THE SCHUMAN PLAN CONFERENCE ( 1950)
The six countries that had accepted the Schuman Plan were to open their conference in Paris on June 20, 1950. The public expected great things of it, but some people approached it with disquiet. Not unnaturally, interest groups in the various countries felt particularly threatened: in their eyes, the plan was bound to work to the advantage of their neighbours, not themselves. It was our task to point out that these mutually contradictory fears cancelled each other out. Most alarmed of all were the s teelmakers, whose corporate bodies, accustomed as they were to s ecret agreements, campaigned against this new High Authority, which would deal with problems in the light of day. Privately, however, they were less unequivocal. Hirs ch, who knew them well, had not gone ahead without taking some soundings; and even before May 9 he had on his own initiative been in touch with one of the wis e leading lights of the French steel industry, with whom he was on terms of trust.
'There's no choice,' he had been told: 'for us, it's either that or extinction.'
Obviously, we could not quote this remark, or the assurances which we had had in private from members of the French National Coal Board; we had to let the indus trialists claim that we had taken decisions over their heads. The truth was that we were not prepared to negotiate with private interest groups about a venture of such great public importance. As it was, the Governments were bombarded with complaints, but public opinion gave them the will and the s trength to resist.
The attitude of the trade unions, in particular, was impeccable. Although the CGT at once denounced the plan as
'infringing national sovereignty', Force Ouvriere, led by Leon Jouhaux, and the CFTC, under Gaston Teissier, approved it in principle. At its confe rence in Dus seldorf on May 23 , the International Con federation of Free Trade Unions gave the plan its support and expressed its desire to take p art. These positive reactions c ontrasted with the prudence of the Socialist political parties . In France, under the leadership of Guy Mollet, the gap b etween them and the unions was gradually narrowed; but in G ermany it widened, owing to the Sociali s t leader Kurt Schumacher, whose hostility to Adenauer pushed him to extremes.
'The Germans,' he said, 'are in the process of accepting Occupation for another fifty years .'
He made much of the alarmist slogan of 'the four Ks' - Kapitalismus, Klerikalismus, Konservatismus, Kartelk. The Chancellor riposted just as vigorously:
'Anyone who s abotages or vilifies the S chuman Plan is a bad German.'
But a young Socialist deputy from Berlin was already looking to the future:
'We have long b een calling for a true Europeanization of heavy industry,' he declared, 'and we warmly welcome s omething that brings us clos er to that goal. We must do justice to the French proposal.'
The author of these words was beginning to make his name. It was Willy Brandt.
I followed closely the anxieties expressed by the old Belgian coal industry, the young Italian steel industry, and the ambitious Dutch planners. None of their particular problems seemed to me insoluble. On the contrary, I was certain that they would all be carried forward by the new European impetus; but I knew how hard it would be to convince them of that fact. The Netherlands Government, in particular, ,had written to stipulate that it could always withdraw from the negotiation. This went without saying, but the need to say it suggested that the Dutch would be difficult partners. All the agitation, however, made me
optimistic. If so many misgivings had not prevented Governments from taking the first step, it was because that step was political, and becau s e a l arge maj ority everywhere was in favour. To ensure that there was no misunderstanding and that the conference took the right course from the start, Adenauer told the German Bundestag on June 13 :
Let m e make a point o f declaring i n so many words and in full agreement, not only. with the French Government but also with M . Jean Monnet, that the importance of this project is above all political and not economic.
With this in mind, the Chancellor was still concerned about the choice of his own negotiator. He wrote several letters asking my advice, and he actually sent a first candidate to see me - a capable businessman, but no more. I said as much to Adenauer, who agreed. Then he told me:
'I've heard about a professor from the University of Frankfurt who has the qualities we need.'
It was Walter Hallstein. When I met him shortly afterwards, I took to him at once, and we trusted each other from the first. His cultivated mind and breadth of vision equipped him admirably to underst and other people's problems. H e was a man of action as well as a s cholar, and a great European - as the future was to show. But less obvious in this very private man are his inner qualities, the loyalty and sincerity that struck me at our first meeting. He invests them· in what he does rather than in his p ersonal friendships, which are rare . Everyone respects his authority, and the care with which he maintains it. The proof of his ability lies in the success of what he has achieved. His modesty and kindness are less well known; but I have had continual proof of them from that day to this.
Hallstein was not a politician, but he had political vision. Adenauer was a leader and man of affairs, a strong man for whom the analysis of facts was secondary, b ecause what matteredto
him was the objective, and then the decision that was needed to attain it. He went straight to conclusions ; and in 1 950 his conclusion was the same as mine: the need to organize the West. How, by what means - that was not his main concern, but ours; and it was great good fortune that he placed his trust in H allstein, who was as eager as we were to push ahead and transform the situation by means of the Schuman Plan. Agreement between France and Germany was a political necessity; but in this case necessity was greatly aided by the choice of men. From now on, we could move fast. On June 16, Adenauer wrote to me:
I entirely s hare your opinion that we should expedite the negotiations as rapidly as possible and, if we can, draw up the Treaty before the summer parliamentary recess. Only in that way can we be certain of making this great idea a reality.
The date of June 20 was the earliest that we could arrange for the opening of a conference that we hoped to conclude by August, in order to profit from the general p sychological momentum. Public opinion was counting on the rapid success of a project whose political importance it had perceived from the s tart. The European press was on our side, and although nationalists and conservatives everywhere were hostile to the plan, it was easy for us to turn this to our advantage by arguing that we embodied the desire for change that our peoples shared. Yet at the same time we had to outpace the opposition, which was mustering powerful res ources against the plan. That was why, like Adenauer and Schuman, I believed that the agreement setting up the H igh Authority must be very rapidly signed and ratified. Once that institution was in place, the breakthrough would have b een made, and it would be time for the experts and the inevitable difficulties : the political step would have been taken.
