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 

Is the European Union a federal union or supranational one?

The Schuman Proposal announced that the European Coal and Steel Community is a 'first step for the European federation'. The pooling of basic industrial production and the setting up of the European Community 'will bring into reality the first solid   groundwork for a European Federation  vital to the preservation of world peace.'

But it is a union quite different from federal unions known so far in history.
It had a  founding purpose that had never been put into practice before:
Most Federal Unions are based on common defence against a potential enemy. They start with common military policy and common foreign policy, sometimes customs unions directed against a threat. The European Union was based on a diametrically opposite purpose: creating peace. It was based on anti-war principles.    It would   change the destiny of regions .. long devoted to manufacturing munitions of war.

It would make plain that war between France and Germany was not only unthinkable but materially impossible.
It would go far beyond that as it was 'vital for the preservation of world peace.' It put in concrete form the principles to build world peace and to save the world from the 'war system' that saw war as the means to solve political problems.

Was the aim to create a Super-State?
In Schuman's view classical federalism will create a Super -State. Supranational links won't.
Was the European Community that Schuman created an association of sovereign states or a federation or something entirely new?
Schuman called the supranational  'a new stage in human development.' It was the first time in history that such an idea had been put into practical effect.

It provided a new innovation, a new instrument in political science. It encourages the traditions, culture and flourishing of national interests except those that might lead to antagonism with neighbouring states and to war. The national flourishes within the supranational.

Is the word 'federal' in the founding Treaty of Paris for the European Coal and Steel Community?
No. But the word 'supranational' appears twice. It is the first treaty in world history that is based on supranational principles. The supranational concept and supranational law is the main basis of subsequent EU development. The European Union (which does not have a legal personality; only the European Community does) is a mixture of supranational elements that are subject to law and proper democratic review and some intergovernmental elements which do not.

How do classical federalism and supranationalism differ in conception?
Federalism tries to coordinate and control by central organisms specific areas of life. Lower decisions can be decentralized. Supranationalism is much more specific in its choice of sectors. They are chosen by common consent as representing a means to arrive at common solutions to common problems. The supranational management can be relaxed once the problem is solved. It is more flexible and aimed at helping nations live together rather than creating a bureaucracy.

Will the European Union develop federal institutions like the USA?
No. At present the budget of the EU institutions cost about one and a quarter percent of GDP. American Federal institutions take about TWENTY times as much. Economically both the EU and the USA are about the same size. The system of coordination and administration is quite different. The number of European civil servants is minimal -- equivalent to those that administer locally a medium-sized town.  The European system encourages national government by strengthening self-discipline on policies that are for the public good, such as common standards, open markets, trade and development, environment and cooperation and sound monetary policy. These help long-term cooperation, essential for strategic planning between partners in all walks of life.

Will nation states lose sovereignty?
No, quite the reverse. They have gained sovereignty by the supranational method. A country like Portugal now has a strong currency. It also has a say in the new world currency, the euro. Its economy has been revitalised. Democracy has been strengthened. Its people have free movement around the EU. It has gained in inward investment and the choice of goods and services for its people. Its industries have means to cooperate with other groups in a huge market and participate in exporting to world markets more effectively. Most importantly of all, it has its future and a vision for peace. It can make powerful contributions based on its own history, culture, work and intelligence. So can all member states of the European Union.

How does the supranational guarantee real democracy?
The European Union is presently a mixture of supranational law and intergovernmental agreement. The supranational law element has been agreed only in certain sectors. The supranational is a joint decision-making system under the RULE OF LAW. Decisions are made together with care after numerous aspects of them are examined. These laws are scrutinized by Parliament (democratic safeguard), the Economic and Social Committee (safeguard by partners involved in economic activity), the Court (legal safeguard and justice), the Committee of Regions (geographic safeguards) and the Court of Auditors (financial safeguards), not to mention investigation by national parliaments and their committees, various associations, companies, citizens and the media. These provide means to guarantee the objectivity of Community measures given the varied cultures, histories but common values of the European peoples. Such institutions have the power to modify and, if necessary, stop legislative proposals if they don't feel that that are just and equitable. Even any private citizen, organization or company can object to any law if he or she finds it unjust. Such powers are rarely found in any other system whether national or federal.

