Extracts from Jean Monnet's Memoirs
related to the year 1950:
the first step towards the creation of Europe
A bold, constructive act
I cannot explain the source of that conviction which, at, important moments in my life, suddenly calls a halt to my reflections and turns them into a decision. Other people see it as a sense of timing. But I never ask myself whether it is necessary to do this or that: necessity itself forces me to do something which, once I see it clearly, is no longer a matter of choice. To see it clearly I have to concentrate — which I can do only in isolation, on long solitary walks. Since I left Cognac, I have always arranged my affairs so as to wake up each morning in the country, at a good distance from the town where I work. I get up early and walk for miles by myself. When I leave the house, I take with me all the previous day's thoughts and worries. But when I have walked for half an hour or an hour, they begin to fade away, and I gradually start to notice things around me, the flowers or the leaves on the trees. At that moment, I know that nothing can disturb me. I let my thoughts find their own level. I never force myself to
think about a given subject — subjects come to me naturally because I always follow the same line of thought, or rather, I follow only one at a time. Andre Horre, who with his wife Amelie looked after our house — I should say, our successive houses, in Britain, the United States, France, and Luxembourg — for more than thirty years, understood me very well.
'It's simple,' he said: 'Monsieur puts his idea in front of him, talks to it, and then decides.
Andre used to see me come back at about 10.00 a.m., change, and go to the office, where I faced complex problems further complicated by people's attitudes towards them, and was able to attack them with energy renewed by contact with Nature. For me, walking has always been a form of intellectual as well as physical exercise: it helps me to reach conclusions. Afterwards, things are different: I come back to the world of action, implementation — and routine. In the spring of 1950, routine had become wearisome. Even the woods of Montfort 1'Amaury, near my home, seemed stifling. I left for the mountains.
Every year, I like if I can to take long trips in the Alps. This time it was in Switzerland, at Roseland, that I arranged to meet my guide to the Huez range. How many miles we covered in two weeks, going from one overnight lodge to another, I have forgotten; but the course of my thoughts is still there before me, traced in the notes that I made every evening. I can read in them the anxiety that weighed on Europe five years after the war: the fear that if we did nothing we should soon face war again. Germany would not be its instigator this time, but its prize. So Germany must cease to be a potential prize, and instead become a link. At that moment, only France could take the initiative. What could be done to link France and Germany, and implant a common interest between them, before it was too late? That was the question I turned over and over in my mind in the silent concentration of the day's march. When I returned to Paris at the beginning of April, I still had no perfect answer: but I did have so full an account of
the reasons for acting, and so clear an idea of the direction in which to move, that from my point of view the time of uncertainty was over. It only remained to choose the machinery and seek the opportunity.
My account of the reasons for acting covered several pages. Not many people read them at the time, because action followed very rapidly and overtook the analysis. But the analysis that guided me then is still of interest today, because it helps to explain why matters took the course they did. It shows how precarious world peace then was, and how limited was the scope for any attempt to avoid catastrophe. The very first words sound a note of alarm which has since been forgotten, now that Europe has so long been at peace. Five years after the end of World War II, however, it echoed the very real anxiety that men and women had once again come to feel:
Whichever way we turn, in the present world situation we see nothing but deadlock — whether it be the increasing acceptance of a war that is thought to be inevitable, the problem of Germany, the continuation of France's recovery, the organization of Europe, or the place of France in Europe and the world.
'A war that is thought to be inevitable'. Today, it is hard to recall the atmosphere of 1950, whose fears were not confirmed by events. But co-existence between the blocs was still precarious, and the East-West dialogue had no rules except those of force. In Berlin, the West had just won a trial of strength after nearly a year's blockade by the East: the American airlift of supplies to the city, using fantastic military resources, had led the Soviet Union to lift the blockade in May 1949. But there were certainly going to be two Germanies, each incorporated in a separate strategic zone. Adenauer's Germany was covered by the newly-formed Atlantic Alliance; and there was active concern to secure a German contribution
to the defense of the West. Russia had just acquired the atomic bomb. How far would she now go? The advice which more and more people of influence were giving seemed superficially sound: 'Leave Europe out of these confrontations'. But this neutralist doctrine never became more than an intellectual argument. I pursued it at home with Hubert Beuve-Mery, editor-in-chief of Le Monde. I respected his deep sincerity, and we have always remained friends: but I disagreed with him then.
'It is precisely because the countries of Western Europe play no part in the great decisions of the world,' I said, 'that we face the instability from which you're trying to shield us. And, far from backing out, it's vital that we once more play an active part in settling these problems, because they concern the West as a whole.'
No matter; men's minds were confused, and I was disquieted to see developing in Europe, to say nothing of other danger-spots in the world, the climate of the 'cold war'.
The greatest danger, in my eyes, was not so much men's ambitions or the accumulation of arms, but a very specific disorientation among governments and peoples, which itself required specific psychological remedies:
Men's minds are becoming focused on an object at once simple and dangerous — the cold war. All proposals and all actions are interpreted by public opinion as a contribution to the cold war. The cold war, whose essential objective is to make the opponent give way, is the first phase of real war. This prospect creates among leaders that rigidity of mind which is characteristic of the pursuit of a single object. The search for solutions to problems ceases. Such rigidity of aims and attitudes on both sides will lead inevitably to a confrontation: the logic of this way of looking at things is inescapable. And this confrontation will end in war.
In effect, we are at war already.
War was in men's minds, and it had to be opposed by imagination. I remembered that sentence in Roosevelt's first Inaugural Address, on March 4, 1933, which had so much struck the American nation: 'The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.' In 1950, fear would engender paralysis, and paralysis would lead to disaster. It was vital to break the deadlock.
The course of events must be altered. To do this, men's attitudes must be changed. Words are not enough. Only immediate action on an essential point can change the present static situation. This action must be radical, real, immediate, and dramatic: it must change things and make a reality of the hopes which people are on the point of giving up.
