May 9, Europe Day!
There is no birth certificate for Europe, strictly speaking. The choice of a date is always symbolic.
During the interwar period, Aristide Briand may be considered a founding father of Europe, an advocate of peace. He was the first to work with Gustav Stresemann for Franco-German rapprochement. But the beautiful idea of a federal Europe, expressed in 1929, remains without follow-up. The economic crisis and the Second World War sounded the death knell for the project.
Several dates could have been chosen. However, May 9, 1950 is the obvious choice. Why? Through the faith and energy of one man, Robert Schuman, the declaration of 9 May 1950 marks the first concrete achievement of the European Community. It was to create a Coal and Steel Community (C.E.C.A.), better known as the Schuman Plan.
Robert Schuman is not a dogmatic man: he never developed a European plan. It is little by little that a European vision is emerging, in the light of experience and reflection. It was in the spring of 1951 that the negotiations leading to the creation of the ECSC came to an end. Schuman then explained the reasons for the birth of Europe: "We must build a unified Europe in which the solidarity of nations must prevail over outdated nationalism". Cooperation is also imposed by means of transport, industrial concentration and technical specialisation. In addition to these economic imperatives there is another, no less essential priority: to find a solution to the German problem. Robert Schuman was the architect of the rapprochement with Germany.
A ready-made European structure cannot suit an experienced man like Schuman. That is why he advocates limited and concrete plans, but without losing sight of the guiding idea, the initial ideal. Implementing a Europe of peace:
For Peace to really have a chance, there must first be a Europe. Five years, almost to today, after the unconditional surrender of Germany, France accomplished the first decisive act in the construction of Europe and included Germany in it (...) Europe will be born from all this, a solidly united and strongly structured Europe;
(Opening statement by Robert Schuman, 9 May 1950)
World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it.
(Declaration of 9 May 1950)
This Europe of tangible, economic achievements is often opposed to a less assertive political Europe. Yet, from the very origins of the European project, Robert Schuman has insisted on the importance for Europe of rebuilding its identity:
Divided Europe has failed to give the contemporary world the spiritual message it needs. (...) Europe will rebuild its soul in the diversity of its qualities and aspirations (...) The unity of Europe will not be achieved mainly through European institutions; this will only be possible as the minds of people move forward. Hence the importance of the free circulation of ideas and people between European countries;
(Robert Schuman, 1955)
The key aspects of Robert Schuman's diplomatic action are a precious legacy, to be kept in mind: Franco-German reconciliation, the European Union prefigured by the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, the Atlantic solidarity enshrined in the conclusion of the Atlantic Pact (1949).
On 9 May, we celebrate one of the most important dates of the birth of Europe, of a Europe that acts for peace and solidarity between nations.
This article was originally published on the Democratic Movement's website