Supranational law is a law binding democratic states by majority vote of democratic government ministers meeting in Council. It is a democracy at a higher level than the state or the nation. It is very limited. A supranational community acts only in certain sectors such as coal and steel or the internal market. Furthermore, its action is confined generally to commonly agreed law in existing areas of common interest.

A SUPRANATIONAL COMMUNITY IS A DEMOCRACY OF DEMOCRACIES. It is aimed at supplying all citizens with a maximum of liberty. It has already opened up freedoms to citizens, associations and firms to an extent undreamed of just a few short decades ago. It is a SUPERPOWER OF DEMOCRACIES.

Supranational law has a democratising effect in improving national democracies
Where it exists, supranational law has the effect of a searchlight on national democratic law. All the other states can be guardians that the common European law is applied in any single member state. Furthermore any citizen can complain to a court that the citizen's member state or another member state is not applying law equitably. His MEP can open an examination of it in Parliament. Others institutions, including the European Ombudsman, can examine any such case at the European level. The European Community therefore embodies and refines the best European values of liberty and democracy. All this is done without creating bureaucratic federal agencies and a powerful, sometimes overpowerful, federal presidency.

In the USA -- to quote Woodrow Wilson-- 'The President is at liberty, both in law and conscience, to be as big a man as he can. His capacity will set the limit; and if Congress be overborne by him, it will be no fault of the makers of the Constitution. ... The initiative in foreign affairs, which the President possesses without any restriction whatsoever, is virtually the power to control them absolutely.' (W Wilson's book: Government of the United States). The US relies on checks and balances; the European Community relies on mutual democratizing control, democratic refinement of legislation and several types of safeguard.


The European Union is in the process of transformation to a more just form of democracy.            

The European Community safeguards Europeans from demagogic or populist control. Decisions of the EC bodies are generally in the form of specific law. Two separate bodies at the very least are required to make the decision based on independent logic. These involve both European values and national values. At the highest European level it is not the states that take the initiative for joint action but an independent body equivalent to an arbitrage and strategic planning group: the European Commission. Its purpose is to analyze impartially Europe's requirements and propose solutions. Its proposals can be modified and possibly rejected by the Council of Ministers, based on a legal Opinion, usually in the form of communique or other written form. In the treaties the Council of Ministers is not alone with this power. Civil society has full right to the same type of Opinions in its own domains. Equally the Committee of Regions must also give its Opinion where appropriate. This is shown by the fact that the European Commission must submit its proposals to the Council, Parliament and EcoSoc and Committee of Regions where the treaty specifies. It does not have to submit the proposal to any particular commune or golf club even though they may be affected. That is because the four bodies (Council, Parliament and the two Legal Consultative Committees) are the legally charged bodies to investigate repercussions for all citizens. Governments of European democracies have not yet ensured that the Parliament, the Committee of Regions, the Economic and Social Committee (which the treaties say should be the democratically elected body of 'organised civil society' are legally, fairly and democratically elected

The Commission is obliged by law not to act until it has received the Legal Opinions of these bodies (Council, Parliament and the two Legal Consultative Committees).  It does not have to wait for any comment from any borough, commune or golf club, nor any small company or major multinational company, even the largest in the European Union. It can institute legislation on software without asking Microsoft. Why? Because Microsoft and all other software companies should be engaged in a permanent dialogue through the appropriate body. In this case the most appropriate body is the EcoSoc, a body for economic and social interests, not the Parliament or the Council, which deals with national matters. 

