What was the Schuman Declaration (1950)?


The Schuman Declaration was a speech made by the French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs, Robert Schuman, on 09 May 1950.

It proposed placing French and West German production of coal and steel under a single authority that would later be opened to other European countries. The ultimate goal was to pacify relations, between France and West Germany in particular, through gradual political integration, which would be achieved by creating common interests. Schuman asserted that “[t]he coming together of the countries of Europe requires the elimination of the age-old opposition of France and Germany…the solidarity in production thus established will make it plain that any war between France and Germany becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible.”

Konrad Adenauer, the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, responded positively to the Declaration, as did the governments of the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, and Luxembourg. On 18 April 1951, the six founding members signed the Treaty of Paris. It created the European Coal and Steel Community – Europe’s first supranational community, which paved the way for the European Economic Community and subsequently the European Union.

Schuman later became a great proponent of further integration through an ultimately unratified European Defence Community, and in 1958 he became the first president of the current European Parliament’s predecessor. The Parliament gave Schuman the title “Father of Europe” when he left office in the 1960s, and the district in Brussels housing several EU institutions’ headquarters is named after him. 09 May is officially designated as “Europe Day” after the Declaration’s impact.


The new Cold War split Europe between two spheres of influence on either side of the Iron Curtain. With the desire not to repeat the destruction seen in the First and Second World Wars, there was a strong inclination towards European co-operation. Winston Churchill, standing next to Robert Schuman, had called for Franco-German reconciliation in a united Europe in a speech in Metz on 14 July 1946. In Zurich, Churchill later called for a “United States of Europe” and, in the meantime, the formation of a “Council of Europe”.

Anxious to see greater European economic integration in order to be able to form a block against the Soviet Union, the United States used the Marshall Plan to force the adoption of more open markets as a prerequisite for Europe to receive aid. The Organisation for European Economic Co-operation was founded in 1948 to help coordinate the Marshall Plan. Its guiding principles were to:

  • Promote co-operation between participating countries and their national production programmes for the reconstruction of Europe;
  • Develop intra-European trade by reducing tariffs and other barriers to the expansion of trade;
  • Study the feasibility of creating a customs union or free trade area;
  • Study multi-lateralisation of payments; and
  • Achieve conditions for better utilisation of labour.

The United States also directly funded prominent European pro-federalists through the government-funded American Committee on United Europe.

Under the Monnet Plan of 1946-1950, designed to increase French steel production at Germany’s expense, France had absorbed the Saarland, a centre for coal mining from Germany, and turned it into a protectorate. French attempts to detach the industrial region of the Ruhr with its many steel plants and coal mines from Germany were met with greater resistance. However, in 1949 the International Authority for the Ruhr was founded; it was an international body that set limits on the production and production capacity in the Ruhr, and controlled product distribution (i.e. export or domestic). The organisation was dissolved with the 1951 introduction of the common market and the European Coal and Steel Community.

In speeches before the United Nations, Schuman announced that a revitalised Germany must be placed inside a European democracy. The Council of Europe was duly created to provide the great framework of a European union (as it was originally called) in which the European communities could be inserted. The Council was a herald of these supranational communities to come for a full European integration.

Schuman had stated that the idea of a European Coal and Steel Community dated from before he attended university. Schuman initiated policies in preparation for this major change of European politics while he was the Prime Minister of France (1947-1948) and Foreign Minister from 1948 onwards. He spoke about the principles of sharing European resources in a supranational union at the signing of the Statute of the Council of Europe in London, 05 May 1949.

The Declaration had several distinct aims:

  • It marked the birth of Europe as a political entity.
  • It aimed to make war between Member States impossible.
  • It encouraged world peace.
  • It would transform Europe by a “step by step” process (building through sectoral supranational communities) leading to the unification of Europe, including both East and West Europe separated by the Iron Curtain.
  • It would form the world’s first international anti-cartel agency.
  • It created a single market across the Community.
  • Starting with the coal and steel sector, it would revitalise European economy as a whole by similar community processes.
  • It claimed to improve the world economy and of the developing countries, such as those in Africa.

