The European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was a six-nation international organisation serving to unify Western Europe during the Cold War and creating the foundation for European democracy and the modern-day developments of the European Union. The ECSC was the first organisation to be based on the principles of supranationalism.
The ECSC was first proposed by French foreign minister Robert Schuman on 9 May 1950 as a way to prevent further war between France and Germany. He declared his aim was to 'make war not only unthinkable but materially impossible.' The means to do so, Europe's first supranational Community, was formally established in 1951 by the Treaty of Paris, signed not only by France and West Germany, but also by Italy and the three Benelux states: Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Between these states the ECSC would create a common market for coal and steel. The ECSC was governed by a 'High Authority', checked by bodies representing governments, MPs and an independent judiciary.
The ECSC was joined by two other similar communities in 1957, with whom it shared its membership and some institutions. In 1969 all its institutions were merged with that of the European Economic Community (EEC, which later became part of the European Union), but it retained its own independent identity. However in 2002 the Treaty of Paris expired, and with no desire to renew the treaty, all the ECSC activities and resources were absorbed by the European Community. During its existence, the ECSC had succeeded in creating a common market but could not prevent the decline of the coal and steel industries. It did however set the ground for the future European Union.
The Schuman Declaration of 9 May 1950 (later known as Europe Day) occurred after two Cabinet meetings, the proposal became French government policy. France was thus the first government to agree to share and grow sovereignty in a supranational Community. That decision was based on a text, written and edited by Schuman's friend and colleague, the Foreign Ministry lawyer, Paul Reuter and with the assistance of Jean Monnet and Schuman's Directeur de Cabinet, Bernard Clappier. It laid out a plan for a European Community to pool the coal and steel of its members in a common market.
Schuman proposed that "Franco-German production of coal and steel as a whole be placed under a common High Authority, within the framework of an organisation open to the participation of the other countries of Europe." Such an act was intended to help economic growth and cement peace between France and Germany, who were historic enemies. Coal and steel were vital resources needed for a country to wage war, so pooling those resources between two such enemies was seen as more than symbolic. Schuman saw the decision of the French Government on his proposal as the first example of a democratic and supranational Community, a new development in world history. The plan was also seen by some, like Monnet, who crossed out Reuter's mention of 'supranational' in the draft and inserted 'federation' as a first step to a "European federation".
In France, Schuman had gained strong political and intellectual support from all sections of the nation and many non-Communist parties. Notable amongst these were ministerial colleague Andre Philip and Edouard Bonnefous, president of the Foreign Relations Committee, and former prime minister, Paul Reynaud. Projects for a coal and steel authority and other supranational communities were formulated in specialist subcommittees of the Council of Europe in the period before it became French government policy. Charles de Gaulle, who was then out of power, had been an early supporter of "linkages" between economies - on French terms - and had spoken of a "European confederation" that would exploit the resources of the Ruhr in 1945. However, he opposed the ECSC as a faux pooling ("le pool, ce faux semblant") because he considered it an unsatisfactory "piecemeal approach" to European unity, and because he considered the French government "too weak" to dominate the ECSC as he thought proper. De Gaulle also felt that the ECSC had insufficient supra-national authority because the Assembly was not ratified by a European referendum, and he did not accept Raymond Aron's contention that the ECSC was intended as a movement away from United States domination. Consequently, de Gaulle and his followers in the RPF voted against ratification in the lower house of the French Parliament.
Despite these attacks and those from the extreme Left, the ECSC found substantial public support and was established. It gained strong majority votes in all eleven chambers of the parliaments of the Six, as well as approval among associations and European public opinion. In 1950 many had thought another war was inevitable. The steel and coal interests, however, were quite vocal in their opposition. The Council of Europe, created by a proposal of Schuman's first government in May 1948, helped articulate European public opinion and gave the Community idea positive support.
Six years after the Treaty of Paris, the Treaties of Rome were signed by the six ECSC members, creating the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC or 'Euratom'). These Communities were based, with some adjustments, on the ECSC. The Treaties of Rome were to be in force indefinitely, unlike the Treaty of Paris which was to expire after fifty years. These two new Communities worked on the creation of a customs union and atomic energy community respectively. The Rome treaties were hurried through just before de Gaulle seized power and proclaimed the Fifth Republic. Despite his efforts to 'chloroform' the Communities, their fields rapidly expanded and the EEC became the most important tool for political unification, overshadowing the ECSC.
The Treaty of Paris was frequently amended as the EC and EU evolved and expanded. With the treaty due to expire in 2002, debate began at the beginning of the 1990s on what to do with it. It was eventually decided that it should be left to expire. The areas covered by the ECSC's treaty were transferred to the Treaty of Rome and the financial loose ends and the ECSC research fund were dealt with via a protocol of the Treaty of Nice. The treaty finally expired on 23 July 2002. That day, the ECSC flag was lowered for the final time outside the European Commission in Brussels and replaced with the EU flag.
The Treaty stated that the location of the institutions would be decided by common accord of the members, yet the issue was hotly contested. As a temporary compromise, the institutions were provisionally located in the City of Luxembourg, despite the Assembly being based in Strasbourg.
The High Authority (the predecessor to the European Commission) was a nine-member executive body which governed the community. France, Germany and Italy appointed two members each to the Authority and the three smaller members appointed one each. These eight members then themselves appointed a ninth person to be President of the High Authority.