In Europe, the danger was still Germany —not, this time, because she might initiate something, but because other countries were treating her as the stake in their power games. The Americans, I thought, would try to integrate the new Federal Republic in the Western political and military system. The Russians would oppose that by every means at their command: and at the same time French neuroses would be made worse. It was on the subject of Germany that we needed a salutary shock:
The German situation is rapidly turning into a cancer that will be dangerous to peace in the near future, and immediately to France, unless its development is directed towards hope for the Germans and collaboration with free peoples. ... . We must not try to solve the German problem in its present context. We must change the context by transforming the basic facts.
It was at that time, undoubtedly, and on that precise problem, that I realized the full possibilities of an approach which had long been familiar to me, and which I had applied empirically in trying to overcome difficulties of all kinds. I had come to see that it was often useless to make a frontal attack on problems, since they have not arisen by themselves, but are the product of circumstances. Only by modifying the circumstances — 'lateral thinking' — can one disperse the difficulties that they create. So, instead of wearing myself out on the hard core of resistance, I had become accustomed to seeking out and trying to change whatever element in its environment was causing the block. Sometimes it was quite a minor point, and very often a matter of psychology. The problem of Germany, vast and complex though it was, could surely be approached in this same way. It would certainly not be solved until we had changed the conditions that made the future of the Germans so uncertain and disquieting, for their neighbours as for themselves. From the German point of view, those conditions included the humiliation of being subject to indefinite Allied control; from the French point of view, there was the fear of a Germany ultimately freed from any control at all. These two elements were by no means the only ones on the world scene at that time; but they were enough to block any constructive evolution in Europe.
The situation was tangled. What we had to do was find a thread to pull so as to unravel some of the knots and gradually sort everything out. But where was that thread to be found ? In the confused state of Franco-German relations, the neurosis of the vanquished seemed to be shifting to the victor: France was beginning to feel inferior again as she realized that attempts to limit Germany's dynamism were bound to fail.
France's continued recovery will come to a halt unless we rapidly solve the problem of German industrial production and its competitive capacity. The basis of the superiority which French industrialists
traditionally recognize in Germany is her ability to produce steel at a price that France cannot match. From this they conclude that the whole of French production is similarly handicapped. Already, Germany is seeking to increase her production from eleven to fourteen million metric tons. We shall refuse, but the Americans will insist. Finally, we shall state our reservations, but we shall give in. At the same time, French production is levelling off or even falling. Merely to state these facts makes it unnecessary to describe what the results will be: Germany expanding, German dumping on export markets; a call for the protection of French industry; an end to trade liberalization; the re-establishment of prewar cartels: perhaps, Eastward outlets for German expansion, a prelude to political agreements; and France back in the old rut of limited, protected production.
From my vantage-point at the Planning Commissariat, I could clearly detect the first signs of such a retreat on the part of France. The international timetable was increasingly crowded. On May 10, 1950, Robert Schuman* was due in London, to meet his colleagues Ernest Bevin and Dean Acheson in order to discuss the future of Germany and the raising of her production quotas. Schuman had no constructive proposals to take with him, although he had pondered deeply and consulted many people. Myself, I was beginning to see more clearly. Action would have to be taken, I realized, where misunderstandings were most tangible, and where past errors were most likely to be repeated. If only the French could lose their fear of German industrial domination, then the greatest obstacle to a united Europe would be removed. A solution, which would put French industry on the same footing as German.
* French Foreign minister.
industry, while freeing the latter from the discrimination born of defeat — that would restore the economic and political preconditions for the mutual understanding so vital to Europe as a whole. It could, in fact, become the germ of European unity.
Quite naturally, the plans I had discussed in 1943 with Etienne Hirsch and Rene Mayer now came back to my mind. At the time, they had been intellectual blueprints, traced over wartime maps whose frontiers were due to be redrawn. Now, I rediscovered them — or rather, reinvented them in response to the needs of the hour. To apply them to the new peacetime map of political Europe was another matter. German sovereignty had just been re-established. Could it now be called in question again, even partially ? Quite early on, the Allies had renounced the idea of dismembering occupied Germany into a number of small States: then, they had decided to annex no territory, including the Saar; now, finally, they were even preparing to give up internationalizing the resources of the Ruhr. All successive attempts to keep Germany in check, mainly at French instigation, had come to nothing, because they had been based on the rights of conquest and temporary superiority — notions from the past which happily were no longer taken for granted. But if the problem of sovereignty were approached with no desire to dominate or take revenge — if on the contrary the victors and the vanquished agreed to exercise joint sovereignty over part of their joint resources — then, a solid link would be forged between them, the way would be wide open for further collective action, and a great example would be given to the other nations of Europe.
The joint resources of France and Germany lay essentially in their coal and steel, distributed unevenly but in complementary fashion over a triangular area artificially divided by historical frontiers. With the industrial revolution, which had coincide with the rise of doctrinal nationalism, these frontiers had become barriers to trade and then lines of confrontation. Neither country now felt secure unless it commanded all the resources — i.e., all the area. Their rival claims were decided
by war, which solved the problem only for a time — the time to prepare for revenge. Coal and steel were at once the key to economic power and the raw materials for forging weapons of war. This double role gave them immense symbolic significance, now largely forgotten, but comparable at the time to that of nuclear energy today. To pool them across frontiers would reduce their malign prestige and turn them instead into a guarantee of peace.
By now I was sufficiently convinced to be sure of convincing others. But whom, and when? On the question of timing, the May 10 meeting in London seemed to me the opportunity to seize. But a meeting of that sort would not be the right place to make the proposal I had in mind, which itself would obviate the need for such talks among the three occupying powers. To achieve that result, a totally new situation must be created: the Franco-German problem must become a European problem. I wrote:
At the present moment, Europe can be brought to birth only by France. Only France is in a position to speak and act.
To my mind, this was a simple statement of fact, not the proclamation of an historic privilege.
