Birth of the Modern European Community

The European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC)

 “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed”
1972 Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage

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There is no harder achievement in human history then there is for guaranteeing ‘peace in our times.’

When countries are easy to provoke and weapons are simple to produce, it is no wonder that we regard war as being in our nature.

Today; we watch as the hostilities of the past remerge and the political landscapes struggle to handle them.

There is also this; that the Doomsday clock is two minutes to midnight.

We haven’t been this close to the imminent dangers of “nuclear risk, climate change, and disruptive technologies” since 1953.

(According to that of the Bulletin; founded in 1945 by the scientists of the Manhattan Project who “could not remain aloof to the consequences of their work”.)

In the 1950s, Europe was having similar political conversations regarding the prevention of further conflict among the war torn continent. Thus proposals were made by the foreign minister of France, Robert Schumento “to make war not only unthinkable but materially impossible.”

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The proposal for the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was made on the 9th of May 1950 – what we now recognise as Europe Day.

The ESCS would achieve stability through regional integration; which would lay the groundwork for the Treaty to create a common market for coal and steel among its member states and neutralise competition between European Nations over natural resources.

This would diffuse tensions in areas like the Ruhr, an area in Germany, which had faced crisis in the inter-war period when France had forcibly occupied the region for its industry.

It was established on the 18th of April 1951 by the Treaty of Paris (signed by Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.)

The ECSC was run by four institutions:

  • a High Authority composed of independent appointees,
  • a Common Assembly composed of national parliamentarians,
  • a Special Council composed of nation ministers
  • a Court of Justice.

These would ultimately form the blueprint for today’s European Commission, European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Court of Justice.

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” CONSIDERING that world peace may be safeguarded only by creative efforts equal to the dangers which menace it;

CONVINCED that the contribution which an organized and vital Europe can bring to civilization is indispensable to the maintenance of peaceful relations;

CONSCIOUS of the fact that Europe can be built only by concrete actions which create a real solidarity and by the establishment of common bases for economic development;

DESIROUS of assisting through the expansion of their basic production in raising the standard of living and in furthering the works of peace;

RESOLVED to substitute for historic rivalries a fusion of their essential interests; to establish, by creating an economic community, the foundation of a broad and independent community among peoples long divided by bloody conflicts; and to lay the bases of institutions capable of giving direction to their future common destiny;

HAVE DECIDED to create a European Coal and Steel Community and to this end have designated as plenipotentiaries: “

In 1957, the Treaty of Rome used the ESCS as a model for the European Economic Community and European Atomic Energy Community, with whom it shared its membership and some institutions.

Ten years later, the Merger (Brussels) Treaty would lead the ECSC’s institutions to merge into that of the European Economic Community, but the ECSC retained its own independent legal personality.

When comparing modern Europe to its 19th century predecessor it is astonishing to think that this continent has gone through an unprecedented period of peace because the political mainframe of the European Union only stands to lose if its member states decide to go to war.

There is now a greater recognition of common European Heritage and values than ever before. Programs such as Erasmus (which in 2017 Scotland was awarded € 21 million with Erasmus+) binds together like minded individuals from all over the world and the European Year of Cultural Heritage (a program that has been two years in the making) represents this leading view that “what joins us is greater then what divides us.”

In 2002, the Treaty of Paris expired and the ECSC ceased to exist in any form, its activities became fully absorbed by the European Community under the framework of Amsterdam and Nice treaties.

Its legacy however; that has failed to cease.

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