La méthode Monnet: What were the main driving forces behind the supranational integration of the Schuman Plan?
Many consider Jean Monnet to be the founder of European unity. Born in Cognac in 1888 he became an established coordinator in international affairs during the two world wars. Yet it is the invention of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) for which he is best recognized. This was the first economic community to be set up in Europe, and was announced in 1950 by Robert Schuman, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time. It became known as the Schuman Declaration, and proposed the pooling of French and German resources of coal and steel under a ‘High Authority’, i.e. supranational integration on an economic basis. Dell believes that the plan was promoted as a first step towards a federal Europe. Although it was really instigated by the French, there were four key players in the run up to the ECSC.
France, Britain, the United States and Germany had been directly involved in the cataclysmic world wars of the twentieth century and had to deal with the aftermath. The Second World War was ‘the most destructive conflict in human history… it caused the deaths of almost 60 million people. Britain had been one of the chief powers in the Second World War, having declared war on Germany in 1939 with France. However after 1945 the continental countries of Europe were left in a state of devastation, whereas Britain did not suffer the consequences of the war in the same way. She was separated from the rest of Europe by water and despite suffering intense air raids; was never occupied by German troops. In fact, a German soldier had not even set foot on the country. Britain emerged from the war victorious and did not feel threatened by Germany in the way that France did. She also had pride in her country’s sovereignty and the strength of the UK parliament. Monnet’s proposals entailed the idea of federalism within the European states, which would involve some surrender of national autonomies. Britain would have no political control over her own economy, and thus had no interest in such plans. She was already one of the leading powers of the world due to the Commonwealth and her special relationship with the US (Dedman makes the point that an Anglo-American relationship emerged after World War Two, thus the British public saw themselves as part of the ‘Big Three’ internationally with the US and USSR rather than in Europe with France and Germany), and it was thought that a closer union with Europe might threaten this position. Britain supported the idea of rapprochement between France and Germany, but disliked the High Authority aspect of the ECSC. Politically, being involved in European integration simply was not of immediate importance to the British government at the time. So despite being a key player in Europe at the time, Britain was not a driving force for supranational integration.