Robert Schuman           World Speeches

The Definition of the New Europe

St James’s Palace, London

Signature of Statutes of Council of Europe,

5 May 1949

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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    This major speech at the signing of the Statutes for Europe’s first international parliamentary Assembly is remarkable for several reasons. It represents the first step in European democracy. It brings a Committee of Ministers in contact with that new democracy. France, under Schuman's leadership, was the major force in initiaiting this first step to Europe. 

Schuman’s speech soars beyond the Council of Europe as a founding institution. He points the way to the future for Europe. He speaks of this path as the means to attain ‘a vast and long-lasting supranational union.’ This expression puzzled some, including the Gaullist French Ambassador in London, in spite of numerous diplomatic cables Schuman sent. However, the early work of the Council showed this was well understood by the parliamentarians.

Schuman could hardly have had a more distinguished audience: heads of government, foreign ministers and ambassadors. There was maximum media coverage. The Statutes were signed by foreign ministers of 10 States.[1]

The Council of Europe owed its existence to Robert Schuman’s 1947-8 governments. They had proposed that European governments, not private organizations, should create the Council of Europe. The discussions had been difficult, opposition sustained. Some countries, such as Britain, that signed this day had, at first, strenuously opposed creating such a body. However, the whole process took exactly the time that Schuman, as Prime Minister, had foreseen.

Schuman said one of the major achievements was for the first time to establish the means to express European public opinion. Public agreement is fundamental to a supranational organization that needs to be based on frank, public analysis and support. The European spirit involves the mutual respect for each other’s talents, concurrence with their goals and help with each other’s problems. European action is based on three stages: the analysis of realities; the elaboration of new possibilities; and choice of action according to moral duties. The duties are dealt with in the Strasbourg speech.

Schuman made it clear that the work ahead was to create a rejuvenated nucleus of Europe into which it would be able to welcome in countries, such as those then behind the Iron Curtain, making it whole. 

A few days earlier, he had signed the Treaty of Washington that he had helped write, establishing NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  The speech here involves another way of building security for peace. But it does not depend on the  superiority of military equipment, the coercive force of occupation or the political extortion of annexing territories like the Saar, the Rhineland or the Ruhr. On the contrary, this supranational form of security opens up a way of ensuring safe disarmament.

[1] Belgium (Spaak), Denmark (Rasmussen), France (Schuman), Irish Republic (MacBride), Italy (Sforza), Luxembourg (Bech), The Netherlands (Stikker), Norway (Lange), Sweden (Undén), UK (Bevin).



The supranational Community Definition of the New Europe

"The definition of Europe as a geographical entity has long been a topic of academic debate and it is still going on. But Europe cannot wait for the end of such an interminable discussion. She will define herself by herself by the willingness of her populations.

With her pressing needs for moral and material restoration, and tormented by her thirst for peace and security, she will build herself in concrete achievements, based on her cultural affinities and by the pooling of her resources.

Marshall Aid has stimulated decisively the economic organization of the European countries. Their common defense was the subject of recent treaties, safeguarding the liberty and independence of the signatory nations.

Today, we cast the foundations of a spiritual and political cooperation, from which the European spirit will be born, the founding principle of a vast and enduring supranational union.[1]

This union will have neither as a goal nor as its outcome the weakening of our link to the nation. On the contrary, the diversity and originality of the contributions that the member countries bring to their Community will supply the vital nutrient for the works conceived by the European association. We can thus reconcile vigorous, dynamic expansion with those matters requiring prudence and realism.

We do not intend to deny our own past history, or weaken the vitality of our personal aspirations; our only limit is how to coordinate them in our immense collective work.

The warm welcome that was kindly given us by the British sovereign, {George VI}, a welcome that we will long time retain in our memory, should suffice to reassure all of us, if that were necessary, of any qualms about patriotism. In practical terms, we can no better serve our own country than by assuring it in peace and independence that it is so sustained by other friendly countries, all mutually supportive in seeking a deep prosperity that will be enduring as long as it is common to us all. We know only too well where the ‘splendid’ and selfish isolation of states can lead us. States, like individuals, were created to get to understand each other and to help each other out.