According to Professor Dr. Hans Ritschl, Schuman made a speech arguing that the Schuman Plan was really a continuation of the Monnet Plan, and that it was solely for the sake of supporting French steel exports that they had taken on that task. Ritschl says this speech was never intended to reach German ears, but Ritschl does not cite any sources, and the characteristics, objectives, and method of the Schuman Plan and the Monnet Plan are quite different as noted above.

Aim and Drafting

The Declaration was first drafted by Paul Reuter, Schuman’s colleague and the lawyer at the Foreign Ministry, and edited by Jean Monnet and others including Schuman’s Directeur de Cabinet, Bernard Clappier. The draft documents of the Declaration were published by the Jean Monnet Foundation, and show that Reuter pencilled the first draft and Monnet made only minor corrections. Monnet crossed out the word “supranational” – the key concept used by Schuman to describe the new form of European superstate – and replaced it with the ambiguous word “federation”. All the key elements – a new organisation of Europe, the supranational innovations, the European Community, the High Authority, fusion of vital interests such as coal and steel, and a single European market and economy – were floated in a series of major speeches given by Schuman in the previous, preparatory years. They include his speeches at the United Nations, at St James’s Palace, London at the signing of the Statutes of the Council of Europe, and in Brussels, Strasbourg, and North America. The proposal for a supranational community was made to the European peoples in the dismal, fearful years of the Cold War as it ruled out another war with Germany. The proposals became a declaration of French government policy when after two Cabinet discussions it was agreed on 09 May 1950 that France would abide by such a community establishing European rule.

In his introductory remarks, Schuman revealed that this seemingly technical, social and industrial innovation would have huge political repercussions, not only for European democracy but for bringing democratic liberty to other areas such as Soviet-controlled Eastern Europe, to aid developing countries, and for establishing world peace. He said: “Europe will be born of this, a Europe which is solidly united and constructed around a strong framework”. The declaration’s immediate goal was for France, Italy, West Germany, and the Benelux countries to share strategic resources in order to “make war not only unthinkable but materially impossible”. The immediate outcome of this initiative was the 18 April 1951 creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the first of three European Communities and a predecessor of the European Union. At the signing of the Treaty of Paris on 18 April 1951, the six signatory states affirmed in a separate document that this date represented Europe’s birth: “By the signature of this Treaty, the participating Parties give proof of their determination to create the first supranational institution and that thus they are laying the true foundation of an organised Europe. This Europe remains open to all countries that are free to choose. We profoundly hope that other countries will join us in our common endeavour.” One of the main points of Schuman’s Declaration came almost at the end of his statement. “By pooling basic industrial production and setting-up a new High Authority whose decisions will be binding on France, Germany, and other member countries, these proposals will bring to reality the first solid groundwork for a European Federation vital to the preservation of world peace.” The Schuman Declaration also emphasised a major goal: “The French government proposes to place Franco-German production of coal and steel under one common High Authority in an organization open to the participation of other countries in Europe.”


The Schuman Declaration marked the beginning of post-World War II Franco-German cooperation and the re-integration of West Germany into Western Europe. Konrad Adenauer, Chancellor of West Germany, said “[t]hat’s our breakthrough” in regards to the Declaration. The ECSC was created by the Treaty of Paris and, on 18 April 1951, the leaders of the six member countries (including Schuman) signed the Europe Declaration, stating that it “marked the true foundation of Europe”.[citation needed] The ECSC provided the foundation of several European institutions: the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Consultative Committees (representing organised civil society), the Council of Ministers, and the European Court of Justice.

The resulting ECSC introduced a common steel and coal market across the member countries with freely set market prices, and without internal import/export duties or subsidies. The success of ECSC led to further steps, foreseen by Schuman, being taken with the creation of the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community. The two European Commissions of the latter Rome Treaties and the High Authority merged into a single European Commission in the 1960s. Further intergovernmental, non-supranational bodies and areas of activities were created, which led to the creation of the European Union in 1993.

The Declaration is viewed as one of the main founding events of the EU. In 1985, during Jacques Delors’s tenure as President of the European Commission, the leaders of the European Council met in Milan to decide upon “national” symbols for the Community. They adopted those chosen by the Council of Europe previously, though they changed the date of Europe Day from 05 to 09 May to commemorate the Schuman Declaration, which has made the day been referred to as also Schuman Day.


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