Europe 70 years after Schuman Declaration

13 May, 2020

By ECCT staff writers


On the 70th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration Euroview asked representatives from EU institutes and trade offices in Taiwan to offer their reflections on what the anniversary means for their countries. Their submissions appear below in the order in which they were received.


Frederic Verheyden, Director, Belgian Office, Taipei

The Schuman Declaration was a watershed moment in European history. It paved the way for what remains to date the most ambitious and polished voluntary regional integration process to ever take place in Europe -  or anywhere else in the world.


In this age rife with fake news, populism and simplistic messaging, cynicism and negativity, it is worth remembering the visionary idea offered on 9 May 1950: to pool coal and steel, both key industrial resources, in order to make another war in Europe impossible.


Nested between perennial arch-enemies Germany and France, Belgium suffered through both world wars. Such was the appeal of Schuman’s concept that Belgium became a founding member of the European Coal and Steel Community, and a few years later of the European Economic Community.


As Brussels was designated to host the key European institutions, few observers thought at the time that the Belgian capital would become the second largest diplomatic centre in the world, hosting thousands of diplomats and foreign correspondents. Yet, in many ways, Belgium’s engagement in favour of multilateralism and its acumen for consensus building find their origin in the Schuman declaration.


Tania Berchem, Executive Director, Luxembourg Trade and Investment Office, Taipei

Of all the member States of the European Union, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is the country that can claim the longest track record in economic and political integration, spanning more than 170 years. Initially, this integration arose out of imposed necessity; after the end of WWII, it became the result above all of a conscious choice and a profound conviction.


This happened in May 1950, when Robert Schuman, French Minister of Foreign Affairs, born in Luxembourg to a Lorraine Customs officer and a Luxembourg mother, proposed to place the entire French-German production of coal and steel – symbols of economic power and weapons of war - under a joint high authority, an institution with a supranational character, invested with real decision-making powers.


But beyond the purely economic advantages to boost economic growth throughout the old continent, Schuman’s approach also had a profoundly political significance. Indeed, this was not only the first step in the reconciliation between two age-old enemies but laid the foundation of a unique peace project.


Luxembourg could not remain indifferent to this initiative and joined the project by signing the treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in April 1951. The new organization opened up a vast market for the steel industry, which formed the core sector of Luxembourg’s economy.


From the creation of the ECSC onwards, Luxembourg resolutely committed itself to the European construction and supported all new initiatives. It has been playing an active and direct part in the development of the European Union.


The fact that the euro as a common currency today constitutes an essential acquis of the EU is to the credit, among others, of Pierre Werner, former Luxembourg prime minister, minister of finance. Together with a group of renowned experts, he presented “The Werner Report” which contained the essential ingredients of the current economic and monetary union.


Nowadays, however, we must admit that the Schuman Declaration – cornerstone for the construction of the European Union - is more contemporary than ever. The European Union is and remains a community of shared values. The most precious value is that of peace. Without peace, security and solidarity, it is impossible to face the challenges of the 21st century and to construct any kind of future.


As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Schuman declaration, let us keep in mind Schuman’s idea of working for peace and prosperity while being enriched by the continent’s diversity. Vive l’Europe!


Bartosz Ryś, Acting Head, Polish Office in Taipei

From the history interwoven in wars, we aspire to compose a future in peace – on the 70th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration.


The creative endeavour to achieve Pax Europaea sets its first rock in coal and steel, from which we have built a garden with shared values and common interests to ensure unity and prosperity. It is perhaps the biggest social experiment in the history of humanity with the most positive intention - to make the best out of our gregarious nature. Combining materialistic measures and metaphysical aspirations, we strive to unite in diversity.


When this very cornerstone was laid in 1950, Poland was stranded behind the Iron Curtain. On the one hand, it was imperative to reconstruct our country from debris; on the other hand, the fight against authoritarianism was equally imminent. Nevertheless Poland persists as many times before, because we always believe in the light at the end of the tunnel. Fortunately, all roads lead to Rome, then Maastricht, and finally Lisbon. Though we arrived fashionably late, our determination to accomplish peace in Europe is ever flourishing. 


Since Poland joined the European Union in 2004, we have strived to be a responsible and contributing member in the European family. Our GDP has increased seven-fold since 1990, and the economy has been steadily growing, even during the time of 2008 economic downturn. The GDP per capita at purchasing power parity has grown on average by 6% per annum over the last 20 years. Aside from the economic achievements, Poland upholds shared values of Europe, which are rooted deeply in our tradition.


Davide Giglio, Representative, Italian Economic, Trade and Cultural Promotion Office

In his declaration of 9 May 1950, when the nations of Europe were still trying to recover from the devastating consequence of the Second World War, Robert Schuman said: “Europe will not be made at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de fact solidarity.”


European solidarity has been severely tested by the ongoing Covid-19 emergency which has been affecting the European Union in ways and to an extent that few had ever thought possible.


In the past 70 years European peoples have integrated themselves and opened up new horizons, particularly for their youth. One of their greatest achievements has been to expunge the prospect of war from their horizons. This has been possible by adhering to the founding principles and the vision of statesmen such as Schuman, Monnet, De Gasperi, Adenauer and Spaak, among others.


Today European countries are inextricably linked in an extraordinary bond which all the European Union member states have a duty to preserve. For such a bond to survive and thrive necessitates a renewed spirit of genuine solidarity.


While we celebrate 70 years of European accomplishments, we realize that Europe is facing crucial challenges whose outcomes are far from being determined. They have no precedent in the history of the EU and they will mark our future path.


The Covid-19 pandemic will be a protracted emergency whose effects appear almost impossible to fathom. What yet appears certain is that the discussions now taking place around the EU tables must safeguard everything that has been built so far.