Many people argued that this was a gamble, and one that
we should lose. But I have never thought in terms of gambles. When anyone has settled on the objective to be attained, he must act without forming hypotheses about the risks of failure. Until you have tried, you can never tell whether a task is impossible or not. The method we had in mind then was right; and while I cannot claim that it would be the best in any circumstances, I can say that at the time I was convinced that progress towards a united Europe would be easier if we could exclude from the new Treaty the legal and technical formalities that normally burden such agreements . For the Schuman Plan, things did not work out that way; but in the end we made a virtue of our disappointment. We used the long, painstaking ne gotiations to draw up an entirely novel Treaty, in which future generations will no doubt look for models of how to pool resources and b ring nations together. We should waste no time in regretting what never happened, but profit inst ead from the unexpected circumstances that fate put in our way.
The two weeks p receding the conference saw a remarkable development in people's ideas . To me, that was the proof that, in a creative political venture like the Schuman Plan, what really matters can be achieved at a stroke, even if many months are needed to turn it into a joint achievement. By June 12, we were able to submit to the French Interministerial Council a draft paper describing the role of the independent High Authority and the means of appeal against its decisions. Already there had emerged the notion of an arbiter, and of the Executive's being politically answerable to a parliamentary body. The idea of a motion of censure was quite explicit.
'Thus,' I told the Interministerial Council, 'we shall lay the concrete foundations of a Federation of Europe.'
The Council asked me to go ahead. A week later, this first draft had developed considerably; and by the time the Schuman Plan conference opened, I had on my desk a draft Treaty forty articles long containing in rough but recognizable form the basic structure for the organization of Europe. This text, which enlarged on the Schuman Declaration of May 9 and
made it operational, was also the work of the same few people. Their contribution did not stop there: but, important as it was to b e later, there is no doubt that this was an exceptionally creative phase. Such a phase in the history of ideas is always brief, and is often hard to distinguish from the later, practical phase which involves great changes for people and things. As we saw it - and as we had said in the Schuman D eclaration itself - once the Treaty was signed, this s econd phase should be handled by the High Authority and the Governments, with the help of the arbiter. But this did not happen, for reas ons that will s oon emerge.
Monsieur Schuman opened the conference of the Six at 4.00 p.m. on June 20, 1950, in the Salon de l'Horloge at the French Foreign O ffice. The national delegations were large - larger than I could have wished, overloaded with experts: I had s carcely had time to meet the men who led them. Schuman declared:
We believe that we cannot afford to fail, to give up without reaching a conclusion. But never b efore have States undertaken or even envisaged the j oint delegation of part of their national s overeignty to an independent supranational body.
He recalled the procedure and method of work we had m mind:
We shall have to think about the technical details that will be the subject of conventions to be concluded later, but without writing them into the Treaty now. We shall work as a team, and not as a negotiating conference with rigid, pedantic rules.
Announcing the names of the French delegation, which included Clappier, Alp hand, Hirsch, Uri, and Desrousseaux, the Director of Mines and Steel, the French Foreign Office
spokesman added that a certain number of people who would not take part in the talks would nevertheles s be consulted. These would include the chairmen of the major Parliamentary Committees; the President of the Economic Council, Leon J ouhaux of Force Ouvriere; Georges Villiers, President of the French Employers' Organization; the leaders of the coal and steel indus tries; and the trade unionists Robert Bothereau, also of Force Ouvriere, and Gaston Teissier of the Catholic Workers' Confederation, the CFTC. Herve Alphand was to maintain liais on b e tween the conference and the British Government. The other national delegations were made up on similar lines. I quickly split them up into working groups, and kept with me only the leading figures. But, first of all, everyone had to be made to realize that this was not just another of those economic conferences in which they were professional and in some cases virtuoso performers . That, I knew, would be the hardest part of my task.
I set about it next day, tirelessly repeating the less on, irrespective of how impatient my audience b ecame. Experience has taught me that people who think they have understood it right away are no more likely to act accordingly than anyone else, because negotiation is s econd nature to them: it seems to be an end in itself.
'We are here,' I said, 'to undertake a common task - not to negotiate for our own national advantage, but to seek it in the advantage of all.' The sixty delegates present were not to know that for more than ten months they would go on hearing · me repeat this s ame lesson, which men trained to defend and advance purely national interests find one of the hardest to learn.
'Only if we eliminate from our debates any particularist feelings s hall we reach a solution. In so far as we, gathered here, can change our methods, the attitude of all Europeans will likewise gradually change.' I therefore asked that the word 'negotiations' should not be used to des cribe our meetings. Instead, for ourselves as for the public, they should be known
as 'the Schuman Plan Conference'. It was on that same day, I think, that I firs t used the term 'European Community' to describe our objective.
For more than two hours I expounded the French drafts but without distributing the text, so as not to cramp the discussion. I intended to incorporate any important points made by the other delegations :
'All difficulties and all suggestions will be pooled, s o that the draft, although originally French, will become a j oint work.'
In fact, our working document, drawn up by H irsch and Uri, was the only t ext of any substance. The other delegations had come more to ask ques tions than to make proposals . At this stage, it was normal that the initiative should come from us; but that, in my view, was not a mere matter of chance. I have never sat down to discuss anything without having a draft before me - and I care very little whether it b e the first or the only text. It is at least our contribution. If the others accept it b ecause it seems the best, or for any other reason, so much the better. To tell the truth, our suggestions have often been accepted in the absence of any competition. Generally, people come to the table empty-handed, out of either circumspection or sloth. In their hearts, they are pleased to find that a paper has b een produced overnight. To produce it means staying up late.
