Europe Day

How European Integration Got Started

by Hartmut Marhold (Author)
©2022 Monographs 158 Pages


One might be forgiven for thinking that the founding of The European Union is not
exactly the stu that myths are made of? Not at all, for here it comes – though it is
not a myth, but a real story that only sounds like a myth: The 9th of May 1950 was the
day when the destiny of European integration (began to take) took shape, with the
declaration by the French foreign Minister Robert Schuman, aiming at the creation of
a European Coal and Steel Community. One can retrace the events of these historical
moments day by day, sometimes hour by hour, the main actors emerging with highly
animated proles, the tension mounting to thrilling heights – but nally the solution
is found! And this solution is, as much as it seems pragmatic, nothing less than
revolutionary: It is – to use the words of the French foreign minister himself! – the
rst “breach into national sovereignty”. The political system of the EU can be traced
directly back to this initial moment.
Once the story of the 9th of May 1950 is told, one can contemplate it from dierent
angles and learn a lot: What about the relationship between the external pressure
of the Allies on France, in order to prepare for a common defense line of the Western
bloc – and the intra-European, Franco-German desire to overcome their old conicts
and reach a fair tradeo of interests? What about the relationship between economics
and politics – was and is European integration mainly an economic project or does
it ultimately aim at a political union? And maybe the most dicult question: Would
others have taken dierent decisions from those of Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman
and Konrad Adenauer? Could they have? And if it was their own free will to decide as
they did, what led them to do so?
This book tells the story of the 9th of May, and the days leading up to it – and reects
on the signicance of this historical moment, our “Europe Day”.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of contents
  • Part 1 People and events
  • I Jean Monnet, the inventor and his plan (14–28 April 1950)
  • II Robert Schuman – the plan enters the political stage (1 to 8 May)
  • III Europe Day
  • IV The controversy on 9 May
  • V Schuman’s speech
  • VI After 9 May
  • Part 2 Rethinking the Schuman plan
  • I Blocs versus continent? External (extra-European) and intra-European motives for integration
  • II Economics or politics? Was the launch of European integration more an economic move or was it motivated by political objectives?
  • III Management or politics? Was the European Coal and Steel Community a project for pragmatic market management or a genuine political project?
  • IV Federation or international organization? What kind of political system is the European Community/Union?
  • V Interests or values? Was European integration more marked by shared values or was it about balancing interests?
  • VI Structures and people “Were structural constraints or the free choice of individuals decisive for the path towards European integration?”
  • Conclusions European integration then and now

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I Jean Monnet, the inventor and his plan (14–28 April 1950)

Paris, East-Station, in a hurry …

Friday afternoon, 28 April 1950. At the Gare de l’Est in Paris, the crowd pushes on the platforms. They want to leave the city, spend the weekend at home. There were already many commuters at the time, in particular here in Paris – “Paris and the French Desert” is the title of a bestseller, which denounced, three years before, the extent to which the whole of France was designed to serve Paris, how the capital devoured all available resources, how the “province” was neglected. And there were not yet so many individual cars. The Parisian dead-end stations distributed the commuters to all directions towards home: From the Gare de l’Est, the trains left heading to Reims and beyond, to Lorraine, its capital Metz and further on.1

The train to Metz is finally ready for boarding, many passengers push each other into the overcrowded coaches. At the same moment a man arrives on the platform, hastily, middle-aged, very correctly clothed, a briefcase under his arm, apparently in a hurry; he looks around, searching for somebody about to leave with this train, does not find him on the platform, gets more and more stressed, boards the train himself – and finally finds the one he was so urgently looking for. In a great haste, he hands the briefcase over to the other man, urging him: “Please read this during the weekend! It is really important and could be the solution for all our problems!” Then he has just the time to leave, the train is set in motion, the traveler is on the way home with the dossier at his disposal.2

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Who was the man on the platform? Who was the traveler? The hurrying searcher was Bernard Clappier, Chef de cabinet of the Foreign Minister, a high-ranking civil servant of the French Foreign Ministry, the ‘Quay d’Orsay’, as this prestigious seat of the French diplomacy is named after its location on the banks of the Seine river. And the man in the train was nobody else than the Minister himself, Robert Schuman, who usually took the train, modestly, as other commuters did, to get back to his hometown, Metz, and continued with a public bus to the small village at the outskirts of Metz, with the difficult name Scy-les-Chazelles, only 4 km away from the city centre, today integrated in the urban space of the Lorraine capital.

But why was it so urgent for Clappier to reach the Minister before the weekend before he left Paris? And what was the problem, which needed a solution at any rate and immediately? And what was this solution, which was apparently outlined in the dossier?

