Carlos Uriarte Sánchez
Secretary General of Paneuropa Spain and professor of law at the URJC
In the period between the wars, Count Ricardo Coudenhove-Kalergi wrote the work “Paneuropa” in which he already defended the construction of the so-called United States of Europe. In 1926, the first Pan-European Congress was held in Vienna. The Second World War would cause the project to be interrupted for a few years. The pan-European movement would continue to defend the same principles inspired by its founder by his successor Otto of Habsburg in the fight against Nazism and Communism and the construction of a united Europe based on principles and values.
On 9 May 1950, a Lorraine law graduate, the French foreign minister Robert Schuman made a historic declaration which is considered to be the birth certificate of the European Union. It will be Schuman himself who says: “my political philosophy is realism without ideology”. Therefore, he would soon set out to involve others in such a noble task; a mayor of Cologne, Konrad Adenauer, who would be persecuted by the Nazis and who was known as Der Alte’ (The Old Man), and an Italian who, pushed by historical circumstances, began his political career in the Viennese parliament, Alcide de Gásperi. Schuman knew that he would not achieve his goal alone. All three were men of his time who knew how to anticipate the future.
After the Second World War the old dream of a united and reconciled Europe became an urgency, and so necessity became a virtue. It was in 1946 that the three politicians, all of whom were Christian Democrats, began to draw up a plan with the aim of laying solid foundations for a peaceful Europe. This Declaration sought not to repeat the mistakes of the Treaty of Versailles and called on France and Germany to overcome their historical rivalry by leading the construction of Europe; but how would this be done: through a mechanism of “concrete achievements, which first create a de facto solidarity”. In this sense, he proposed “to submit the whole of French-German coal and steel production to a common High Authority”, which would be the first stage of a much longer and more ambitious process aimed at federation. This cooperation would lead to the creation of an organisation open to other European countries, with a customs union, a production unit, and the creation of the ECSC (the Economic Community of Coal and Steel) in Paris in 1951. At first, the economy was put at the centre, but the project had a much deeper background: to achieve a strengthening of peace and concord in the continent through cooperation between the different European states.
The Schuman Declaration is more topical today than ever before if we bear in mind statements such as: “World peace cannot be safeguarded without creative efforts equal to the dangers that threaten it. The contribution that an organised and living Europe can make to civilisation is indispensable for the maintenance of peaceful relations’.
In the text of the Schuman Declaration, the seeds of the main policies that have subsequently been taken up by the Union are laid down, namely a policy aimed at development cooperation in other parts of the world, when it speaks of one of the essential tasks being “the development of the African continent”; “(…) when it speaks of modernising production and improving quality (…)”, it reminds us of all the research, development and innovation programmes financed by the Union; “the supply, on equal terms, of coal and steel”, reminding us of European competition policy, the ban on monopolies and so-called state aid; “the development of common exports to other countries’, such as the current common commercial policy; the creation of a conversion fund to facilitate the rationalisation of production’, which reminds us to some extent of special funds for conversion and times of crisis; the release of any customs duties and the impossibility of being affected by differential transport tariffs’, which will serve as the seed for the creation of a customs union; and therefore also the precedent of the current internal market. And so we could continue to draw more parallels. In short, in a prophetic way, it will establish, through the pooling of coal and steel production, the foundations of the current European Union.
Today, the threats facing Europe and the globalised world as a whole are not only of peace, but also of health, caused by the Covid-19, but also unprecedented economic and social ones; dangers that can undoubtedly contribute to global destabilisation also in terms of security and therefore enjoyment of peace. Faced with a situation such as this, it is more necessary than ever for the European Union to work in a coordinated and united fashion to confront these new challenges that we will have to face in the coming years. A Europe, which has changed and which is no longer the one that was born in 1957 with the Treaty of Rome, made up of 6 States, but a European Union made up of 27 Member States which other European countries want to join.
The current crisis has shown us that, despite the fact that the European Union has a complex and slow decision-making process, it has taken decisions to provide a coordinated response to the crisis (for example, coordinating the purchase of healthcare equipment, the repatriation of European citizens to their countries, etc.), as well as economic decisions aimed at alleviating the economic and social effects and focused on reconstruction. It has also shown solidarity by creating special funds to support other regions of the world in the fight against Covid-19, such as the special fund for the Western Balkans.
The fact is that the European project, whose foundations began to be woven together on 9 May 1950, has not only proved to be more necessary than ever, but also, if it did not exist, it would have to be invented.
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