But if France fails to speak and act now, what will happen? A group will form around the United States, but in order to wage the cold war with greater zeal. The obvious reason is that the countries of Europe are afraid and are seeking help. Britain will draw ever closer to the United States; Germany will develop rapidly, and we shall not be able to prevent her being armed. France will be trapped once more in her old Malthusianism, and this will inevitably lead to her eclipse.
I was not yet trying to decide who should speak in the name of France, or on what occasion. What mattered was to know beforehand exactly what should be said. Proposing to place several countries' coal and steel under a joint sovereign authority was no more than an idea. It had to be given concrete form; and there I had no experience to fall back on — except the negative experience of international co-operation, whose institutions were incapable of decision-making. Their ineffectiveness told me what to avoid. But what form, should be given to a decision-making authority common to Germany and France? History offered no precedent; as yet, I was groping, and I needed advice. Yet at the same time I wanted to keep the idea as secret as possible. At that point, as luck would have it, there came to my office at N° 18 rue de Martignac a young professor of law, Paul Reuter, whom I had not previously met. I think we were seeking his opinion on French anti-trust legislation, which to my mind needed tightening up. Reuter was a man from Eastern France, solid and unexcitable; he used his brilliant powers of reasoning to master concrete problems in politics and law. He taught law at the University of Aix-la Chapelle, but came regularly to Paris to deal with practical problems at the Quai d'Orsay in his capacity as legal adviser to the French Foreign Office. I saw at once that he was both professionally and personally concerned about Franco-German relations. Could international law abolish the conflicts whose most constant victims had been frontier-dwellers like Reuter himself?
I expounded some of my ideas to him; and he reacted with such intelligence and enthusiasm that I asked him to come back again on the following Saturday, April 15. That day, I explained the essentials of my plan for a coal-steel pool, and I asked him to reflect overnight about the form of institution required to administer these joint resources. Next day, Reuter, Hirsch, and I met at my country home. It was there, on that Sunday, that we drafted the first version of what was to become the French Declaration of May 9, 1950. At a distance of more
than twenty-five years, I can no longer distinguish which of us contributed what to the text we dictated to my faithful secretary Mme Miguez. I can only say that, without Hirsch and Reuter, it would not so quickly have assumed the final form that made it the European Community's true founding document. I had a clear view of our goal: they supplied the means of attaining it through the interplay of economics and institutions, for which in a very short time they invented new structures on a European scale.
World peace can be safeguarded only by creative efforts which match the dangers that threaten it. The contribution that an organized and living Europe can
make to civilization is indispensable to the maintenance of peace.
This introduction survived through all the successive versions of the text. For the rest, the days that followed produced many variations, between the lines of which it would be possible to follow the way our thoughts progressed. But it was all there in embryo already:
Europe must be organized on a federal basis. A Franco-German union is an essential element in it, and the French Government has decided to act to this end.... Obstacles accumulated from the. past make it impossible to achieve immediately the close association which the French Government has taken as its aim. But already the establishment of common bases for economic development must be the first stage in building Franco-German union. The French Government proposes to place the whole of Franco-German coal and steel production under an international Authority open to the participation, of the other countries of Europe.
The aims and methods of the European Community were now set. Later improvements concerned only the style and the machinery. What strikes me, re-reading this text, is the clarity of its design, which became somewhat less sharp in the final version. In this one, Franco-German union was the central concern. If it could not be achieved at once, this was because of 'accumulated obstacles'. A start must be made by 'the establishment of common bases for economic development', first in coal and steel, then in other fields. For a time, undoubtedly, I thought that the first step towards a European federation would be union between these two countries only, and that the others would join later. Finally, that evening, I wrote in on this first version that the Authority would be 'open to the participation of the other countries of Europe'. That morning, this had not been the decisive point; and one always has to go back to the beginning of things to understand their meaning. On the powers of the new Authority, the main guidelines had been drawn up, and they were to prove durable. Thanks to Hirsch, the foundations were solid. To place the production and distribution of coal and steel on a common basis, to ensure that they were sold on identical terms, to level up social conditions, and continually to improve production —
these aims call for complex institutions and measures of broad scope. Competitive conditions of production in the two countries must be equalized — taxation, transport, social security and other labour costs.... Production quotas will have to be fixed, and financial machinery set up to compensate for price differences, together with a retraining and re-employment fund.
The main headings of the European Treaties were already there in outline. Paul Reuter sketched the institutional machinery:
The above principles and essential commitments will be the subject of a Treaty to be signed by the two countries. The Authority which is to administer the whole enterprise will be based on equal Franco-German representation, and its President will be chosen by agreement between the two parties.
Although not yet fully explicit, this was the first juridical statement of the principle of equality between France and Germany, which was to be the decisive step towards a more hopeful future. And the text ended with a few lines which summarized its overall aim:
This proposal has an essential political objective: to make a breach in the ramparts of national sovereignty which will be narrow enough to secure consent, but deep enough to open the way towards the unity that is essential to peace.
Why this sentence is missing from subsequent versions, and why others later appeared, only to be replaced by those that today are found in the history-books — this is a matter of balance between form and content in a series of texts worked out over several days. Between Sunday April 16 and Saturday May 6 there were nine different versions. Whether this is few or many I cannot judge: in these matters I have only one rule, which is to work as long as is necessary, starting again a hundred times, if a hundred attempts are needed for a Satisfactory result, or only nine times, as in the present case. Those who have worked with me over the years will say that the average is more like fifteen; and they themselves would often have been content with fewer. The proof, they argue, is that we, often come back to the first version, which then turns out to be the best. But what is the point of this arithmetic of effort ? How can one be sure that the first version is the best, except by
comparing it with what one believes to be better still? How easy everything would be if intuition or luck led straight to the exact formulation of a thought that presented itself fully formed. At the very least, intuition and luck need to be tested — and the test is to re-read them after a good night's sleep, or subject them to fresh scrutiny by someone else.
