The Schuman Declaration was a foundational document for European integration, presented by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman on May 9, 1950. The declaration proposed the creation of a European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in which France, Germany, and other European countries would pool their coal and steel resources under a common high authority.
The primary objectives were to prevent further war in Europe, particularly between France and Germany, and to set the stage for broader economic and political integration. By placing the coal and steel industries—key resources for waging war—under supranational control, the declaration aimed to make war between member states “not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible.” The ECSC eventually came into existence and served as a precursor to the European Union. May 9, now celebrated as Europe Day, commemorates the Schuman Declaration and its significant impact on European unity.
It is strange reading it today. It is both a highly visionary document that clearly envisages a lot of what has later come to pass in the form of the European Union. It is also rather specific, prosaic even, about the particular situation when it was actually written. It talks about a particular arrangement covering the Ruhr and goes into details about how transport costs will be organised.
It’s a political project, but it’s a practical political project. It is about how things get done.
But this doesn’t detract. Europeans are going to stop fighting each other. They are going to work together to dig coal and make steel. A continent that for centuries has been riven by the intrigues and conflicts of the ruling elites will now be run for the benefit of the people living in it.
And that is what has happened.