Sunday, 22 January 2012

History of European Integration I:
A short account of the European Community of Coal and Steel

It’s EU time. Over the next couple of weeks, I will post short texts on different aspects of the European Union. They were all part of some small assignments that I wrote in December. Please be aware of the sources, quote correctly, including from ‘my own’ texts. And if you have questions, just comment on the post. Most of all: Enjoy. You might learn something :)

We start of with, well, the first treaty.

The European Community of Coal and Steel was established by the Treaty of Paris, which was signed in 1951 and entered into force in 1952. The signatory countries were Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and The Netherlands. 1 It came about in the aftermath of World War II, which had left the European continent and the European people split between hope for a more peaceful future and a state of fear of another devastating conflict. Armed conflict requires weapons, and at the time, a country’s ability to produce weapons depended especially on two factors: Access to coal and access to steel. 2

This is why France’s Foreign Minister, Robert Schuman, came up with a proposal to put the production of both these resources under a common ‘High Authority’ 3, instead of keeping the control of the production nationalised. Schuman presented his idea in a declaration on 9 May 1950. To this day, 9 May is celebrated in European circles as ‘Europe Day’, marking the very beginnings of what has since become a tight and binding co-operation between 27 European countries so far.

The European Community of Coal and Steel was an indirect success. During the first couple of decades of its existence, coal production in the member states went down, and the increase in steel production was nowhere as strong as in for example Japan or the Soviet Union. However, trade between the member states was strengthened, and the European Community of Coal and Steel proved to be the first step in a common market, which kept growing both in terms of trade areas and geographically. Moreover, a series of welfare measures for mine workers marked the first steps of a new integrated solidarity between member states. But most importantly, peace was kept in Europe. 4

The Treaty of Paris expired in 2002 and, meanwhile having been integrated into the Maastricht Treaty and subsequent European Union treaties, it was not renewed.

by Bjørn Clasen, 2011

1 The Europa website: Summaries of EU legislation — Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community, ECSC Treaty
2 Hartmut Marhold: History of European Integration, — Jean Monnet’s Plan, origins and circumstances (Course text for the participants of the Certificate and first year of the Master programme of the Centre international de formation européenne)
3 The Schuman Declaration
4 The history of the ECSC: Good times and bad, by Gilbert Mathieu (Le Monde, 9 May 1970)

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