It was Pierre Uri who looked at the text with fresh eyes on the following morning, Monday April 17. I had decided to ask him, and him alone, to work over our initial draft. His imagination and his crisp style proved invaluable. He read the text with that astonishing capacity for concentration that wrinkles his whole face; then he said simply:
'This puts many problems in perspective.'
That was the point. It was less a question of solving problems, which are mostly in the nature of things, than of putting them in a more rational and human perspective, and making use of them to serve the cause of international peace. In this, Uri played an outstanding part. With his help, the draft became more orderly, and the institutional system Stronger: the 'international Authority' became the High Authority. In the fourth version, the High Authority was described as 'supranational'; but I disliked the word, and always have. What mattered was the task it implied, which was much better described by the following sentence in the next version of the text:
The High Authority's decisions shall be immediately binding in France, Germany and the other member countries.
Such power required safeguards, and the idea of a means of appeal was introduced, without further details. Having made his contribution, Paul Reuter returned to Aix and his professorial chair. We kept in touch by telephone, and I hoped that
he might come back to work out the Treaty with us. He never did, and I do not know why. But in any case Paul Reuter was one of the inventors of the High Authority, and of the name as well as the institution itself.
Uri, for his part, lent coherence to the economic aspects of the plan, and gradually brought into focus the notion of a 'common market', an area without customs barriers and without national discrimination, but with rules to preserve the common interest. He also introduced the idea of transitional measures. The whole project gave an impression of strong organization combined with liberal principles. In this there was no contradiction:
Gradually, conditions will emerge which will of themselves ensure the most rational distribution of production at the highest level of productivity.
We could go no further in our technical proposals, because no experts were to be let into the secret; and in any case we were short of time. The essential elements were all in the 104 lines of text we now had, to which further days' work brought only minor modifications. In fact, it was all summed up in the following sentence:
By the pooling of basic production and the establishment of a new High Authority whose decisions will be binding on France, Germany, and the countries that join them, this proposal will lay the first concrete foundations of the European Federation which is indispensable to the maintenance of peace.
I asked for this passage in our text to be underlined, because it described at one and the same time the method, the means, and the objective, which henceforth were indissolubly linked. The last word was the most important: peace.
'The French Government proposes. . . .' But the Government still had to see the proposal and adopt it as its own. I had to find someone who had the power, and the courage to use it to trigger off so great a change. Robert Schuman seemed to me the ideal man to do so; but owing to a misunderstanding I did not approach him first. What happened was this. I had had a long conversation with Bernard Clappier on the day before Remer had first come to see me. I had spoken in general
terms about my ideas, which had interested him greatly.
M. Schuman,' he said, 'is looking for an initiative that he can propose in London on May 10. I have the feeling that this has been his one great preoccupation since the Big Three met in New York last September. I was there when Acheson said, with Bevin's agreement: "We fully concur in entrusting our French colleague with formulating our common policy on Germany." The deadline's approaching, and no one seems able to advise him on what to do.'
'Well,' I said: 'I have some ideas.'
I thought that Clappier was going to call me back after having spoken to his Minister. But a combination of circumstances gave him no time to do so; and on Friday, April 28, thinking that Schuman was not interested, I decided to send the plan to Georges Bidault, the Prime Minister, under whose aegis the Planning Commissariat worked.
That very same day, only a few moments after I had had the dossier taken round to Pierre-Louis Falaize, Bidault's directeur de cabinet, Clappier got in touch with me again, apologizing for his long silence.
'Here's the proposal,' I said. 'I've just sent it to Bidault.' Clappier read the text, and quickly made up for lost time. 'It's excellent.' he said. 'May I show it to M. Schuman?'
I gave him a copy, and he took it straight to the Gare de
I'Est, where Schuman was about to take the train for Metz, to spend the weekend as usual in the solitude of his country house at Scy-Chazelles. Clappier found him already sitting in his compartment.
'Could you read this paper of Monnet's ?' he asked. 'It's important.'
On Monday morning, Clappier was back at the Gare de 1'Est to meet the incoming train. No sooner had Schuman got off than he said:
I've read the proposal. I'll use it.'
Those few words were enough. The idea had entered the political arena: it had become the business of the authorities, and their dangerous responsibility. It is the privilege of statesmen to decide what is in the general interest. Since I could not exercise .that privilege in my own right, I naturally had to help those who could.
Schuman and Clappier, then, joined the conspiracy. Bidault and Falaize did not, and for good reason: they had not taken the time to read the letter in which I had suggested that we meet next day to discuss 'the enclosed proposal, designed to. transform the general situation, which is growing worse every day.' The meeting did not take place — although I read in Le Monde of Tuesday May 2 that I had been received by the Prime Minister. The comedy of errors was not over: on Wednesday, after the Cabinet meeting at which Schuman made a veiled allusion to a forthcoming French initiative, I was summoned to the Prime Minister's office at the Matignon palace, where Bidault received me in a furious rage. He had a copy of the proposal in his hand.
'Schuman's just shown me this paper,' he said. 'It appears that you're the author. I should have appreciated your telling me first.
' I did,' I said, 'I wrote to you on Friday.' He looked for the letter: it was on his desk. Had he read it? In his memoirs he affirms that he had, and I believe him.
Probably the plan clashed with his own concern at that time,
which was to set up an Atlantic High Council. What might have happened to the project if Bidault had taken it over, and what might have happened to Europe, are questions that others have tried to answer. Myself, I have never wondered what consequences might have followed something which has not occurred: that seems to me an utterly barren speculation. The fact is that there was no Bidault Plan, but a Schuman Plan.
Clappier helped us put the finishing touches to the text, which on Saturday May 6 assumed its final shape with the addition of some further sentences:
By making herself for more than twenty years the champion of a united Europe, France has had as her essential objective the maintenance of peace. Europe was not built, and we had war.
This was a homage to Aristide Briand, but also a farewell to rhetoric.
Europe will not be built all at once, or as a single whole: it will be built by concrete achievements which first create de facto solidarity.