In the course of what I said on June 21 , I als o went into a new aspect of the H igh Authority' s independence. I t should, I argued, have its own revenue, drawn from a levy on coal and steel production, and not depend on government subsidies to finance its administration and its operational work. Its moral and fin.ancial credit would make it the best-placed borrower in Europe. By making loans, it could encourage inves t ments that served the general interest, but with,out wielding coercive power. Other ideas that emerged that day were the Consultative Committee and the name of the parliamentary body, the Common Assembly. Little by little, the whole structure was
taking s hape. To complete it, two important elements were s till to come: the C ouncil of Ministers, on which the small countries were to insist, and the Court of Justice, which we had so far only touched upon. At the same time, our idea of an arbiter and of a two-stage procedure were s oon to disappear under pressure from the same small countries, which from the following day onward began to hedge the political plan with a thousand technical precautions .
That next day's meeting, on June ·22, began the s eries of restricted sessions in which the heads of delegation, with one or two advisers, were to s teer the conference and deal by th.ems elves with the institutional problems . Here, everyone could speak freely, unchecked by his t echnical experts and unconstrained by official minutes. My colleagues from the other five countries were men of goodwill, picked from among their countries ' most experienced negotiators. Of all of them, Hallstein was certainly the least well known - he had been seen only at a few UNESCO conferences. The others were habitues of international meetings where national representatives bargained with each other. The Belgian, Maximilien Suetens, was an affable and conciliatory senior official. Dirk Spierenburg was the living incarnation of Dutch s tubbornness, and a very tough debater. Albert Wehrer, a s kilful Luxembourg diplomat, knew very well the interests he had to defend. All three had had experience of a limited customs union, Benelux. The only political figure was Emilio Taviani, a young deputy from the Italian Christian Democrat Party. Except for Hallstein, I had not been consulted on the appointment of my colleagues. Over the months, I came to know them; but what mattered now was to bring them rapidly to look at the problem from the same point of view and tackle it as a common task - an approach that came less than naturally to officials trained to obey their Governments' instructions. I relied on the pressure of hard work, in the enclosed atmosphere of N° 1 8 rue de Martignac, to create a team spirit, not only among the six of us, but also among the experts on the various committees, who
were subject to the same regime.
I encouraged t hem to expres s their fears in the form of questions. Concerted or not, thes e all pointed in the same direction, s howing the natural bias of men accustomed to negotiating agreements between States or between producers - more o r less secret agreements rest ricting free competition. They found it hard to adjust to the idea that this regulatory role could be entrusted to the High Authority, acting openly and with s overeign p ower. One by one, the Benelux and Italian delegates asked whether all these important technical ques tions could not be settled by intergovernmental agreement before the High Authority was set up. This was the very opposite of the spirit and procedure of the Schuman Plan. But it was clear that most of the participants were not yet prepared to give up the guarantees they now enjoyed, even if the High Authority were hedged about with the most elaborate democratic safeguards. For my part, I would certainly not agree to its being tied down or limited in advance; but it was obvious that we should have to write into the Treaty s om e of the points that would otherwise have figured in the subsequent implementing conventions we had originally planned. My colleagues wanted these technical clauses s et tled beforehand: I should have liked to deal with them afterwards. In the event, they were to be drawn up simultaneously with the Treaty itself.
In the course of the discussion it became evident that Spierenburg would be the toughest negotiator, and that his Benelux colleagues were relying on him and on his stubborn temperament to limit the power of the new institutions. Two of the objections that he raised that day were to be among the most serious obstacles the conference faced; and while we were able in the end to eliminate one of them, reason and necessity persuaded me to incorporate .the other in the Community's basic structure. The firs t question was : 'What relationship will there be between the Common Assembly of the Schuman Plan and the Consultative Assembly of the Council
of Europe ? Will it not involve needless reduplication? ' I saw the trap, I guessed what was behind it, and I saw where it might lead; but I wasted no time on it then. M ore urgent and substantial was the s econd objection: 'The French plan as at present described will revolutionize many things. H ow will governments react? If we are to carry them with us, they must be given a role in the system and wider powers, even if they are to give up some of their sovereignty.' I took note of this argument, although at the time I was not quite clear as to what it might imply. Originally, I had decided against including any intergovernmental body in the Community's institutions, and I pointed this out. Hallstein, who had so far said little, strongly agreed. The days that followed were taken up with useful debates about economic problems. Then came the time to bring out our working document, which was to act as a basis for consideration by Governments . A summary of the text was given to the press , and the delegates departed for their respective capitals, to report back and receive further instructions. I was actually hoping that they would do rather more, and tell their Governments all they had seen and heard during these few dramatic days in Paris when Europe had b egun to take shape. There was no doubt that the delegates had already been coaxed beyond their official mandates and beyond their own personal p o s itions : t h ey had quickly b e gu n to work together enthusiastically, as a team. As the meeting broke up, I said:
It's true that the venture we are engaged on raises very many questions . But most of them would arise in any case, and would find their own s olutions , in disorder and to everyone's disadvantage. If we do nothing, fate will deal with our present difficulties, in spite of ourse lves . The Schuman Plan has not created thes e problems : it has merely exposed them to the light of day.
