by Rose Maramba

Robert Schuman

At the Quai d’Orsay in Paris on 9 May 1950, a scant five years after the carnage of World War II, the then Foreign Minister of France Robert Schuman laid out his vision for peace and solidarity in Europe. This was the so-called Schuman Declaration, whereby he proposed that coal and steel, raw materials without which the manufacture of armaments is impossible, be pooled and jointly managed by historical adversaries France and Germany. Should this happen, war between these two would become “not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible.”

Italy and the Benelux countries joined the project, enthused, and right the following year the Treaty of Paris was signed by the six founding members, giving rise to the supranational European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) on 23 July 1952. Exceptionally, the treaty provided for a fifty-year lifespan for the ECSC. Thus, in 2002, on the day of its birth, the ECSC expired.

The then Commission President Romano Prodi eulogized:

The ECSC High Authority HQ in Luxembourg. The supranational High Authority was the predecessor of EU’s High Commission. Its decisions were binding laws.

“The Coal and Steel Community was a courageous and hugely significant leap forward for Europe. It was Europe’s first step in pooling a part of each country’s sovereignty for the greater good of all who took part. It was the ECSC which first established shared, supranational institutions for Europe – the basis of the EU as we know it today. 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. As we look to the future of Europe, and the changes needed to make a growing European Union a success, we would do well to draw inspiration from the achievements of the post-war generation”.

The ECSC, though encumbered by an expiration date, left a lasting legacy. The European Union, so named in 1993, is a direct offshoot of the Coal and Steel Community. Guess what? The result is that not only have the Europeans been enjoying the longest peace in their history, unbroken by wars between the major powers; this improbable peace is coterminous with an unprecedented prosperity in a Europe that had been laid to waste by World Wars I and II and the economic catastrophes in the interwar years.

The Princess of Asturias Award for Concord went to the EU in 2017

In 2017 the EU bagged the prestigious Princess of Asturias Award for Concord based on the fact that, as the jury said, “the European Union has achieved the longest period of peace in modern Europe, disseminating values such as freedom, human rights and solidarity to the world. In these times of uncertainty, these values project hope for the future, offering an example of progress and well-being.”

On accepting the award on behalf of the European Union, the Presidents of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani, the European Commission Jean Claude Juncker, and the European Council President Donald Tusk issued the following joint statement:

“The Princess of Asturias Award for Concord granted to the European Union is a significant recognition in a year marked by the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome [the treaty signed in Rome on 25 March 1957 by the very founding members of the ECSC who now established the European Economic Community (EEC), a European Community that spilled over from the ECSC].

A Princess of Asturias Awards ceremony at the Campoamor Theatre in Oviedo

“Six decades ago, the founding fathers of the EU sowed the seeds of a united Europe in the ashes of a devastating war. Since then, the path we have followed has helped us develop a union of peoples, allowing Europeans to embark upon a project of peace, democracy and prosperity.

“On behalf of the European Union, we express our appreciation for the recognition and great honour bestowed upon the EU by Spain.”

Tajani, Juncker and Tusk proudly noted that 25 candidates from 16 countries vied for the Concord Award. All three attended the Princess of Asturias Awards ceremony held at the Campoamor Theatre in the northern Spanish city of Oviedo on 20 October 2017. The solemn ceremony was presided by King Felipe VI of Spain.

ECSC member-states, the founding members of what is now the EU

So crucial was the Schuman Declaration to the past, present and future of Europe that in 1985 the European Council decided to designate the 9th of May as Europe Day, an annual celebration of the peace and unity that the Declaration stands for, in a region that, before the ECSC, was the sorry scene of unremitting armed conflict.






THE SCHUMAN DECLARATION (underscoring supplied)
Salon de l’Horloge, Quai d’Orsay, Paris, 9 May 1950

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

A united Europe was not achieved and we had war.

Salon de l’Horloge, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Quai d’Orsay. Backing the fireplace and facing the people who were at the press conference for the occasion, Foreign Minister Robert Schuman delivered his “Schuman Declaration” speech

Europe [as in European Community and, later, the EU] 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.

With this aim in view, the French  Government proposes that Franco-German production of coal and steel be placed under a High  Authority, within the framework of an organization 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.

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 will lay a true foundation for their economic unification.

This proposal will lead to the realization of the first concrete foundation of a European federation indispensable to the preservation of peace.

The Authority’s decisions will be enforceable in France, Germany and other member countries.


Princess of Asturias Awards/Princess of Asturias Foundation

European Commission
European Parliament
Robert Schuman Foundation


Featured image, Europe Day 2010 poster,, Fair Use
Robert Schuman, Bundesarchiv Bild, CC BY-SA3.0 de
High Authority HQ/Borsi112, CC BY-SA3.0
Princess of Asturias Award for Concord to the EU/from
Campoamor Theatre/Ruben Ortega, CC BY-SA4.0
ECSC map/JLogan, PD

Salon d’Horloge/EU, CC BY-SA3.0