The current situation is unprecedented. Europe has experienced the euro crisis in 2010 and now Covid-19. No other generation in Europe has suffered two such serious crises in such a short time. We can face all this only with the utmost solidarity and strength. When one falls, everyone falls.


To some extent, like in 1945, Europe is experiencing a zero year. European countries will win together or will lose together. Such a shared awareness has successfully propelled Europe for the past 70 years. It appears today the best the way to preserve Robert Schuman’s vision and ambition.


Martin Podstavek, Representative, Slovak Economic and Cultural Office, Taipei

Imagine the year 1950 – just five years after a devastating war. At that time, there still were open wounds, not forgotten atrocities, destroyed cities and turned-over lives of so many families around Europe. Suddenly, there is a proposal of two former arch-enemies: to build one home and a shared economy. The geniality of the Schuman Declaration lies within a simple, but unique proposal in the history of mankind. It is a successful example, how to cooperate and be united without using swords.


The people of Slovakia do remember very well, being not willingly, the epicentre of two world wars, dictatorships and failed economic experiments. It is therefore not surprising, that Slovak citizens highly appreciate being a solid part of the European Union. They can finally feel the real values of freedom, democracy, human rights, economic solidarity, cultural exchanges, but most importantly, the feeling that all EU is our home cannot be forgotten.


As our president Zuzana Čaputová tweeted after meeting Jean-Claude Juncker in June 2019 “Slovakia remembers your long term effort in overcoming dividing lines in Europe. Our future is in a strong and united EU. We need to cooperate more across regional and historical divisions”. And we also need to keep on defending the EU and remember the important role it plays for Slovakia. Our membership in the Euro-Atlantic and European structures is the main determinant of its international position in that it provides adequate opportunities to influence, in line with Slovakia’s interests, those international decisions and processes which have an immediate impact on the quality of life of our citizens. The ability to deliver specific results and overcome fragmentation is the key to bringing the union closer to its citizens. Our aim is to restore citizens' confidence in the common European projects and to underline the support of the EU for Slovak Republic and other EU countries.


Slovakia actively supports and furthers all efforts aimed at ensuring a permanently sustainable development of Europe based on balanced growth, price and monetary stability, and a highly competitive social and environmental market economy.


The European Union is the main context influencing everyday life and developments in Slovakia. The anchorage of Slovakia in the European Union enables our citizens to feel safe politically, economically and socially.


Jari Seilonen, Representative, Finland Trade Centre

For Finland, the membership in the European Union has meant anchoring ourselves in the European integration that has become an outstanding success. Finland became a member state of the EU in 1995 together with Sweden and Austria but our integration into the union started already with the pan-European free trade arrangements, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Economic Area (EEA).


Politically this has meant being part of a larger European whole, which has allowed Finland to participate and shape the process together with other member states. The alignment of norms and regulations in addition to the broader freedoms of the EU have been enormously important. For example, the EU as a major setter of international standards has not only helped the companies within the single European market but also strengthened their competitiveness in other parts of the world.


Different studies show that nationally the membership has brought us benefits in important metrics, such as increased gross domestic product, foreign direct investment and foreign trade. As an export-oriented nation of 5.5 million citizens, our prosperity and well-being depends on our interdependency. In this regard, being a part of the European single market and EU free trade agreements with third countries is crucial. More generally, the rules-based multilateral system is fundamental. Together with the EU, we are strong defenders of the global free trade system and the international rules-based order.


Free mobility and people-to-people connections across the Union are cornerstones of the common European home.  Every year, thousands of Finnish students participate in various exchange programmes at European universities and, reciprocally, Finnish universities open their doors to European students, all thanks to the EU’s Erasmus+ programme. Partly meriting from this activity, Finnish universities have become renowned partners of the international academia and they welcome an increasing number of students from other parts of the world, too.


In Europe, the EU has a key role to play in tackling global challenges. Currently, with the Covid-19 crisis, the importance of the EU and international cooperation has only increased. The common EU roadmap has helped the member states to coordinate their national exit strategies. The EU has also introduced a comprehensive recovery plan that will help the member states to relaunch their economies after the crisis. Everyone understands that the recovery will take a long time and for it to succeed we need to continue to deepen our engagement with our international partners.


Jean-François Casabonne-Masonnave, Director, French Office in Taipei

"World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it.” These words by French foreign minister Robert Schuman held special signification for the men and women still reeling from World War II; they carry equal meaning for those confronted with climate change and mass pandemics, nationalistic pushbacks against truth and human dignity, or the global inequalities forcing so many on the treacherous roads of illegal migration.


“Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity.” Schuman’s idea was to pool coal and steel production, both crucial for post-war reconstruction, and make rearmament impossible between France and Germany. This paved the way for the reunification of the continent in 1989, as well as unprecedented solidarity after the financial crisis of 2008. The same disruptive boldness is required in 2020, 70 years after the Schuman Declaration.


For Europe, the Covid-19 crisis demonstrates the dangers of delegating our environment, our food security, our arms controls, our digital rights… everything that defines our capacity to preserve our children’s future. Sovereignty and solidarity are the two required principles of our common response: “unity in diversity”. As a Chinese saying goes, a crisis is also a turning point. On 16 April, President Macron stated: “we are at a moment of truth, which is to decide whether the European Union is a political project or just a market project”. Europe holds all the cards it needs to overcome this ordeal, and build a sovereignty neither isolationist, nor imperialistic, nor forgetful of the nations composing it, but the sovereignty to decide freely of its own destiny.


Europe must take a stand as a power free to defend and promote its core values, the same values it shares with Taiwan, partner of choice towards a world of freedom, justice, and peace. The European Union maintains solid relations with Taiwan, in many areas that offer a potential for further development: the French Office in Taipei is committed to fostering this relationship in all its dimensions.

Go Top