I could say no more: I could only hope that my five colleagues were convinced, and that they in their turn would be convincing. We decided to meet again on July 3. In the text that was given to the press, I was careful to include the following s tipulation:
The withdrawal of a State which has committed itself to the Community should be possible only if all the others agree to such withdrawal and to the conditions in which it takes place. This rule in itself sums up the fundamental transformation which the French proposal seeks to achieve. Over and above coal and steel, it is laying the foundations of a European federation. In a federation, no State can secede by its own unilateral decision. Similarly, there can be no Community except among nations which commit themselves to it with no limit in time and no looking back.
After that, no one could any longer doubt our ambition and our determination.
When the conference resumed a week later, national positions had hardened, and I realized that the task would be difficult, because the men around me were now e quippe d with new instructions. Yet for the most part these instructions were defensive: they accepted the principle of having the High Authority. How independent it would be - that was the ques tion, and that was where conflict might arise . Suetens fired the first shot.
'My Government,' he said, 'is not prepared to give the High Authority excessive powers. That would make it an object of
fear; and b esides, no such powers are needed to achieve our aims. These can be attained more simply, by prior agreement among the S tates concerned. Furthermore, we do not agree that the supervisory body s hould be a Parliament recruited from among the national Parliaments, since only they have the political responsibility. On the contrary, the supervisory body should be the Ministers, who effectively exercise power.'
Wehrer, the Luxembourger, seemed more concerned to establish a means of appeal based on the notion of a country's 'vital interests' - a notion open to all sorts o f interpretations, as the future was to show. Spierenburg took up the same argument.
'Why,' he asked, 'should these means of appeal not consist of a majority decision - perhaps a two-thirds maj ority - taken by a committee of Ministers from the countries concerned ? This would give the Governments back their proper role. They, after all, are responsible for their countries' general policies .'
Spierenburg always spoke with passion, in excellent French, and his words came in a rush at moments of t ension, which he himself created.
'Besides,' he said, 'let me make myself quite clear: this is a point on which I see no possibility of compromise.'
Hirsch then asked him a question.
'In the system you propose,' he inquired, 'would the twothirds vote of the committee of Ministers be to validate or to invalidate decisions by the High Authority? '
'To validate them,' Spierenburg answered. The Benelux countries were clearly thinking in terms of a blocking minority.
It was now Hallstein's turn to speak.
'The German Government,' he declared, 'reaffirms that the importance of the Schuman Plan is above all political. In this context, economic problems, substantial as they may be, are s econdary: solutions to them will always be found. That is why the German delegation appeals urgently to all members of this conference to subordinate their economic interests to
this great political goal. The war that has just broken out in Korea gives Europe yet another reas on for uniting, for the peace of the world is under threat. This said, we do not underestimate the economic problems, and I shall return to them in greater detail later on. But the safeguards you seek will depend on the quality of the men who are chosen to run the Community, and on respect for the principles to be laid down in the preamble and articles of the Treaty - including in particular the principle of equality. The Assembly and the Court will see to that.'
This firm and dignified statement confirmed that France and Germany s till saw eye to eye. That was the crux of the matter, and I was able to continue my work of persuasion. My first target, I remember, was Taviani. When he asked for the Italian steel industry to be put on a par with those of other countries b efore the High Authority started work, I answered:
'I agree that competitive conditions s hould be made equal. But let us get out of the habit of talking about the Italian steel industry, the French s teel industry, and so on, b ecause soon there will be only a European steel industry. That is the whole purpose of the Schuman Plan.'
There was a cons tant risk that this would b e forgotten. Turning to Spierenburg, I reminded him that intergovernmental co-operation had never led anywhere:
'I realize,' I said, 'that there may be serious concern _about the radical change which the French proposal represents . But remember that we are here to build a European Community. The supranational Authority is not merely the best means for s olving economic problems: it is also the first move towards a federation.'
Our starting-points were different: there was no dis guising the fact. But it seemed to me undesirable to make them public before we had worked to bring them together. Spierenburg disagreed. I realized that I had to play for time, and get my colleagues used to discussing problems of national sovereignty without flinching from the thought. It seemed better to fall
back on a practical approach: so we set up five technical working groups. The group dealing with the economic problems of establishing a 'common market' for coal and steel set t0 work at once. Its task was the most ext ensive, and it made good progress . I have to say that Hirsch, who was its Chairman, found himself in his element. The methods of the French Planning Commissariat were readily adaptable both tO European problems and tO the Europeans involved. Overnight, the six countries' experts, industrialists, trade union leaders, and civil servants became integrated into a team. For reasons both practical and symbolic, it had its headquarters at N° 18 rue de Martignac, which in its day had been chosen and arranged for the purpose of continual consultation. Now, the same process began again - a small group, using the experience of those best qualified and most directly concerned with the field it was exploring. That was how we had drawn up the Modernization Plan for France. But the exchange of experience had not been limited to the first, creative phase: it had continued into day-to-day action and become in a sense institutionalized. Now we had to work out a new method, transposing into the organization of Europe the principle underlying the Modernization Commissions, and running a complex entity with a small team very precisely aware of what existed and what was needed in every field. I knew from experience the working habits of many peoples here and there in the world: I had worked with men of several different nationalities . But I had seldom had contact with the Germans and the Dutch; and I had a lot to learn about their style of thinking and their legal approach. The problem, however, was not to adapt to their psychology or to ask them to think like me: it was to induce them to put the common interest above purely national concerns . For that, I had to rely on the intelligence and goodwill that exist in every man worth his salt, and which reveal themselves as soon as one has es tablished trust.