This was the fundamental choice of a method for continual material and psychological integration. It seems slow and unspectacular; yet it has worked without a break for more than 25 years, and no one has been able to suggest any other way of making the Community progress.
'Now we must stop,' I said; and I wrote 'Definitive text, Saturday 3.00 p.m.' From that moment on, it was all a matter of tactics. Soon afterwards, I went into Schuman's office with Rene Mayer, now the Minister of Justice. He at once became an enthusiastic champion of the proposal, in which he saw the traces of our wartime talks in Algiers about the need to build a peaceful Europe. It was at Mayer's request that we added a sentence which at the time was thought to be purely formal,
but which later revealed its full implications:
Europe will be able, with increased resources, to pursue the realization of one of her essential tasks, the development of the African continent.
Meanwhile, I had the documents taken to Rene Pleven, Minister of Overseas Affairs. He was their only other recipient. In all, only nine people were in the know.
How and when to disclose the secret we discussed on Sunday. Pleven, now fully informed and committed, advised us on how to proceed. At the end of the morning I met Schuman and Clappier again. They had thought it advisable to bring in Alexandre Parodi, who was now Secretary-General at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Thereby, the Ministry was officially informed, but also pledged to silence. We were determined, in fact, to mount the whole operation outside diplomatic channels, and not to use ambassadors. In particular, the personal contact with Adenauer that Schuman wanted to establish was to be made by a member of his personal cabinet, who was to go to Bonn at the very moment when the decision was due to be taken. It remained to be decided when that should be. There was no longer much choice, since a decision of this importance required the consent of the whole Government. Yet we could not wait until Wednesday, the normal day for French Cabinet meetings, for this was when the Conference was due to start in London, and Schuman had to go there with a plan for Germany in his hands. Pleven and Mayer arranged for the Cabinet to meet on Tuesday morning instead of Wednesday. Until then, there had to be total secrecy. There was — but with one exception.
This was the result of a curious coincidence. Dean Acheson, the US Secretary of State, had decided not to go to London direct, but to come via Paris in order to confer quietly with Schuman, wham he greatly respected. it would have been inconceivable to let the two men talk intimately about everything
except the one subject which in two days' time was to be all important. Courtesy and honesty obliged us to take Acheson into our confidence, and we never regretted having done so. The description in his memoirs of that Sunday, May 7, in Paris is characteristically lively, witty, and amiable. He admits that he failed to realize the significance of the Schuman Plan when it was first described to him through an interpreter. He suspected it of being a sort of huge coal and steel cartel, the nostalgic dream of European industrialists and a capital sin for Americans, who respected the laws of competition and free trade. The lawyer and the politician in Acheson instinctively recoiled, and I had to come and calm his fears.
I knew Acheson well. He had often come to our house in Washington and greatly appreciated Amelie's French cooking. Every morning, he could be seen walking to the office with Felix Frankfurter. With their two bowler hats, the two friends were the incarnation of Law and the Constitution. They were both good company, quizzical and full of warmth. Acheson could be urbane and even flippant; but his powerful intelligence was anchored in firm principles. I have described the part he played in the birth of the Marshall Plan; and I had no doubt that he would realize the political importance of the Schuman Plan. With David Bruce in attendance, he very quickly did; and from then on we had two chance accomplices who were also very powerful allies. However, the fleeting contretemps set me thinking: I saw that the nature of the plan for a coal and steel pool might be misunderstood. So I at once asked Uri to prepare an answer to the objection; and he drafted a note to be distributed at the same time as the proposal itself. He wrote:
The proposed organization is in every respect the very opposite of a cartel — in its aims, its methods, and its leadership.
The full proof was convincing; but there would have to be
great vigilance, and strict legal rules — a real European antitrust law — not only to disarm suspicion but also to prevent the formation of cartel.
Monday May 8 was the eve of battle, but to all appearances it was a normal day at the French Foreign Office and at No 18 rue de Martignac,* where we deliberately carried on as if nothing were in the air. That evening, Clappier told me that, as planned, a friend of Robert Schuman's, a magistrate from Lorraine by the name of Michlich, had left for Bonn, where he was to be met by Herbert Blankenhorn, head of the Federal Chancellor's private staff. How he reached the Chancellery on Tuesday morning, unbeknown to any French official and even to the French High Commissioner in Germany, Andre Francois-Poncet, only that discreet diplomat could describe. All I know is what I have read in Adenauer's memoirs:
That morning I was still unaware that the day would bring about a decisive change in the development of Europe. While the Federal Cabinet was in session, news came that an envoy from French Foreign Minister Schuman had an important message for me. Ministerial direktor Blankenhorn received the gentleman, who gave him two letters from Schuman to myself. Their content, he said, was exceptionally urgent: they must be put before me right away. The French gentleman, whose name I do not know, told Blankenhorn that the French Cabinet was at that very moment meeting to discuss the content of the letters... Blankenhorn brought the letters to me in the Cabinet meeting. One of them was a personal, handwritten message from Robert Schuman.
The place where Jean Monnet and his team had been working since 1945 on the French Plan for modernization and equipment.
In his personal letter to me, Schuman wrote that the aim of his proposal was not economic but highly political. There was still a fear in France that when Germany had recovered she would attack France. It could also be imagined that in Germany, on the other hand, there was a corresponding desire for greater security. Rearmament would have . to begin by increasing coal, iron, and steel production. If an organization such as Schuman envisaged were set up, enabling both countries to discern the first signs of any such rearmament, this new possibilaty would bring great relief to France..., I immediately informed Robert Schuman that I agreed to his proposal with all my heart.