What happens if the Commission proceeds before it has received the Opinion of the EcoSoc? If any of the procedures of justice in the treaty articles are not respected, these institutions have access to the European Court of Justice to modify or overthrow any such faulty and incomplete legislation. European law is defined by the act of publishing in the Commission's Official Journal. So far the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of Regions have not reached the level of maturity of the Parliament. In the 1970s the Parliament took the matter to Court because its was being ignored by the Council and a subservient Commission. This resulted in direct elections being implemented. Treaty articles had been ignored for some three decades. Parliament has still a long way to go before it fulfills the democratic requirements of the founding treaties.

Note that this analysis describes how the treaties say the Community should work. In practice States have yet to unblock what are probably illegal constraints on full democracy in the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of Regions to allow these key institutions to play their allotted democratic role. The Maastricht process also provided a mechanism for States to make intergovernmental decisions without adequate democratic control in areas such as justice and home affairs and external relations. A proper functioning Community system would have a much more powerful, just, balanced and coherent internal and external policy. The Maastricht three pillar system can be seen as an attempt by governments to retain central powers that they do not wish to place under democratic investigation and supervision.

The democratic wellspring that Schuman opened in the Community system will make it inevitable that eventually governments, that is party politicians, will have to cede the new areas of democracy that they are presently blocking. Eventually there will be proper Europe-wide elections for the EcoSoc and the Committee of Regions with a subsequent increase in their moral authority and influence. This will increase the efficiency of the whole EC, boost the economy and save millions of Euros. It will also vastly improve Community coherence through enhanced mutual understanding. 

What is the goal of a supranational Community?
Schuman said that the European Community was a means to create a 'zone of peace'. It should be devoted externally to 'works of peace'.

Was the Community directed against the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe?
As distinct from Schuman's work in the creation of NATO which was a defensive alliance aimed at discouraging Soviet expansion, the European Community was based on quite different principles. There is nothing in the Schuman Proposal that is aimed against any state. Quite the reverse. It is  open to all European states. On 9 May 1950 Schuman was asked if Russia was part of Europe. He replied: 'Yes, of course.' (Mais oui). In April 1951 all the signatory states of the founding treaty of the European Community signed a document pledging that Europe would be open to all other states on the basis of supranational principles, which they called the 'TRUE FOUNDATION' for Europe. It embodied the best expression of our culture and history of liberty, democracy and community.

What were the exact words of this pledge?
The Europe Declaration signed at the time of the EU's founding Treaty of Paris said:

    'By the signature of this Treaty, the participating Parties give proof of their determination to create the first supranational institution and that thus they are laying the true foundation of an organised Europe. This Europe remains open to all nations. We profoundly hope that other nations will join us in our common endeavour.'
This visionary declaration of principles and lucid judgement was signed by Konrad Adenauer (Germany), Paul van Zeeland (Belgium) Robert Schuman (France) Count Sforza (Italy) Joseph Bech (Luxembourg) and Dirk Stikker (The Netherlands). It was made to recall future generations to their historic duty of uniting Europe based on liberty and democracy under the rule of law. Thus the creation of a wider and deeper Europe is intimately bound to the healthy development of the supranational or Community system.

How can the supranational method help central and eastern Europe?
Schuman said 'It is our duty to be ready' to receive these countries into the Union. His method was not to create complex negotiations but to identify a strong and vital sector for supranational action. This would form for all willing Europeans the strong backbone of a new relationship around which unity could grow more rapidly. Creating a Community was to help reform, he said, not the other way around. A vibrant supranational community in one sector would accelerate reform in other sectors and consolidate the rule of law, democracy and justice.  He warned about leaving it too late to unify Europe.

Schuman spoke of 'reconstituting' the European Community after the fall of the Soviet Union. Why?
The aim of the supranational method is to solve common problems together treating partners equally. Joining a club does not deal with central and eastern Europe equally. Nor do long, technical and intricate discussions on the pesticides and fish-farming engage Europe's most urgent problem: long-term peace and security and freedom from domination. Like the early coal and steel community, this problem can best be tackled not by building armies but  merging common, most vital interests in a Community.


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