It is on French soil that our institution will be installed. France is grateful for the choice you have made. It is for her an honor and will remain so as testimony of your trust. France has always felt that she had such a calling and mission. Our revolutionaries once carried beyond our frontiers the new message of liberty – today this has became the legacy of all mankind.  In their zeal they did not always know how to keep themselves within the limit of peaceful methods. We will not suffer the same temptation. Example and persuasion will be the only means available in this enterprise; it will be exclusively peaceful and constructive. We will threaten nobody. We are associating ourselves together for mutual help. We serve the entirety of Europe, moreover, in creating the nucleus of a renewed Europe, rejuvenated through the tribulations we have undergone together and conscious of Europe’s eternal mission for civilization.

(Emphasis added)

Le Principe supranational

Pour l’Europe

La définition de l’Europe comme entité géographique a fait l’objet de savantes polémiques qui continuent. Mais, l’Europe ne saurait attendre la fin de ce débat ; elle se définit elle-même par la volonté de ses populations.

Pressée par les besoins de sa restauration matérielle et morale, hantée par sa soif de paix et de sécurité, elle se construit dans le réel, sur la base de ses affinités culturelles et par la mise en commun de ses ressources.

L’aide Marshall a stimulé d’une façon décisive l’organisation économique des pays européens. Leur défense commune a été l’objet de traités récents, sauvegarde de la liberté et de l’indépendance des nations adhérentes.

Aujourd’hui, nous jetons les fondations d’une coopération spirituelle et politique, de laquelle naîtra l’esprit européen, principe d’une vaste et durable union supranationale.[1]

Cette union n’aura ni pour but ni pour conséquence d’affaiblir le lien national. La diversité et l’originalité des apports que feront les pays membres à leur communauté fourniront, au contraire, l’aliment essentiel des travaux de l’association européenne, rendront possible la conciliation entre l’indispensable dynamisme et les considérations d’une prudence réaliste.

Nous n’entendons ni renier notre passé propre, ni compromettre l’élan de nos aspirations particulières que nous nous bornerons à coordonner dans le cadre d’une immense oeuvre commune.   

L’acceuil si bienveillant qu’a bien voulu nous réserver le souverain de la grande nation britannique {George VI}, acceuil dont nous garderons un souvenir reconnaissant, suffirait à rassurer, s’il fallait, nos scruples patriotiques. On ne saurait, en effet, mieux servir son propre pays qu’en lui assurant, dans la paix et dans l’indépendance, le concours amical d’autres pays, solidaires dans la recherche d’un bien-être qui sera durable dans la mesure où il sera commun à tous. Nous savons trop où peut mener l’isolement hautain et égoïste des États. Comme les individus, ils sont faits pour s’entendre et s’entr’aider.

C’est sur le sol français que se trouvera le siège de notre organisation. La France vous sait gré de ce choix qui est pour elle un honneur et un témoignage de confiance. Elle s’est toujours senti une vocation d’apostolat. Nos révolutionnaires ont porté au-délà de nos frontières le nouveau message de liberté qui est devenu le bien commun de l’humanité contemporaine. Dans leur zèle, ils n’ont pas toujours su se maintenir dans la limite des méthodes pacifiques. Nous ne subirons pas pareille tentation ; l’exemple et la persuasion seront nos seuls moyens dans une entreprise qui sera exclusivement pacifique et constructive. Nous ne menacerons personne. Nous nous associons en vue d’une aide mutuelle ; mais nous servons en même temps l’Europe dans son ensemble, en créant le noyau d’une Europe renouvelée, régénérée dans les épreuves communes et consciente de son éternelle mission civilisatrice.

[1] Schuman had made clear that the Council of Europe ‘could not be a federation… The problem of relinquishing sovereignty must not be posed at the start: the essential thing is to build on a solid base.’ Press conference of 2 May 1949 in Massigli, René: Une Comédie des Erreurs, p167.