To establish trust is more straightforward than is often thought: straightforwardness, indeed, is the secret of how it is
done. If s ome delegates had arrived full of suspicion, they gradually found that we had nothing to hide. We demonstrated to them, day after day, that all our intentions were set out in the Declaration of May 9, and that all one needed was to read that. Our working document, in fact, was a faithful reflection of the Schuman Declaration, and no arbitrary or dictatorial intent could be read into the notion of the High Authority. If Hallstein sometimes warned us against dirigisme, this was mainly to appease Ludwig Erhard, the German Minister of Economic Affairs, a dogmatic 'liberal' economist, who kept a close watch on our work. Hallstein had unders tood, as had several others, that we were not planning to substitute the High Authority for private enterprise, but seeking to make possible real competition throughout a vast market, from which producers, workers, and consumers would all gain. It was not unrealistic to hope that a proper balance of interests would often be reached automatically; but it would not have been wise to imagine that it would last without intervention by an independent High Authority. The problem was to limit such intervention to what was strictly necessary, to codify it, and to make it publicly accountable.
We tried to reas sure everyone by showing that this open approach was itself the most effective safeguard. One of the essential features of the High Authority's work would be the information which it would have the right to collect and the duty to publish. In this way, in contrast to the traditional practice of industries j ealous of their secrets, all concerned would be able to take their decisions in full awareness of the facts, and purchasers in particular would know how prices were arrived at. Publicity of this kind, together with the public debates of the Consultative Committee and the Common Assembly, as well as the verdicts of the Court, would make the new institutions as open to scrutiny as a house. of glas s . But too much light undoubtedly blinded men who had been b rought up in the shadowy corridors of power. Their innermost security lay in their power to say No, which is the privilege of national
sovereignty: No to change, No to the uncertainty of unprecedented innovations . I saw that it would take time to achieve among us the atmosphere that the Community ought to have, and I completely abandoned the idea of settling matters all at once. What counted was to prevent the constitutional debate getting bogged down, and to get to the heart of things before the summer recess.
I spent a whole week convincing Suetens and Spierenburg that, while Franco-German reconciliation was the means to the Schuman Plan's goal, which was peace, this would not be achieved at the expense o f the s malle r nations . S chuman, through other channels, persuaded the Governments that their negotiators in Paris were not in the desperate position of being the sole defenders of national independence. No one was threatened. Despite all my arguments, I think I failed to alte r the basic convictions of my two colleagues; but it was enough if they came to see that my own views were both sincere and unequivocally straightforward. This greatly affected the way they behaved. To expect more of people is unwise: the art of persuasion has its limits. In this respect, I have often been credited with more power than I possess . M ontagu Norman apparently said of me: 'He's not a banker - he's a conjuror', which suggests someone almost magically adroit. About banking, he certainly knew more than I did, and more than anyone; but what he failed to understand was the power of simple ideas exp ressed plainly and unvaryingly, over and over again. That at least disarms suspicion, which is the main source of misunders tandings.
Mutual understanding is always difficult; but once suspicion has been eliminated, a major obstacle is removed. Between men of different nations and different upbringing this is the firs t step to take: but one must commit oneself wholeheartedly, or else it would be only a recipe or trick. I am not proposing recipes: I have none to offer. People act or fail to act, naturally, according to whether they are all of a piece or a medley of conflicting elements. I am sure to disappoint anyone who is looking
for more elaborate lessons in the art of persuasion. I will only add that, when I have failed, it was less often because people were naturally narrow-minded than because their minds were deliberately closed. This was the case with many s enior civil servants, handicapped by loyalty to their national system. I first encountered the phenomenon in London in 1916. I had wanted to see Grimpre, the Director of Merchant Marine in Paris, who was opposed to our plan for an Allied shipping pool.
'Come and see us,' I said; 'then I can explain.'
'I do not intend to come,' was the reply: 'I do not wish to be influenced. '
Thirty-five years later, I heard the Director of European Affairs at the French Foreign Office, François Seydoux, say very sadly:
'Don't try to persuade me: you know that my j ob is to defend national sovereignty.'
His frankness was that of a sensitive and intelligent man, but it nevertheles s revealed the insurmountable barrier dividing my own wish to persuade from the conservative reflex of so many people set in their old patterns of thought.
There was more than one such person at the Schuman Plan conference; but they were all assembled to put into practice the Declaration of May 9 - that is, to provide for the delegation of sovereignty. This was no longer the subject of dispute: it was now the point of departure. In this situation, which the British had refused to share, the Benelux representatives felt ill at ease; but since we were all shut in together, there was nothing for it but to agree. It was obvious that those who were hesitant had the furthest dis tance to make up; so, as far as possible, I forestalled their anxieties , at the risk of sometimes disquieting Hallstein, who vigorously championed the supranational cause. On July 1 2, the Heads of. Delegation met together once more.
'I have to admit,' I said, 'that there was a gap in our original draft, which Spierenburg and Suetens have suggested ways of
filling. We can now distinguish two types of problem: those which the Treaty, by a collective decision of our national Parliaments, will expressly entrust to the High Authority; and those which spill over into the responsibility of Governments, and in which Governments should be e mpowered to intervene, provided that they act collectively. In such circu mstances, well defined in advance, the High Authority and the Governments could hold joint meetings . We have just made a great step forward.'
We had: the Council of Ministers of the European Community had just been born.
But Spierenburg wanted to press home his advantage. 'The Ministers ought to be able to give the High Authority political directives,' he said.
