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Wednesday, 18 April, 2001, 15:23 GMT 16:23 UK
Fifty years of giving peace a chance
Signing of Treaty of Rome, by same six countries as Paris Treaty
Six nations set the Euro-ball rolling
By the BBC's Jan Repa

On 18 April 18, 1951, six countries signed a treaty which, unknown to them, would pave the way for the uniting of most of western Europe.

The European Coal and Steel Community, created only after much wrangling, was designed to bind France and Germany together to stop them going to war again.

The basic idea was simple. Germany had coal; France had the iron ore to make steel

Now, exactly 50 years on, the community is close to being wound up, but the European Union, to which it gave birth, is preparing to expand still further.

Six countries signed the original deal, the Paris Treaty - France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

The treaty's main architects were the French foreign minister, Robert Schuman, and a senior French civil servant, Jean Monnet.


The basic idea was simple. Germany had coal; France had the iron ore to make steel. Combine the two assets under one supranational authority - and the French and Germans, whose rivalries had been tearing Europe apart, would lack the means or the incentive to wage war against each other.

In 1951, the bitterness and hatred was still obvious.

Schuman and Monnet were both "progressive" Catholics.

The French set the tone. The defeated Germans were willing, for the time being, to sing to France's tune

In the longer term, they thought, the countries of the new Community might be able to create a zone of stability and civilised values to set against the totalitarian imperialism of Moscow or the economic hegemony of Washington.

The French set the tone. The defeated Germans were willing, for the time being, to sing to France's tune.

The bureaucracy and style of work of the new institution was modelled on the French civil service.

United States of Europe

In 1957, the six members of the European Coal and Steel Community signed the Treaty of Rome - pledging themselves, rather vaguely, to "ever closer union".

The British stood aside. Britain's "elder statesman", Winston Churchill, had advocated the establishment of a "United States of Europe" - probably understood as an informal consultative mechanism.

Jean Monnet
Jean Monnet: Civil servant with a vision
But Britain's future, it was thought, lay with the Empire and close partnership with America.

The European Coal and Steel Community is due officially to disappear next year - its functions finally folded into the European Commission. Coal and Steel are no longer the strategic commodities they were 50 years ago. In fact, the EU's remaining coalmines and steelworks are struggling to survive.

Today, the European Union faces a mass of new issues.

Will the special relationship between France and Germany survive EU enlargement?

Robert Schuman
Robert Schuman: French Foreign Minister laid foundations
The European Union is moving eastwards - placing Germany in a more central position. Can the bureaucratic model - a Council of Ministers representing national governments and an appointed European Commission - work when the European Union eventually comes to comprise nearly 30 states?

Is the European Union a protectionist zone, defending its members against outside economic competition - historically very much the Franco-German approach - or should it encourage free trade?

So far, EU policy-makers have not produced any clear answers.

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15 Feb 00 | Europe
EU enlargement: Second wave
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