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Tuesday, 23 July, 2002, 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
Europe bids farewell to historic treaty
Signing of Treaty of Rome, by same countries involved in Coal and Steel Treaty
Europe's founding fathers were trying to prevent war
The first treaty which brought European countries together in an attempt to make wars impossible is passing into history on Tuesday, 50 years after it came into effect.

The European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was set up by six nations, led by France and Germany, which agreed to pool their key resources to lock themselves into a peaceful future.


History will record the founding of the ECSC as a defining moment in the story of mankind's struggle

Romano Prodi
The treaty paved the way for the creation of today's 15-member European Union.

The flag of the historic community will be lowered in Brussels for the last time in a ceremony attended by European Commission president Romani Prodi and other top officials.

"The Coal and Steel Community was a courageous and hugely significant leap forward for Europe," said Mr Prodi.

"History will record the founding of the ECSC as a defining moment in the story of mankind's struggle to manage our affairs more effectively, more fairly and more democratically."


Coal and steel were essentially weapons of war... if they were pooled then war would become unthinkable or impossible

Richard Mayne
Former ECSC official
The community was largely based on the vision of a French civil servant, Jean Monnet, whose ideas were taken up by then French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman.

In the early years after the devastation of World War II, they began to believe that the best forward was to create unbreakable economic ties.

"Monnet's ideas were utterly radical," his former personal assistant Richard Mayne told BBC News Online.

"A lot of people had been talking about a united Europe in woolly terms, but nothing had been done in practical terms.

"Coal and steel were essentially weapons of war, and he thought that if they were pooled then war would become unthinkable or impossible."

The experiment came at a time when many French and German citizens still saw themselves as hereditary enemies, after three wars in two generations, said Mr Mayne, who himself served on the ECSC's authority.

Jean Monnet
Frenchman Jean Monnet had the Euro-vision
It was Europe's first try at pooling sovereignty - arguably making the political experiment more important than the economic one.

And it raised issues which remain key to the debate on the future shape of today's European Union - and how much power institutions should have over national governments.

Monnet's ideas, which he began formulating in Algeria during World War II, also involved uniting other European countries, preventing economic warfare and trying to build relations between states by creating institutions to enable them to interrelate more effectively.

Founder nations
France
West Germany
Italy
Belgium
Luxembourg
Netherlands
The BBC's Janet Barrie in Brussels says today's EU would be unrecognisable to the men who signed the ECSC into existence 50 years ago.

Economic co-operation has culminated in a single European currency and the EU expects soon to admit 10 new countries, most from the former Soviet bloc, separated from Western Europe by the Cold War for most of those 50 years.

But the result would not necessarily be a complete surprise to the founding fathers, said Mr Mayne.

"Monnet never tried to define exactly what would result," said Mr Mayne. "He was starting a process, not creating a product. He saw it as sowing a seed, which would grow and change. Nothing ever turns out as you expected."

See also:

30 Apr 01 | Euro-glossary
29 Jan 01 | Business
06 Apr 01 | Business
18 Jun 02 | Europe
22 May 02 | Europe
13 Dec 01 | Europe
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