The French Cabinet was indeed meeting, in the Elysee Palace, and Clappier still remembers his long wait in a nearby office. He was in touch with us at N° 18 rue de Martignac via the interministerial telephone. Midday came and went, and the Cabinet had reached the end of its agenda; but still Schuman had not spoken. He could not make a move until he had Adenauer's full agreement, which he had no reason to doubt but still had to receive. The long silence was agony to us: was everything going to hinge on a matter of minutes? At last, just as the Cabinet meeting ended, Michlich's call came through to Clappier, and everyone sat down again. Exactly what Schuman said to his colleagues is a Cabinet secret, but I have reason to believe that it was even more elliptical and less audible than usual. No one cast doubt on the desirability of the proposal he was taking to London, which was strongly supported by Pleven and Mayer, even if most members of the Cabinet learned its precise terms only from the next day's press. When the Cabinet meeting was over, Clappier called me. "That's it,' he said. 'We can go ahead.
To 'go ahead', as we saw it, meant to make public that evening, in spectacular fashion, the project so discreetly unveiled
that morning. At once, French and foreign newspapermen were asked to come to the Foreign Office at the Quai d'Orsay at 6.00 p.m.; and the Salon de 1'Horloge there was turned into a press room. In our haste, we forgot to invite the photographers and radio reporters — with the result that Schuman had to go through a reconstruction of the scene some months later to record it for posterity. The afternoon before the press conference was taken up with receiving the ambassadors of European countries and briefing them on the proposal which their Governments were going to read on the agency wires even before the ambassadorial telegrams were ready to send. When Schuman came into the Salon de 1'Horloge, more than two hundred newspapermen were waiting. I was there too, with Silvia, Hirsch, Uri, and my young assistant Francois Fontaine. I am not at all sure that Schuman's dull, hesitant voice immediately convinced them that they were witnessing a profound transformation of international politics, even though the tone of the preamble left no room for doubt:
It is no longer a time for vain words, but for a bold, constructive act. France has acted, and the consequences of her action may be immense. We hope they will. She has acted essentially in the cause of peace. For peace to have a real chance, there first must be a Europe.
In fact, this was a conclusion rather than a preamble; and I at once set about persuading the men from the leading newspaper that it was right. They were still uncertain about the significance of the proposal, whose technical aspects at first sight masked its political meaning. I knew that they would write about it as an industrial arrangement, a coal and steel pool — which was true enough. But it was also about Europe and peace. Roger Massip of Le Figaro, Charles Ronsac of Franc-Tireur, Jacques Gascuel of France-Soir, and Harold
Callender of the New York Times, among others, had no doubts: their articles hailed the event for what it was. In Germany, meanwhile, Adenauer in his turn was waiting for the announcement of the French proposal in order to tell the newspapermen gathered in Bonn that Germany accepted it:
The proposal that France has just made to us is a generous move. It is a decisive step forward in Franco-German relations. It is not a matter of vague generalizations, but of concrete suggestions based on equal rights.
With his habitual realism, the Federal Chancellor saw the immediate advantage:
Since the production of the Saar will be pooled, one cause of tension between France and Germany will be removed.
It had all been settled in a matter of hours, in public, by two men who by themselves had dared to commit their countries future. But at that moment, pleased as I was, I knew that the essential task remained to be completed; and I was impatient for only one thing — institutions to give shape to an agreement based on goodwill. Nothing is possible without men: nothing is lasting without institutions.
Robert Schuman, who was in a hurry to catch his train for London, so skilfully evaded the newspapermen's detailed questions about the future of the plan that one of them exclaimed: 'In other words, it's a leap in the dark?'
'That's right,' said Schuman soberly: 'a leap in the dark.'
Few people realized how true the metaphor was. They tended to think that the technical aspects of the plan had been meticulously prepared — why otherwise should it have originated at N° 18 rue de Martignac, as people -were beginning to realize that it had? That seemed sheer common sense, but it
led to many misunderstandings — beginning in London, where on their arrival Schuman and Clappier were bombarded with questions about the powers of the High Authority, the fate of a particular coalfield, or how prices were to be fixed. Unable to answer, they asked me to help them, and I decided to join them on May 14. Meanwhile, they were busy with the Three-power Conference, whose opening was overshadowed by Bevin's resentment against Acheson and Schuman, whom he suspected of having hatched an anti-British plot. Acheson has good-humouredly described the difficult moment when, while he was lunching with Bevin at the Foreign Office on May 9, the French Ambassador Rene Massigli asked to be received. Bevin 'wondered what was up'. Acheson, pledged to secrecy, said nothing; but he very soon paid for his silence.
Massigli had come to communicate the French Government's decision, which at that time had still not been officially announced. He had hardly had time to assess it himself, and I think he never assessed its true importance. Bevin made no immediate official response, but he told Massigli in private: 'I think that something has changed between our two countries/ Bevin was a politician of instinct and impulse, aggravated by the disease from which he was soon to die. It so happened that he was alone in London when the shock came: the Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, and his Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Stafford Cripps, were both on holiday at different places in France. In the confusion, the young Minister of State at the Foreign Office, Kenneth Younger, was inclined to recommend that Britain accept the French offer. Anthony Eden, then in opposition as Conservative spokesman on foreign affairs, made a speech strongly urging the Government to join, and so did Lord Layton on behalf of the Liberal Party. But already The Times recoiled at the word 'federation', and the Daily Express wrote: 'It would be the end of Britain's independence. ' Attlee, now back in London, spoke in the House of Commons on May 11. He welcomed Franco-German reconciliation, but wished to make a full study of the economic
implications. Any further decision was to await my own visit to London.
Acheson, for his part, had lost no time before making a positive declaration, in agreement with President Truman: 'We recognize with sympathy and approval the significant and far reaching intent of the French initiative.' Count Carlo Sforza, the Italian Foreign Minister, welcomed it warmly on behalf of his, own Government. The three Benelux Governments wanted more technical details, but public opinion impelled them towards rapid acceptance. And in London the three Powers were at last able to agree about Germany. Charles Ronsac cabled:
Everything is changed. Instead of a negative, cold-war conference, we are going to have a positive conference, an attempt to forge European unity.
