May 9, 1950: 70 years ago, the French Minister for Foreign Affairs Robert Schuman announced that France and German had found a deal to "pool" iron and coal resources, the cause of three wars. At the time, the iron and coal production was vital for the war industry.
9 May then became the day on which we celebrate "Europe Day", the beginning of the European integration process. The Schuman Declaration marked the end of the historical phase begun in the mid-seventeenth century, with the Peace of Westphalia. The Westphalia treaty consecrated the birth of nation-states in Europe. From then on, Europe went through a long period of war, interrupted by brief peaceful truces. The Schuman Declaration proposed a federation of states, in which each of them would maintain its sovereignty but, at the same time, all of them would have delegate certain powers to a supranational body. Robert Schuman carried out his project in the strictest confidentiality, in absolute silence, with a considerable dose of diplomatic cunning: only the German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and some of his friends, ministers of the same cabinet, were aware of his idea. Schuman's inspiration came from his homeland, Lorraine, a region that had been strongly troubled by three wars: the Franco-Prussian war, the First World War and the Second World War. Schuman understood that nationalism and totalitarianism have tragic effects and conceived the idea of putting an end to a chain of mutual claims and revenge, generated by the hypertrophy of sovereign national states.
"World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it."
The goal to be pursued is clear and noble, and Schuman's vision was not utopian or unrealisable. At least he managed to identify the path of reconciliation as the way to safeguard peace.
He said that The French government proposed to hold all Franco-German coal and steel production in common, and place it under a High Authority, within the framework of an organization to which the other European countries can adhere too.
Another fundamental objective for Schuman was to subtract the management of the of iron and coal production from individual states and entrust it to a supranational authority: the ECSC (European Coal and Steel Community).
The "Schuman Plan" immediately materialized the following 20 June with the start of further negotiations that ended on 18 April 1951. The said negotiation led the signing of the Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). The signatory countries were France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg and finally - thanks to De Gasperi's convinced determination - Italy.
"Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan: it will be formed through concrete measures which bring about a de facto solidarity".
Schuman was aware that the road to peace was characterized by concrete achievements over time, according to historical needs. This method, suggested by Schuman's collaborator Monnet, is called "pragmatic" or "functionalist". The latter was composed of some small steps: it began with the ECSC, then with the CED, the EEC and EAEC. The treaty of the CED, long dreamed of by Alcide De Gasperi, was not ratified by the French National Assembly in August 1954. As a result, the project of creating a common European army ended, although many called for it to be set up to deal with the migration problem. After the failure of the CED it was up to Paul Henry Spaak, to take a further step forward to lay the foundations for two other European communities: these last aimed at creating a common market and the development of research on atomic energy as energetic source. The history of European integration teaches us that Europe is a reality that comes about through crises and disappointments, taking "one step forward and two steps back".
At the end of the day, this is the image of Europe today: for every progress made, there is also a step backwards. European integration has moved from an initial cultural and spiritual phase to an almost exclusively economic and financial phase, seen as "soulless" and almost always driven solely by concern for economic rigour and respect for budgets. It's culture, in its multiform expression, which suggests the desire for unity, for being together, and that can never be erased by any step backwards.
In recent years it seems that EU action has moved away from the original goal of its founding fathers. Today, personal and collective behaviours are oriented differently and have changed profoundly. There is an underlying cultural involution, an individualistic closure marked by visible fear.
It is not about the fear of a foreign or terrorist state, but it is mostly the fear of the neighbour or someone else who can take away what we have. This is the real problem of politics today, namely European politics. This is how individual, territorial and national selfishness has been fuelled and has become a mirror of the fears - well-founded or not - that European politicians and citizens carry inside themselves.
We often hear about what is not working in Europe and the disadvantages of belonging to it. In particular, Italy highlights some negative aspects of the EU: its constraints, parameters to be respected, sanctions for non-compliance, and directives imposed by Brussels.
But have we ever wondered what the world would be like without the European Union? In the docu-film entitled "The Great European Disaster" by director Annalisa Piras and journalist Bill Emmott, former director of the Economist, we imagine a future without the EU. Characters are on board a plane in serious turbulence and in danger of crashing (a clear metaphor for the present times), and an elderly archaeologist tells a little girl what the European Union was and why it collapsed. The reasons are to be found in the blows inflicted by xenophobic and nationalist movements on the EU, and in the moves of a short-sighted political class incapable of dealing with major global issues such as migration, terrorism, economic crises and sustainable development. The film is deliberately dark and disaster film-like: it is basically a provocation to invite Europe to change course. The work was conceived and shot before the outcome of the referendum on Brexit and the terrorist attacks occurred in the heart of Europe, that shook its foundations deep down.
Nevertheless, what seems to be missing or what is being ignored is the awareness of how much the Union has paved the way for a future of progress and development, especially in the last few years characterised by profound changes and crises.
Today, 9 May 2020, during a global pandemic generated by Covid-19, we must rethink the future of the European Union with concrete ideas that enhance our identity. Europe essentially began as a great gamble made by some politicians and the nations led by them. In the face of the present political, economic and social crisis caused by the Second World War, they dared to aim high by formulating a challenging and visionary objective. We cannot forget this beginning and this ideal drive. In order to reaffirm the original European spirit, we must start again from education to the founding values of the Union, enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union, and not being mere spectators of evolution anymore, but acting as the real protagonists.
Written by Valeria Savino
Translated by Simona Maria Vallefuoco.
Original article: https://mondointernazionale.co... published on May 9, 2020.