Robert Schuman

Robert Schuman

Robert Schuman was born in Luxembourg in 1886. He moved to France and in 1919 he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies. A moderate conservative he joined the more liberal Popular Republican Movement in 1940. During the Second World War he was a member of the French Resistance.

Schuman served as prime minister between November 1947 and July 1948. This was followed by a period as foreign minister and in 1949 Jean Monnet, Planning Commissioner in France, proposed what eventually became known as the Schuman Plan. The proposal was the basis for the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) that was established in 1952. It was agreed that the six countries that signed the Treaty of Paris, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany, would pool its coal and steel resources.

In 1958 Schuman was elected president of the European Assembly in Strasbourg. Robert Schuman died in 1963.

Primary Sources

(1) Robert Schuman, declaration (9th May, 1950)

World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it.

The contribution which an organised and living Europe can bring to civilisation is indispensable to the maintenance of peaceful relations. In taking upon herself for more than 20 years the role of champion of a united Europe, France has always had as her essential aim the service of peace. A united Europe was not achieved and we had war.

Europe will not be made all at once or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity. The coming together of the nations of Europe requires the elimination of the age-old opposition of France and Germany. Any action which must be taken in the first place must concern these two countries.

With this aim in view, the French Government proposes that action be taken immediately on one limited but decisive point. It proposes that Franco-German production of coal and steel as a whole be placed under a common High Authority, within the framework of an organisation open to the participation of the other countries of Europe.

The pooling of coal and steel production should immediately provide for the setting up of common foundations for economic development as a first step in the federation of Europe, and 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.

The solidarity in production thus established will make it plain that any war between France and Germany becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible. The setting up of this powerful productive unit, open to all countries willing to take part and bound ultimately to provide all the member countries with the basic elements of industrial production

on the same terms, will lay a true foundation for their economic unification.

(2) Konrad Adenauer, Memoirs 1945-53 (12th July, 1952)

Blankenhorn handed me the letters in the cabinet room. One was a handwritten, personal letter by Robert Schuman. The other was an official covering letter for the project laid down in a memorandum which later became known as the Schuman Plan.

In essence Robert Schuman proposed to place the entire French and German production of coal and steel under a common High Authority within the framework of an organization that should be open to other European countries as well. Schuman explained that the pooling of coal and steel production would immediately provide for the first stage of a European federation, the immediate creation of a common basis for economic development, and for a comprehensive change in their development. The merger of the basic production of coal and steel and the establishment of an authority whose decisions would be binding for France, Germany, and the other member countries, would create the first firm foundations for the European federation which was indispensable for the preservation of peace.

In his personal letter to me Schuman wrote that the purpose of his proposal was not economic, but eminently political. In France there was a fear that once Germany had recovered, she would attack France. He could imagine that the corresponding fears might be present in Germany. Rearmament always showed first in an increased production of coal, iron, and steel. If an organization such as he was proposing were to be set up, it would enable each country to detect the first signs of rearmament, and would have an extraordinarily calming effect in France.

Schuman's plan corresponded entirely with the ideas I had been advocating for a long time concerning the integration of the key industries of Europe. I informed Robert Schuman at once that I accepted his proposal whole-heartedly.