, six neighbouring countries (Belgium, Italy, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany) signed the Treaty of Paris, which established the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and created a common market for these goods in these countries. Through the ECSC, the European leaders hoped to foster both peace and economic stability. Article 7 of the Treaty of Paris set up a an executive known as the ‘High Authority’, a Council of Ministers, a Court of Justice, a Consultative Committee and a Parliamentary Assembly, predecessor of the European Parliament.
The Schuman Declaration can therefore be considered as the starting point of European integration, which would be developed step by step through concrete achievements.
Not every attempt was successful. In the mid-1950s, the European Political Community project was rejected after the National Assembly in France voted against the proposed European Defence Community. Following this failure, the Messina Conference held in 1955, which brought together the foreign ministers of the six founding countries of the European Coal and Steel Community, provided a new momentum for the European integration process and laid the path to the Rome Treaties.
On 25 March 1957, the six member countries of the ECSC came together to sign the Rome Treaties, ´determined to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe´, and in doing so, created the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom).This year marks the 60th anniversary since the Rome Treaties were signed. These treaties were a cornerstone in the creation of the EU, ´with the core values of peace, democracy, culture, security, prosperity and the rights to live, study, work and move freely in Europe´ stemming from it.
To find out more about the development of the European Union, visit or view the exhibition on the Rome Treaties created by the Historical Archives of the European Union, the European Parliament, the Archives of the Council of the European Union, and the European Commission. The exhibition is split into five themes, and covers the vast history of the EU in all its aspects. The full exhibition is available online at https://rometreaties.eu/.
See also: ‘The European Parliament: 50 years ago‘ (PDF).