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Schuman Plan

Proposal announced on 9 May 1950 by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman whereby France and Germany would pool their coal and steel industries. The plan was designed to eliminate eighty years of Franco-German rivalry, which had contributed to two world wars. It also marked the first step toward West European political and economic integration.

Schuman and Jean Monnet, France's leading proponent of European integration, argued that the Schuman Plan would transform intra-European relations in numerous ways. First, Franco-German production of heavy industry would necessitate joint control of the mineral-rich Ruhr and Saar regions, the geographical bone of contention between France and Germany. A basis of trust would thus be created between the French, who still feared another attack by Germany, and the Germans, who were concerned about permanent dismemberment by a vengeful former enemy.

Second, the successful implementation of the Schuman Plan would essentially solve the German problem by forcing the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, West Germany) to surrender much of its sovereignty in favor of integration into a larger European community. It was hoped that such an arrangement would stanch German militarism in the future. Yet Schuman and Monnet assured Germany that should the plan go forward, it would serve as the first step toward a mutual defense pact that would assuage its fears of permanent disarmament. This would later be proposed as the European Defense Community (EDC).

Third, the plan symbolized European integrationists' vision of a supranational organization that would transcend the nationalism they believed had stoked two world wars. Politically, therefore, Western Europe would become unified. Finally, the Schuman Plan could ultimately establish an economic bloc rivaling the United States and the Soviet Union.

Informed of the proposal on 8 May 1950, German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer agreed that the Schuman Plan was based on equal rights for both nations and removed the Saar question from traditional Franco-German rivalry. He quickly wrote the French foreign minister and pledged that he would strongly urge West Germany's Bundestag (lower house of parliament) to approve the plan. Within days, the United States and Italy declared their approval, with the Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg) not far behind. After nearly a month of negotiations, the British signed off on it, and on 3 June 1950 a joint communiqué was issued announcing mutual acceptance of the plan. On 18 April 1951, France, West Germany, Italy, and the Benelux countries signed the Schuman Treaty, thereby creating the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC).

Chris Tudda


Further Reading
Fransen, Fredric J. The Supranational Politics of Jean Monnet: Ideas and Origins of the European Community. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1996.; Gillingham, John. Coal, Steel and the Rebirth of Europe, 1945–1955: The Germans and the French from the Ruhr Conflict to Economic Community. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991.; Hitchcock, William I. France Restored: Cold War Diplomacy and the Quest for Leadership in Europe, 1944–1954. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.; Monnet, Jean. Memoirs. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1978.
 

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