Pressure on France: Fix the German problem!

In those days, France found itself under heavy pressure – because of Germany. There was another meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the USA, the United Kingdom and France scheduled in London, from 10 May on, for a couple of days, and is was then that the French should finally commit themselves: What should be the future the newly founded West-German state, the Federal Republic of Germany would be allowed to envisage? Five years after the end of the war, the Germans were still the enemies in the eyes of most of the French, more than this: “hereditary enemies”, that is enemies by nature, forever. The French interest was unambiguous, for many French, it could only be to hold the new West-German state down, as powerless as possible, at best even split it into its regional components, the “Länder”, avoid any centralization of German power, at least control it tightly. To that purpose, the German industrial production, in particular in the West-German industrial powerhouse, the Ruhr region, should be limited to its minimum, in order to avoid the revival of the old conflicts over raw materials and resources, and that meant at the time for the industrialized West-European states coal and steel. The Germans should not be empowered to rebuild a predominant industry, France would prove to be unable to compete with; Germany should not gain sovereignty again over ←10 | 11→the resources which would enable et to lay the ground for renewed military construction.

It was decisive under these conditions to maintain control over the Ruhr region (and the Saarland), the by far most important reservoir of German industrial power nationwide. The German production in the Ruhr region should continue to be low and limited, the production quota should be tightly controlled, the Saar could and should be integrated in the French economic space altogether. On the whole, the French politics towards Germany was not profoundly different from what it was after the First World War – the ‘solution’ for the German problem should be to hold the new state powerless via stipulations and control mechanisms. No wonder then that this Frence politics was very unpopular, no wonder that the relations between the German chancellor, 74 years old Konrad Adenauer, and his French colleague – Robert Schuman – were frosty.

That was very different from the relations, which (West-)Germany had developed, in the meantime with the United States (and, to a lesser extent, with the United Kingdom). These two other Western allies perceived the situation in an altogether different way: The war coalition had long since been broken apart, the cleavage did no longer run between the Soviet Union, the United States, the United Kingdom (and France, as a junior partner) on the one hand and Nazi-Germany on the other; it was now the “Iron Curtain”, as Winston Churchill hat dubbed the frontier between East and West. A new global antagonism had emerged, where the two new “Superpowers” were the poles, which put a spell on the whole world. The Marshall Plan in 1947, the Soviet blockade of Berlin in and the communist Putsch in Czechoslovakia in 1948, and the foundation of NATO in 1949 were milestones on the way to the formation of the “blocks”. The West war now more frightened by the potential expansionism of Soviet communism than by a revival of a Nazi movement. Therefore, the USA (and, for different motives, the United Kingdom) had encouraged and supported the creation of a west-German state; it should assume its role in the defense against Soviet imperialism, as a member of the family of Western democracies. At the end of 1949, the West-Germans had become allies, in the eyes of the Americans, allies, which should be strengthened and eventually even entrusted with new weapons, so that their force would fortify the “free world”. At any rate, the young Federal Republic should ←11 | 12→be allowed to rebuild its industry, and that would mean first of all: lift all the restrictions and controls imposed on West-Germany, those in particular which had weakened the German access to the natural resources of the Ruhr region, i.e. coal, the energy basis of nearly all industrial activity at the time. A flourishing German industry alone, even without armament, would be, in the perception of the Americans, a crucial contribution to the strengthening of the Western block, a strong asset to its resilience … and, last not least, indispensable as well for the American exports, which required a flourishing European consumer market.

… a horror scenario in the eyes of the French! That was self-evident, as well for the two Anglo-Saxon winners of the war: It was really difficult for France to align with this U-turn in their German politics. The USA and the United Kingdom, to some extent, understood the French fears vis-à-vis Germany. They were ready to let the French find a solution for the German question – but a solution had to be found, otherwise the two dominating Western powers would implement their own plan, and that would mean to liberate West-German industrial production from any constraints and in the medium term even the rearmament of the former enemy.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2022 (August)
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2022. 158 pp.

Biographical notes

Hartmut Marhold (Author)

Hartmut Marhold is Honorary Professor at the University of Cologne and Senior Research Fellow at CIFE; he teaches at the Turkish-German University in Istanbul. Hartmut specialises in the history of European Integration and German European politics and teaches the course “Emergence and Evolution of the Concept of Sustainable Development” within CIFE’s Joint Master in EU Trade and Climate Diplomacy. From 2002 until 2013, he served as Director General of CIFE.


Title: Europe Day