EU founding ideas are still as relevant as ever
On May 9, 1950, French Foreign minister Robert Schuman proposed that Europe’s leading nations create a union to pool their coal and steel production.
Robert Schuman’s declaration began: “World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it.”
Five years after the end of World War II, Schuman’s call for an economic plan to support a peaceful Europe was applauded globally.
“The pooling of coal and steel production,” said Schuman, “will change the destinies of those regions which have long been devoted to the manufacture of munitions of war, of which they have been the most constant victims.”
France, West Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Italy were the founder members of the European Coal and Steel Community.
Over the decades that have followed, this core group has expanded to now total 28 member states in what we now know as the European Union, guided by the central authority of the European Commission, and underpinned by the European Court of Justice.
Evolution of Europe
Of course, the nature of the EU has continued to evolve over the years, as have the structures within which it operates. All the while, the core principles of peace and unity remain the solid foundation, the backdrop against which the people in each member state continue to define and direct the type of EU they want.
Still, with Britain having voted to leave the EU, and with membership having been put before voters as an election issue in several other member states, it is worth reflecting upon the goals of peace and unity which have underpinned successive treaties.
Politics and economics
In the decades since World War II, there has been no war among member states; and though some neighbours have conflict, thankfully not on the scale of a full global war.
More recently, however, people in Europe and the rest of the world have seen the escalation of a new type of conflict — a borderless terrorism that has rocked the foundations of societies throughout the world.
It’s hard not to align the rising fears people have in relation to terrorism with the global resurgence in nationalistic sentiment, and political instability across the world, with traditional political parties losing ground to entities with messages about national identity coupled with old world protectionist economic policies.
Of course, there was also the global banking crisis and a decade- long global recession, but there is certainly also an element of fear guiding the world’s current political and ideological instability.
A sense of instability that is eerily familiar to anyone born in the 1940s and 1950s. And for Robert Schuman and the many who have worked towards and contributed to the EU’s constantly evolving ideals — such as peace, unity and economic opportunity — now must seem like a very good time to reflect on all that unity has achieved for the EU’s member states.
Robert Schuman, who led the use of economic union to foster peace across Europe.