In May, Europe commemorates not only the end of WW2 in Europe, but also a far more important event. Five years after the end of war, Robert Schuman’s Declaration of May 9, 1950 proposed the means to make war ‘not only unthinkable but materially impossible.’

War, impossible?! That sounded extraordinary in the 1950s. The reality is even more extraordinary today. The EU outstrips the USA in GDP, in investment and global trade.

(Robert Schuman, Europe's Founding Father)

Europeans are now living in a 70-year period of peace. It is longer than any other in all history, in more than two thousand years. The core of today’s European Union composing France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, knew war every generation back to before Roman times. Today, three or four generations have never seen their home towns destroyed, their families killed or such horrors as concentration camps or forced labor.

This peace was not ultimately due either to the Marshall Plan of 1947 or NATO (formed 1948). In March 1950 the US-based Foreign Policy Association published a report on ‘Europe and the United States.’ Vera Micheles Dean, its research director, made an extensive tour of Europe speaking with government ministers and lecturing on US foreign policy around Europe.

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‘We realise... that the United states, no matter how generously inclined, cannot under the most favourable political circumstances re-establish the economy of the continent on the foundations of 1914 or even 1939. Some of the foundations … have vanished beyond salvaging.

‘No power on earth can remedy Europe’s impoverishment as a result of two world wars. The only remedy one can recommend for the future would be the avoidance of conflicts so costly in terms of human values and material wealth. Whatever we do, Europe will sooner or later have to adjust itself to a radically altered world economic situation and face the fact that the singularly favourable position it enjoyed during the five centuries following the discovery of … of the New World and the conquest of the colonies in Asia and Africa is now drawing to a close. The Russians and the Communists have capitalised on the predicament.’

US ambassadors in Europe at their annual conference in 1949 reached the same conclusion. They considered European solutions as ‘pipe dreams’ and their ‘golden goose’ of the Marshall Plan was being sacrificed to various forms of nationalism. They were keenly aware of Soviet designs on Germany especially the industrial Ruhr.

General Lucius Clay, US Military Governor of Germany in March 1949 concluded: ‘I repeat what I said in a cable a few days ago. We have lost Germany politically and therefore it really does not matter except that history will prove why there was World War III. No gesture can we make to draw Germany westward so why do we spend money on Germany. Thank God I will be out of it soon…’

Robert Schuman was often a lone voice. As French Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, he was convinced that Europe must use this last chance for peace. Others said it was impossible. In that way he was not only the architect and designer of the peace, but the constructor and technician supervising its foundation. He was a visionary of a future undreamed of.

He told the US Secretary of State Acheson before his Proposal that the supranational Community system would produce the greatest period of prosperity since the Middle Ages.

In world increasingly of war and barbaric violence, isn’t it high time we took a longer, harder look at how Europe gained such an enviable peace?


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