News and Research on Europe highlighting Robert Schuman's political, economic, philosophical contribution from the independent Schuman Project Directed by David H Price.
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Learn about Schuman's life

What contemporaries thought of Schuman 

Robert Schuman's Proposal of 9 May 1950 

Was the Proposal the start of a European Federation?

Europe's democratic institutions
FIVE institutions for Europe

Schuman on Democratic Liberty

What is the difference between a federation or a supranational Community?


WARNING! Counterfeiters of European History OFFICIALLY at Work! 

What did Schuman say about post-Soviet Europe? 


EU's ENERGY non-policy 

 How to manage disastrous CLIMATE    CHANGE 

Europe's Geography already extends worldwide!  
Is Turkey European? Is Cyprus? Is Russia?   

  Enlargement: long awaited! Collect EU's 5 keys 

Will the European Superpower become a Super-state?

© David Heilbron Price. 2000 (All reproduction rights reserved)

‘Has any superpower in history not become a Super-state?’ asks William Hague, the British Thatcherite politician. The Conservative Party MP says there is no example in history where a superpower has not become a federal union. Is the European Union, by forging its own internal market, customs union, single currency, on the road to become a federal United States of Europe? With its 375 million population, high GDP and world trading capacity, the European Union has already become in statistical terms the world’s first economic or civilian superpower.

Will we soon be electing a President—like the Americans have been trying to do for some time – to reside in the Brussels equivalent of the White House and exercise the full trappings of presidential powers?

The answer to Mr Hague’s question is probably NO. Most superpowers have become superstates. World history is replete with examples of groups of states which have fused into super-states either by conquest or in defence unions against external aggression, or by constraining customs unions, even by monetary unions – though the same currency can freely circulate in quite independent states. Single money can act simply as a safe measure for exchange. The Irish and the British had a single currency while maintaining political independence. In Russia and in other East European countries a huge mass of US dollars circulates, maybe more than in the USA itself. No Russo-American monetary government exists or is foreseen. Russia is not going to join as the 51st state of the Union.

However, the second question about a European federal president and federal power structure must also be answered in the negative. The European Community’s political architecture is designed to resist becoming such a super-state. It is an entirely different form of government from anything known in thousands of years of history.

It is a false logic therefore to argue that only those political systems of the past can exist in the future. Trying to shape ancient European states into the eighteenth century mould of the American federation is politically futile. It also ignores a major difference. The USA was composed of young states with little depth of history. The political architect of the European Union, Robert Schuman, formerly French Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, said, on this precise debate:

The {American} situation is not the same as ours and the precedent is not convincing. Far from having behind then a long past of independence, these states had only just freed themselves during the course of a struggle of only several years from a colonial government. They were looking for a form according to which they could organise their common future and even that did not come easily or quickly.

The marvellous edifice of the American Constitution raised on the thoughtful foundations of the time by Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton did not become the common property without dissent until after long hesitations and disputes. And moreover it was able to be conceived and brought forth in a free country, clear of all the clutter of past construction. America was a new country that could provide itself with institutions of its choice, without having to replace past institutions or seek agreements with other countries.’

Schuman’s plan was not against the nation state, nor to make it disappear. It was a means to purify it, to make it less belligerent and more democratic. That is why the European Community created the means for a real European democracy of democracies. In the European Union it is always the governments who decide, sometimes, like any democracy, by majority vote. The governments of the EU form a higher-level democracy of democratic governments. But it is never up to a federal president to rule or impose. That is crucial. The European Commission only acts as an impartial arbiter or initiator of proposals. Schuman called the European Community a supranational structure and said it was entirely new invention in history.

European democracies can be either republics or monarchies. State structure is not important. The very existence of monarchies is a guarantee against a federal Super-state. The British monarch is head not only of the United Kingdom but other states and the Commonwealth too. Schuman was not proposing or even recommending any harmonized form of democracy. Quite the reverse. Realism is needed. His criteria were those of Lincoln: 'government of the people, by the people and for the people'.

‘Some monarchies such as Great Britain, Belgium and Holland, if we only refer to our nearest neighbours, are more clearly and traditionally attached to democratic principles than some republics…’

What is the European Union against? Nationalism, war and tyrannical abuse of power. Even in our democracies, the governments can use parliamentary majorities in a tyrannical way against minorities. They can be subject to ideological blindness, control by extreme fractions, even secret conspiracies.

Schuman told the American Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, days before he announced his Proposal for a European Community, that it would change the course of the past four or five centuries. It would give Europe a new existence based on cooperation and reconciliation … and an unprecedented period of peace.

We don't have to merge states, nor create a Super-state. Our own European states are historical realities; it is psychologically impossible to make them disappear. Their variety is fortunate and we do not want to cut them down to a common level or make them all the same.

‘A union with co-ordination and cohesion is what is needed. Politically, a divided Europe will make its peace through this long-lasting, binding agreement instituted between the different countries. The establishment of this agreement will be based on nothing more than the co-operation and prosperity that we all seek.

It would restrain any domination of the stronger against the weak, he said:

‘Europe cannot become a zone of exploitation or influence, reserved for some {external or internal} political, military or economic domination. But it must exist in reality, be governed by the principle of equality of rights and duties for all countries so associated.

‘The democratic rule of the majority, freely accepted in conditions and ways predetermined in advance, limited to essential problems of common interest, will be far and away less humiliating than to be subject to decisions imposed by the strongest.’

The European Union has a tiny budget: about 1 ¼ percent of GDP. The Community system is based on majority rule decisions of nation-states. It reinforces justice, self-discipline, moderation and democratic collaboration in governments. The percentage of the American federal budget, because it is centralizing, is twenty times as great.

The answer to Mr Hague’s question is ‘No, Europe will not become a Super-state. In fact, as iron sharpens iron, we will improve our democracies by collaborating and comparing ourselves with our European neighbours.’


David Heilbron Price is director of the Schuman Project with the web site ##.



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