As always, his tone was quick and sharp, very like his appearance. Hallstein's calm firmness was in marked contrast. In his quiet, pleasant voice, he broke in to stem Spierenburg's offensive:
'In the eyes of my Government,' he declared, 'the High Authority is the keys tone of the European Community. '
The atmosphere was tense: one could not help feeling that a single word might halt the building of Europe. Everything had s till to be decided, and the solid s tructure that exists today was then still dependent on the s hifting lines of force that linked or divided six very different men. The fear of failure and the need for union were pulling in opposite directions . I had no doubt that anxiety to agree would prove the more powerful; but I know that nothing in this world can b e taken for granted, even by the most strong-willed - and there is no doubt that at that time the smallest distraction, the slightest weakness, would permanently have changed the nature of the European Community. We had to halt the debate about principles and set before everyone a structure in which he would find his own ideas given practical shape. To inaugurate this new phas e, which would be that of the lawyers, I had asked Schuman to come and sum up the conclusions of our work.
He slipped almost unnoticed into the room, to join the conference whose chairman he had been since the very first day, after which he had not reappeared. Sitting down at the head of the table, he apologized for being 'an intruder'. Then he quietly expressed his firm conviction that the High Authority must be independent.
'But independence has never meant irresponsibility,' he said; 'and in your work you have achieved a balance between national and Community power which to my mind is a remarkable system of democratic safeguards. That system now exists: it no longer has to be invented.'
From that moment on, indeed, the system had acquired its definitive form: a supranational authority, a council of national Ministers, parliamentary and judicial control. But it took further meetings to prevent the definition of powers from limiting the High Authority's scope.
I was neither surpris ed nor displeased to see these obstacles accumulating: they proved that we were approaching the heart of the problem. The progress of change can be measured by the vehemence with which it is resisted; and what many people still did not realize was the ineluctable nature of the process in which they were now engaged. We were coming to a time when the complexity of the problems, the multiplicity of the suggestions made, and even the strength of the criticisms we faced, could only advance matters further - so long as we kept our obj ective in view. That objective remained so clear in my eyes that I was in no danger of being upset by arguments between the experts we set to work. I had asked Paul Reuter to come back to Paris, and he kept a committee of legal experts in session to sort out the points of agreement and turn them into a memorandum of understanding. This enabled us to consolidate what we had agreed on, without making it depend on other ques tions that were s till undecided, as t raditional negotiators might well have done. What we had already settled, as it appeared in a memorandum dated August 5, 1 950, was the institutional structure of the future European Coal and Steel
Community: the High Authority, the Common Assembly, the Special Council of Ministers, and the Court of Justice. The terminology itself was now fixed. In this way, by writing down in black and white what was beginning to be lost in verbal confusion, we astonished everyone with a coherent structure which discouraged quibbles. Not only had the High Authority. emerged unscathed from the ordeal, but the very constraints which had sought to limit its independence only emphasized the federal nature of the institutional system which it headed. One last offensive soon petered out.
We do not accept the expression "merger of sovereignty"," said the Belgian representative. " "A certain delegation of sovereignty" would be enough.'
That argument's over,' I said. " "Merger" is the word.' The method that had proved its worth on institutional questions gave fresh impetus to the economic debate which had so laboriously begun. Hirsch and Uri drew up a balance-sheet of the progress so far made: it was considerable, and in their hands it emerged as an integrated whole. The 'common market' had become a well-defined concept, and the only questions remaining were the means and timetable whereby it was to be set up.
It was still less than two months since the opening of the conference, and already the essentials of the new structure had been worked out. But what struck me most forcibly was the rapid change in the attitude of my colleagues. Day after day I could see the cohesive effect of the Community idea, which was working on men's minds long before it assumed practical form. Although all the delegates retained their well-marked national characteristics, they were now working together on the same quest. So much had their viewpoints converged during the past few weeks that they now and then asked one of their number to speak on behalf of the whole group. These weeks, it was true, had been intensive, cooped up at Nº 18 rue de Martignac, which was ill-adapted for international conferences it had no interpretation facilities but which was -
very well suited to informal meetings and talks. I have already described the advantages of our tiny dining-room, reached by an awkward flight of stairs . There, we were sure of not being disturbed, and it was there that friendship grew up among the heads of delegation, who soon formed a united group, resolved to interpret their national instructions in ways that would assist the common effort. Material surroundings have an effect on people's attitudes. When people from other countries came to see me to find out how to produce a national plan, I often said to them: 'Above all, have a dining-room.' In the diningroom at N° 18 rue de Martignac, many problems were very simply solved.
The delegates dispers ed for the summer vacation carrying with them the memorandum which the French delegation had prepared. This, like a searchlight in the mist, revealed a s tructural whole where most people had hitherto seen only vague shapes. Yet we had avoided special pleading, and we had distorted nothing that had been said. Confusion might persist in men's minds, but there was order now in reality. It only had to be clearly described; and in this respect both Reuter and U ri knew their business. I was about to leave Paris when I heard about Macmillan's Strasbourg proposal, which I described in the previous chapter. On August 1 5 , 1 95 0, I wrote to Robert Schuman:
Some telephone calls from Strasbourg have confirmed my belief that the utmost confusion reigns there, and that we risk seeing the Consultative Ass embly pass a Res olution which will interfere with, and perhaps endanger, the success of all our efforts. The British are waging a skilful campaign to sabotage our plan.
What disturbed me most was the uncertainty I obse rved in many European s tatesmen who were p e rplexed by thes e British moves . 'Can we afford to let slip this last chance of
enlisting Great Britain ? ' they asked each other. One of them was the French Socialist leader, Guy Mollet, whom I found greatly unnerved. 'We are heading for a European schism,' he kept saying. In reality, he was thinking mainly of the split between the British Labour Party and his own SFIO, as well as of those within the SFIO itself. He had been on the alert since the end of July, when a foreign policy debate in the French National Assembly had revealed a hostile movement within his own party, led by Daniel Mayer and Paul Ramadier. I realized that the British phantom must be exorcized once and for all, and I set about it by giving the maximum publicity to my letter to Harold Macmillan. In Strasbourg, that debate came to an end.