The echoes of 'the Schuman bombshell' continued in the world press and caused a sensation in diplomatic circles. But everything now seemed to hinge on the attitude in London, where decisions about Europe had so long been determined. I knew that it would be a hard fight, and I hoped to win it; but in my heart I knew that the essential prize had already been won, irrevocably. Europe was on the move. Whatever the British decided would be their own affair.
As soon as I arrived in London, together with Hirsch and Uri, I as usual got in touch with my old friends. Not all of them were people in the public eye; but like those in New York whom I have already mentioned, many of them were businessmen, lawyers, and newspapermen — people whose work required and enabled them to get to the bottom of things, and whose success depended on their good sense. They included Lord Brand, Lord Kindersley, Arthur Salter, and the editor of The Economist, Geoffrey Crowther. Between them, they knew what I needed to know, and a talk with them was enough — afterwards, I could face my political contacts. Crowther was in
favour of Britain's joining in the Schuman Plan, and was going to argue the case in his newspaper: but he made no secret of what a battle it would be. Britain had not been conquered or invaded: she felt no need to exorcize history. Her imperial role was not yet at an end, and her experience of general well-being had only just begun. Churchill declared: 'We must be with France.' But he added: 'We must be careful that it does not carry with it a lowering of British wages and standards of life and labour.' Attlee could say no less. Plowden, who was my official interlocutor, asked me more: how would the High Authority be composed, how would it intervene, what safeguards would there be to prevent its acting arbitrarily, would it have the right to close down firms, how would it ensure full employment ?
It was clear that the British did not want to commit themselves to principles, or to a negotiating method, without knowing in advance all the practical consequences — which in our view were what we should be negotiating about. Certainly, Hirsch, Uri, and I could give some answers and collect some suggestions. But the British Government would not feel at ease unless it received 'a piece of paper'. I promised Plowden that we would write to him as soon as we returned to Paris, which we did. To have to do so was useful: it made us clarify some of our ideas, in particular about parliamentary supervision of the High Authority. But it soon became clear that this approach was not enough: we should not be able to avoid the basic issues that Attlee raised in the House of Commons on June 13:
It became perfectly clear in the course of informal discussions between M. Monnet, Chief Planning Officer of the French Government, and British officials, that while the French Government had not worked out how their proposal would be applied in practice, their views on the procedure for negotiations were definite.
In this respect, indeed, we were more pragmatic than the British, since we were proposing a basis and a method for future discussion. Plowden had the idea of inviting the Permanent Under-Secretaries of the relevant Ministries to dine with us. At the end of the evening, one of them sighed:
'Blessed were our fathers, for they knew what to , do in all circumstances.'
It was typically British nostalgia. When I met Schuman and Massigli after the dinner, I said:
'The British will not find their future role by themselves. Only outside pressure will induce them to accept change.'
It was better to speak plainly. Sir Stafford Cripps asked me to come to his office before leaving London.
'Would you go ahead with Germany and without us ?' he inquired.
'My dear friend,' I answered, 'you know how I have felt about Britain for more than thirty years: there is no question about that. I hope with all my heart that you will join in this from the start. But if you don't, we shall go ahead without you. And I'm sure that, because you are realists, you will adjust to the facts when you see that we have succeeded.'
At the same time, Schuman was talking at a luncheon given by the Anglo-French press.
'How many countries are needed to make the plan work ?' someone asked.
'If necessary,' he said, 'we shall go ahead with only two.' The British would have been left in no doubt about his determination if he had not added:
'As regards Great Britain, if there is not 100% participation, there can be association compatible with her structure and her economic ideas.'
This overture was unwise, for experience has taught me that it is not a good thing for the British to obtain special conditions and an exceptional position in their relationships with
others, or even for them to cherish such hopes. On the other hand, they are at their best if you firmly offer to work with them on an equal footing. If you stick to your principles, there is every likelihood that the British will sooner or later adapt to the situation and become partners in the full sense of the word.
I realized, then, that haggling would lead nowhere, and that we must simply press ahead. So as soon as I had returned from London I went to see Chancellor Adenauer in Bonn. With me, to act as a link with Schuman, was Bernard Clappier, who was equally devoted to our plan and to his Minister. 'Clappier is solid gold,' Schuman used to say. He had long watched the young man's progress as a civil servant; and when Clappier had been his directeur de cabinet at the Finance Ministry for about six months, Schuman invited him to lunch at a small restaurant and took him fully into his confidence. From then on, Clappier was one of the rare people to whom Schuman divulged his innermost thoughts. I, too, found him not only discreet and efficient, but also a man of great intellectual honesty, and totally disinterested. We soon became friends. Arriving in Bonn, I went to see another friend, Jack McCloy, who this time was to. be my opposite number in a delicate negotiation where his steady political vision and diplomatic skill were to prove very valuable. At that time he was US High Commissioner in Germany, and Chairman of the Council of the Allied High commission, where his colleagues were Andre Francois-Poncet and the British General Sir Brian Robertson. This Council still had extensive supervisory powers, especially over the foreign relations of the new Federal Republic. It was an unusual situation: I had to ask McCloy's permission to start talks with Adenauer, and those talks presupposed that France and Germany would henceforth act as equals. The Council's decision, therefore, was more than a formality: it was its last act of diplomatic tutelage.
Nor was there anything automatic about that decision. I had to make a long expose to persuade my hearers. True, McCloy was already in favour of our aims; but he had to take account of the reservations expressed by his British colleague.
'Germany is under Allied tutelage. Her coal and steel are requisitioned.
So the High Commission must be represented at the negotiations.'
That would have run counter to the spirit of the French proposal; and Armand Berard, assistant to Francois-Poncet — who was away that day — answered in accordance with the instructions that Clappier had brought to Bonn: '
From the moment we authorize the Federal German Government to negotiate, it must do so as a sovereign power.' On this, the discussion began to get bogged down; so I said ;'
Given the scope of the commitments Germany will be undertaking in the Schuman Plan Treaty, it is vital that no one in future should be able to claim that they were not freely accepted.'
