Robert Schuman: Father of Europe

Robert Schuman: Father of Europe

Robert Schuman was European, before there was any institution or organisation representing the continent as a whole. Robert was a representation of the continent. Born in Luxembourg, with his father from an area that was first French and then, due to the annexation of Alsace–Lorraine, German. While he was a native Luxembourgish, his political life was only in France firstly by becoming active in regional politics, in which he strived for regional law to be harmonized with the national law, which got the name ‘Lex Schuman’. In the Second World War, he was saved from the concentration camp due to an intervention by a German lawyer.

After the war, Schuman became finance minister and one year later he became the French Prime Minister for period of two years. The Prime ministership was followed by the post of Foreign Minister from 1948 until 1953. In his various capacities in French politics, Mr. Schuman was involved in the creation of the Council of Europe[1], the Marshall Plan[2] and the North-Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

In preparation of European integration and the fulfilment of ‘never war again’. Jean Monnet as commissioner of the French Plan Commission made a draft version for a declaration on pooling the coal and steel production of West-Germany and France under an overarching governing body, which would, also, be open for other European countries to join. In the morning of 9 May, at the end of the Council of Ministers in France, Schuman points out: ‘I want to propose a plan for pooling the German and French coal and steel together. The other ministers weren’t specifically interested about coal and steel and his plan. They generally thought: ‘whatever’. For Robert Schuman, the proposal had to be concrete and clear, then not many people would be bothered by it, and thus not politically sensitive. Two days before the Council of Ministers, Schuman writes to the West-German chancellor, Konrad Adenauer about his idea. Adenauer reacts positively to Schuman’s proposal, ‘if you make this happen, we are joining’. He felt that Germany would be treated as equal to France again and recognised as such.   

On the 9th of May 1950, Schuman, as French Foreign Minister, presented the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, which became known as the Schuman Declaration. Coal and steel because this are the raw materials needed for warfare, by binding the production together with Germany, controlled and monitored by a supranational[3] High Authority. And thus, making it practically impossible to fight a war again between the members. The creation of the community was embraced by West-German chancellor Konrad Adenauer, Italy, and the BENELUX[4] countries, making these five countries (thus, including France and West-Germany) the founding members of the modern-day European Union. Therefore, the 9th of May is today Europe day, also named Schuman day. The Schuman Declaration is pinpointed as the first step in post-war European integration. Even when ideas of a United States of Europe or European integration was shared well before 1950.[5]

The ECSC was established by the entry into force of the Treaty of Paris, which later accumulated into the European Economic Community, then the European Community and then into the European Union. Pooling the coal and steel production together shows to this day that the cornerstone and main pillar of the European Union is “no war again”[6] A prevention of war on the European continent.

The Declaration was not intended to be the end of European integration, it was just a first step into a gradually process of integration.[7]Schritt für Schritt’ (‘step by step’) as Angela Merkel would say, is inherent into the European system. Olli Rehn, European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Union and the Euro, wrote in his book on the Eurocrisis, “muddling through may prevent you from tumbling down.”[8] This functional conservative and comprised-based on mainly technical achievements was from the beginning part of the European continent. The story of Robert Schuman, his ideas and vision on Europe are inherent into today’s Union. A similar approach on working on apolitical technocratic tasks and concrete achievement is embedded into the decision-making process of the Union and its culture in Brussels.

On 4 September 1963 in Scy-Chazelles, France, the father of European integration passed away. Robert Schuman’s life was from the beginning until the end in Europe and about Europe  

[1] An intergovernmental organisation in Europe, primarily concerned with Human Rights. The well-known European Convention on Human Rights was agreed upon under the auspices of the Council.

[2] Plan initiated by US General Marshall set up in 1948 to provide foreign aid to Western Europe, officially called ‘European Recovery Plan’.

[3] Meaning, above national level

[4] Includes the countries: Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg

[5] Julius Brainthal, ‘a plea for the United States of Europe, in 1943. &

Conférence de Geneve des résistants, Déclaraction II en faveur dúne fédération européenne, 20 may 1944

[6] Caroline de Gruyter, ‘Never Again’ is still the essence of the EU’ (EUObserver, 8 March 2022)  <> accessed on 14 Mar. 22

[7] European Union, ‘Schuman Declaration May 1950’ <> accessed on 14 March 2022

[8] Olli Rehn, ‘Walking the highwire, Rebalancing the European Economy in Crisis’ (Palgrave Macmillan, 1st edn. ‎ 2020) 28

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