Monnet's hat, walking stick and trenchcoat as they remain in his house of Houjarray.
Extract from the last chapter of the Memoirs
When I returned to my country home at Houjarray on the evening of May 9, 1975, freed from all outside responsibilities for the first time for many years, there lying on my table was the first s ketch-plan of this book, a new and exacting task for which I was very little prepared. Now that it is nearly ended, dare I say without causing amusement, after so many pages written in the first person, that I dislike talking about myself? If I have told of my experience, it is because that is what I know best, and b ecause it may be useful to others. I might have written a series of practical maxims; but I distrust general ideas, and I never let them lead me far away from practical things . I have described the dramatic events I have lived through and the lessons I have learned from them, in the hope of preventing their happening again. My purpose is very practical. Some may call it a philosophy, if they prefer: but the essential point is to make it useful b eyond the experience of one individual; and b ecause the most effective way was to tell that individual' s story, I have bowed to the rules, which were new to me, and told the story from my own point of view.
A very wise man whom I knew in the United States, Dwight Morrow, used to say: 'There are two kinds of people - those who want to be someone, and those who want to do something.' I have seen the truth of that saying verified over and over again. The main concern of many very remarkable people is to cut a figure and play a role. They are useful to society, where images are very important and the affirmation of character is essential to the administration of affairs . But, in general, it is the other kind of people who get things moving - those who spend their time looking for places and opportunities to influence the course of events. The places are not always the most obvious ones, nor do the opportunities occur when many people expect them. Anyone who wants to find them has to forsake the limelight.
My friend Dwight Morrow put me in this second category of people - and it is true that I never remember saying to myself: 'I'm going to be someone.' But nor do I remember thinking: 'I'm going to do s omething.' What I have done, or helped to do, and what I have described in this book, has always been the product of circumstances as they arose. There has been no lack of such opportunities, and I have always been ready to seize them. It is perhaps this faculty, or this availability, that is the most important for actron. Life is p rodigal of opportunities to act, but one has to be prepared, by long reflection, to recognize them and exploit them when they occur. Life is made up of nothing but events: what matters is to use them for a given purpose. Mine was collective action. And the aim of this book is to s how the way and the means to younger people who want to make their own lives useful to others .
As I write these pages, Silvia is finishing a picture in the large living-room where she has put up her easel. She likes the light in this room, which looks out on the garden. But the flowers she paints are not from Houjarray, but from all the gardens we have had in various parts of the world. In this picture they are tall white flowers that recall China and our house in Shanghai . Tomorrow, I know, s he is going to work on a lands cape from the Ile de Re, which I had thought was finished. In fact, there was something missing. What, I could not say, but now she sees it clearly. Nothing is ever really completed; it takes talent to know at what point further effort will spoil the result. Silvia asks me my opinion of her picture; then I read her a few pages of this book to see what she thinks. We each take account of what the other says; but in the las t resort the choice of when to stop is a matter of instinct. How many times my colleagues, inured to ceaseless changes in a text, have heard me say suddenly: 'That's it: we're there. D on't let's go any further, or we'll spoil the whole thing.' To decide is difficult: one must seize the moment. Yes terday, I wanted Silvia to add a touch to her portrait of a young woman we had met in China forty years ago. I was wrong: incompleteness is part of
nature, and it needs great art, or great wisdom, to know when to lay down the brush, or bring to an end any form of action. We should always avoid perfectionism.
A year has gone by now since I came back to this house, with its thatched roof and blue shutters, and its large garden s tretching out toward the rolling countryside of the Ile de France. I seldom leave it: those who want to see me have to come here. They talk to me about their worries. I understand their concern; but they have to realize that the building of Europe is a great transformation, which will take a very long time. They are naturally impatient for the success of what they have to do; but nothing would b e more dangerous than to regard difficulties as failures . Perhaps they think that in my country retreat I am losing touch with current events and becoming too detached. They remember my former calls for urgent action. True enough, action is always urgent, and I am glad that those responsible for it are aware of the fact. But they mus t als o b e aware of the essential virtue of perseverance, which is the only way to overcome obstacles .
The obstacles will undoubtedly grow i n number as we draw closer to our goal. In the building of Europe, as in all great ventures, men push the obstacles before them, and leave them to their successors. I am not troubled by the fact that there are still so many obstacles on the road ahead. We have overcome many others that were just as great. In this respect, nothing has changed; nor will it. The only difference is that something has begun, s omething which can no longer be stopped. Twenty-five years ago, the urge to have done with our violent past left us no choice but to advance towards a common goal. What was decided on then is still just as vital; and now it is part of the everyday reality of our lives.
I walk in the garden with my visitors. I go down towards the cottage at the foot of the meadow, w:here Marianne and my s on-in-law Gerard Lieberherr spend their weekends. Their children - Jean-Gabriel, Catherine, Jean-Marc, and Marie - run on ahead. Now I have time to be with them, and get to
know them individually as they grow up. I press on into the paths round Bazoches, where I meet my neighbour Pierre Viansson-Ponte. 'Good morning, Monsieur Monnet,' he says; and under that title I find in the Mon de some echoes of our conversation, filtered by his delicate art. The seasons go by: I had never noticed their passing before - I was too much distracted by activities in town. Spring comes round once more. Someone says to me: 'There will be no Spring for Europe in this year of grace 1976.' Perhaps; bur we should look beyond the calendar, for s tages, not time-limits: we s hould keep on course, and not worry too much, now, about deadlines. There is nothing talismanic about this or that month in 1976 or 1978 ; about dates, I make no wagers. But I am certain that the passing seasons will lead us inevitably towards greater unity; and if we fail to organize it for ourselves, democratically, it will be thrust upon us by blind force. There is no place any more for separate action by our ancient sovereign nations . We have long since passed the crossroads where we had choice of ways ahead. Since 1 950, we have been engaged in the process of unification by our own free will, and no one has been willing or able to reverse it. If there are arguments, they are about means, not ends ; and arguments are essential to progress.