The members of the Council saw that we were making a political point, and they soon relented. I was authorized to begin talks with Adenauer.
That afternoon, we were shown into the Chancellor's office at the Schaumburg palace. I was accompanied by Clappier and Berard, who this time came in his personal capacity. Adenauer had Blankenhorn with him. I already had some idea of how Adenauer looked, with his rigid figure and impassive face: but now I realized at once that I did not know him. The man before me was not self-assured, but anxious to know what I was going to say, and unable completely to conceal a degree of mistrust. Clearly, he could not believe that we were really pro- posing full equality; and his attitude was still marked by long years of hard negotiation and wounded pride. Our conversation lasted for an hour and a half. As it progressed, I saw the old man gradually relax and reveal the emotion that he had been holding back.
'We want to put Franco-German relations on an entirely new footing,' I said. 'We want to turn what divided France from Germany — that is, the industries of war — into a common
asset, which will also be European. In this way, Europe will rediscover the leading role which she used to play in the world and which she lost because she was divided. Europe's unity will not put an end to her diversity — quite the reverse. That rich diversity will benefit civilization and influence the evolution of powers like America itself.
'The aim of the French proposal, therefore, is essentially political. It even has an aspect which might be called moral. Fundamentally, it has one simple objective, which our Government will try to attain without worrying, in this first phase, about any technical difficulties that may arise.'
I stressed this point because it now seemed to me essential to turn from the problems to the method, and to agree on a certain conception of our common task. My visit to London had convinced me that the French proposal, so clear and simple in its form and spirit, might be totally distorted by an approach that was too scrupulously or too insidiously technical. . I saw a similar risk, though for different reasons, in dealing with the Germans, and especially with their industrialists and diplomats.
"The Shuman proposal,' I added, 'has had a profound effect on public opinion. People are no longer prepared to see their hopes disappointed. We must turn as soon as possible from words to deeds. The negotiations must produce a general Treaty setting up the High Authority: then the technicians can get to work. I know from experience that practical problems are never insoluble once they're approached from the starting-point of a great idea.'
Adenauer listened attentively and answered with warmth: II too am not a technician, nor entirely a politician either. For me, like you, this project is of the highest importance: it is a matter of morality. We have a moral and not just a technical responsibility to our people, and that makes it incumbent upon us to fulfil this great hope. The German people have enthusiastically welcomed the plan, and we shall not let ourselves be caught up in details. I have waited twenty-five years for a move like this.
In accepting it, my Government and my country have no secret hankerings after hegemony. History since 1933 has taught us the folly of such ideas. Germany knows that its fate is bound up with that of Western Europe as a whole.'
We then discussed what should be done next. When Clappier announced that the French Government had decided to put me in charge of negotiating the Treaty, the Chancellor said that he would have to look for what he called 'a German M. Monnet'. He mentioned the names of several businessmen. None of them meant very much to me.
'It would be a mistake,' I said, 'to worry too much about expertise. What counts is a sense. of the general interest. In this respect, M. Schuman fully intends to keep a close eye on matters himself; and, if you will allow me to say so, I should advise you to choose a delegate who is directly responsible to you. The last word is always political.'
When we had finished, Adenauer rose to his feet. 'Monsieur Monnet,' he said, 'I regard the implementation of the French proposal as my most important task. If I succeed, I believe that my life will not have been wasted.' We took our leave. I can say of Adenauer what he said in his memoirs about me: After that, we were friends for life.'
[The British on their side were not willing to sit at the negociations table except to question the very principle of the High Authority. That was judged unacceptable. Then they made counter-proposals...]
... Macmillan sent me his proposal with a friendly covering-note. This gave me the opportunity to react against so profound a misunderstanding, which I knew would delay British membership, necessary as that was. In a long letter in English, which went the rounds in Strasbourg, I wrote:
The Schuman proposals are revolutionary or they are nothing.... Cooperation between nations, while
essential, cannot alone meet our problem. What must be sought is a fusion of the interests of the European peoples and not merely another effort to maintain an equilibrium of those interests through additional machinery for negotiation... The Schuman proposals provide a basis for the building of a new Europe through the concrete achievement of a supranational regime within a limited but controlling area of economic effort.... The indispensable first principle of these proposals is the abnegation of sovereignty in a limited but decisive field and ..., in my view, any plan which does not involve this indispensable first principle can make no useful contribution to the solution of the grave problems that face us.
Later, Macmillan came round to this point of view. In the meantime, I wanted him not to create too much confusion. I added:
I know the British people well enough to be confident that they will never oppose a progressive measure for the benefit of all Europe even though their special problems may for the moment prevent their joining fully in its achievement.
In reality, these 'special problems', real or imaginary, present or past — the problems of the Commonwealth, sterling, or the Socialist experiment — did not wholly explain the attitude of the British.
I had in fact sensed a deeper and less articulate worry on their part, of which I had confirmation in a letter that Felix Gaillard wrote me from Strasbourg while the Council of Europe was in session:
Members of the Labour Party are opposed to the
Schuman Plan because they are defeatist about continental Europe, which they have deliberately written off in case of war — something they regard as inevitable and very near at hand.... The Conservatives are more or less of the same opinion..
It is important to realize what the atmosphere was like in that summer of 1950. As we shall see, it was pervaded by fear — the cold war in the heart of Europe, the Korean War in Asia. And the same fear led to contrasting reactions: unity on the continent, isolationism in Britain. In some notes I made at the time, I wrote:
Britain has no confidence that France and the other countries of Europe have the ability or even the will effectively to resist a possible Russian invasion
Britain believes that in this conflict continental Europe will be occupied but that she herself, with America, will be able to resist and finally conquer. She therefore does not wish to let her domestic life or the development of her resources be influenced by any views other than her own, and certainly not by continental views.
If this, as I suspected, was really what the British felt in their heart of hearts, we had no hope of convincing them for a long time to come. Besides, we ourselves had already plunged into action.