It is good and just that the European Union and her member Countries, together with Europeanist movements, will celebrate the anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, ratified on March 25 1957. It is equally important to seize this occasion as an opportunity to reflect and discern on the future of European unification, while waiting for the debate on the integration process of the past 60 years to prompt the recovery of consensus, tragically lost during the hastened enlargement of the EU at the turn of the Millennium, as a result of the refugee crisis and, more recently, of growing nationalistic and populist movements. But it’s regrettable that declarations and official stands, along with articles and contributions on media outlets, while focusing on the date of the adoption of the Treaties of Rome overlook a substantial part of the history of reconciliation and unification of Europe, namely the creation and synergy of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), established five years before the Treaties of Rome.
It isn’t only a matter of paying tribute to the historical truth.
In fact without the ECSC and its underlying reasons it would be hard to make sense of the European Economic Community (EEC) established by the Treaty of Rome. Moreover, its full historical bearing would fail to be appreciated, along with its ethical dimension. Moreover, Europe’s union, its institutionalized integration, didn’t begin with the Treaty of Rome – as is being widely claimed. Its full thrust and determination were ushered in with the Declaration of the French Foreign Minister Robert Schumann on May 9 1950, followed by the ECSC established by the Treaty of Paris on April 18 1951. That Declaration enshrines all the fundamental reasons to embark on the initiative we now call European Union. Inasmuch as it was the “first step of the European Federation”, such initiative should have been ushered in immediately by the ECSC on “one limited but decisive and starting point.”
First and foremost it should have secured long-lasting peace, reconciling neighbouring European countries, notably Germany and France, through concrete cooperation that would have required “de facto solidarity.”
It equally entailed “setting up common foundations for economic development” that would have thrived by pooling coal and steel production. This was also meant to ensure that any war involving Germany and France, or any of the other member Countries, would have been “not only unthinkable but materially impossible.” Ensuring peace, cooperation and solidarity, building common grounds coordinated by a common administration, were the fundamental requisites that European peoples – a few years after the war that had destroyed Europe’s cities and regions – were called to put into place to ensure Europe’s reconstruction and the reconciliation of its peoples. The Schuman Declaration inspired by Jean Monnet contains the surprising statement whereby “the development of the African continent” was to be “one of Europe’s essential tasks.” In the light of our present circumstances marked by high migratory pressure, which is expected to continue, that exhortation today almost seems prophetical. It is quite evident that on this point Europe has not assumed her full responsibility yet. In fact she devoted little effort to Africa and failed to invest as much as she should have.
Those were the policy guidelines with which Robert Schuman showed the way of the unification ushered in by the Declaration.
The establishment of the ECSC was the first form of institutional and procedural organization of the Union among States that had accepted to be a part of that process: France, Italy, The Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. In the European institutions that today determine the political life of the Union we still recognize the bodies acting as the pillars of the European Communities – first the Community of Coal and Steel, followed by the Economic Community and the Atomic Energy Community – since the establishment of the ECSC in 1952, until, in 1967 they came together as one and the European Communities became the European Community, which, in 1992, with the Treaty of Maastricht, became the European Union.