I have known this garden for thirty years, and have come back to it almost every night - except when I was in Luxembourg, where I had another garden, at Bricherhof. For me, it has no bounds: the world belongs to walkers. In the morning, as I have s aid, I make for the nearby woods, where I know every faintest path. Some of them are endless. It is essential for the spirit to start the day in the open air. In London, I had St James's Park outside my door. In Washington, the houses on Foxhall Road were in the woods, and there were no fences between the yards. I can claim no specialized knowledge of trees or birds: they are simply the background to my thoughts, my form of poetry. Andre Horre used to explain the things of Nature to me. He had started life in the mines of the north, and had then become a butler to follow his wife Amelie, who
was a fine cook. When we settled in our H ouj array house, which I bought in 1945, he became a gardener. In London and Washington he had worked only indoors ; there had been neither room nor need to grow vegetables. In France, at the end of the war, it became a duty, and he accepted it. The spirit of his ancestors revived his love of the soil. While Amelie, with masterly intelligence, looked after the house, Andre let his imagination roam as he laboured in the kitchen garden or among the flowers. They were a noble and devoted couple. They went with us to Luxembourg, and helped us settle in; then, they retired to the north. Their only s on, a gifted boy, j oined the s taff of the High Authority. When he died in an accident in 1953, his parents' silent and dignified grief was heartbreaking.
In the course of their lives with us in various countries, Andre and Amelie had met many well-known people, who paid close attention to their simple good sense. I can s till see Andre in his kitchen garden, talking with Walter Lippmann in 1 948, shortly before the US Presidential election.
'Who do you think will win, Dewey or Truman ?' asked Lippmann. Like most observers, he was sure it would be Dewey. Andre went on digging, and said:
'Well, obviously, Truman.'
'Why?' asked Lippmann in surprise. Andre straightened up and said: 'Look - it's as simple as my trees. Roos evelt was elected three times . Three times the Democrats have won: that gives them deep roots. They won't be pulled up in one go.'
The roots of the Community are strong now, and deep in the soil of Europe. They have survived some hard seasons, and can survive more. On the surface, appearances change. In a quarter-century, naturally, new generations arise, with new ambitions; images of the past dis appear; the balance of the world is altered. Yet amid this changing scenery the European idea goes on; and no one seeing it, and seeing how s table the
Community institutions are, can doubt that this is a deep and powerful movement on an historic scale. Can it really be suggested that the wellsprings of that movement are exhausted, or that other rival forces are taking their place? I see no sign of any such rival forces. On the contrary, I see the same necessity acting on our countries - sometimes bringing them together for their mutual benefit, sometimes dividing them to the detriment of all. The moral is clear, and it cannot be gainsaid. It has taken root in our peoples' consciousrress, but it is slow to act on their will: it has to overcome the inertia that hinders movement and the habits that resist change. We have to reckon with time.
Where this necessity will lead, and toward what kind of Europe, I cannot say. It is impossible to foresee today the decisions that could be taken in a new context tomorrow. The essential thing is to hold fast to the few fixed principles that have guided us since the beginning: gradually to create among Europeans the broadest common interest, served by common democratic institutions to which the necessary sovereignty has been delegated. This is the dynamic that has never ceased to operate, removing prejudice, doing away with frontiers, enlarging to continental s cale, within a few years, the process that took centuries to form our ancient nations . I have never doubted that one day this process will lead us to the United States of Europe; but I see no point in trying to imagine today what political form it will take. The words about which people argue - federation or confederation - are inadequate and imprecise. What we are preparing, through the work of the Community, is probably without precedent. The Community itself is founded on institutions, and they need strengthening; but the true political authority which the democracies of Europe will one day establish still has to be conceived and built.
Some people refuse to undertake anything if they have no guarantee that things will work out as they planned. Such people condemn themselves to immobility. Today, no one can say what form Europe will assume tomorrow, for the changes
born of change are unpredictable. 'Tomorrow is another day,' my father used to say, with a zest which my mother, in her wisdom, did her best to calm. 'Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,' she would reply. They were both right. Day-today effort is needed to make one's way forward: but what matters is to have an objective clear enough always to be kept in s ight. People who came to see me in Luxembourg were intrigued to see on my desk the photograph of a strange raft. It was the Kon-Tiki, whose adventure had thrilled the whole world, and which for me was a symbol of our own.
'Those young men,' I explained to my visitors, 'chose their course, and then they set out. They knew that they could not turn back. Whatever the difficulties, they had only one option - to go on. We too are heading for our obj ective, the United States of Europe; and for us too there is no going back.'
But time is passing, and Europe is moving only slowly on the course to which she is so deeply committed . . . . We cannot stop, when the whole world around us is on the move. Have I said clearly enough that the Community we have created is not an end in itself? It is a process of change, continuing that same process which in an earlier period of history produced our national forms of life. Like our provinces in the past, our nations today must learn to live together under common rules and institutions freely arrived at. The sovereign nations of the past can no longer solve the problems of the pres ent: they cannot ensure their own progress or control their own future. And the Community itself is only a stage on the way to the organized world of tomorrow.
Taken from Jean Monnet, Memoirs,
translation by Richard Mayne,
(Doubleday, New York: 1978)