Despite being appointed by agreement of national governments acting together, the members were to pledge not to represent their national interest, but rather took a oath to defend the general interests of the Community as a whole. Their independence was aided by members being barred from having any occupation outside the Authority or having any business interests (paid or unpaid) and for three years after they left office. To further ensure impartiality, one third of the membership was to be renewed every two years, (article 10).
The Authority's principle innovation was its supranational character. It had a broad area of competence to ensure the objectives of the treaty were met and that the common market functioned smoothly. The High Authority could issue three types of legal instruments: Decisions, which were entirely binding laws; Recommendations, which had binding aims but the methods were left to member states; and Opinions, which had no legal force.
Up to the merger in 1967, the authority had five Presidents followed by an interim President serving for the final days.
|President||State||Took office||Left office||Authority|
|Jean Monnet||France||10 August 1952||3 June 1955||Monnet Authority|
|René Mayer||France||3 June 1955||13 January 1958||Mayer Authority|
|Paul Finet||Belgium||13 January 1958||15 September 1959||Finet Authority|
|Piero Malvestiti||Italy||15 September 1959||22 October 1963||Malvestiti Authority|
|Rinaldo Del Bo||Italy||22 October 1963||6 July 1967||Del Bo Authority|
|Albert Coppé||Belgium||interim||Coppé Authority|
The Special Council of Ministers (equivalent to the current Council of the European Union) was composed of representatives of national governments. The Presidency was held by each state for a period of three months, rotating between them in alphabetical order. One of its key aspects was the harmonisation of the work of the High Authority and that of national governments, which were still responsible for the state's general economic policies. The Council was also required to issue opinions on certain areas of work of the High Authority. Issues relating only to coal and steel were in the exclusive domain of the High Authority and in these areas the Council (unlike the modern Council) could only act as a scrutiny on the Authority. However, areas outside coal and steel required the consent of the Council.
The Court of Justice was to ensure the observation of ECSC law along with the interpretation and application of the Treaty. The Court was composed of seven judges, appointed by common accord of the national governments for six years. There were no requirements that the judges had to be of a certain nationality, simply that they be qualified and that their independence be beyond doubt. The Court was assisted by two Advocates General.
The Consultative Committee (similar to the Economic and Social Committee) had between 30 and 50 members equally divided between producers, workers, consumers and dealers in the coal and steel sector. Again, there was no national quotas and the treaty requires representatives of European associations to organise their own democratic procedures. They were to establish rules to make their membership fully 'representative' for democratic organised civil society. Members were appointed for two years and were not bound by any mandate or instruction of the organisations which appointed them. The Committee had a plenary assembly, bureau and a president. Again, the required democratic procedures were not introduced and nomination of these members remained in the hands of national ministers. The High Authority was obliged to consult the Committee in certain cases where it was appropriate and to keep it informed. The Consultative Committee remained separate (despite the merger of the other institutions) until 2002, when the Treaty expired and its duties were taken over by the Economic and Social Committee (ESC). Despite its independence, the Committee did cooperate with the ESC when they were consulted on the same issue.
Its mission (article 2) was general: to 'contribute to the expansion of the economy, the development of employment and the improvement of the standard of living' of its citizens. In terms of coal and steel production, the Community had little effect with the sectors respectively decreased and increased relative to the world trends. Trade between members did increase (tenfold for coal) which saved members' money by not having to import resources from the United States, particularly where there were cutbacks in one state. The High Authority also issued 280 modernization loans to the industry which helped the industry to improve output and reduce costs. Costs were further reduced by the abolition of tariffs at borders.
Among the ECSC's greatest achievements are those on welfare issues. Some mines, for example were clearly unsustainable without government subsidies. Some miners had extremely poor housing. Over 15 years it financed 112,500 flats for workers, paying US$1,770 per flat, enabling workers to buy a home they could not have otherwise afforded. The ECSC also paid half the occupational redeployment costs of those workers who have lost their jobs as coal and steel facilities began to close down. Combined with regional redevelopment aid the ECSC spent $150 million creating 100,000 jobs, a third of which were for unemployed coal and steel workers. The welfare guarantees invented by the ECSC were extended to workers outside the coal and steel sector by some of its members.
Far more important than creating Europe's first social and regional policy, it is argued that the ECSC introduced European peace. It involved the continent's first European tax. This was a flat tax, a levy on production with a maximum rate of one percent. Given that the European Community countries are now experiencing the longest period of peace in more than two thousand years, this has been described as the cheapest tax for peace in history. Another world war, or 'world suicide' as Schuman called this threat in 1949, was avoided. In October 1953 Schuman said that the possibility of another European war had been eliminated. Reasoning had to prevail among member states.
However the ECSC failed to achieve several fundamental aims of the Treaty of Paris. It was hoped the ECSC would prevent a resurgence of large coal and steel groups such as the Konzerne, which helped Adolf Hitler rise to power. In the Cold War trade-offs, the cartels and major companies re-emerged, leading to apparent price fixing (another element that was meant to be tackled). With a democratic supervisory system the worst aspects of past abuse were avoided with the anti-cartel powers of the Authority, the first international anti-cartel agency in the world. Efficient firms were allowed to expand into a European market without undue domination. Oil, gas, electricity became natural competitors to coal and also broke cartel powers. Furthermore, with the move to oil, the Community failed to define a proper energy policy. The Euratom treaty was largely stifled by de Gaulle and the European governments refused the suggestion of an Energy Community involving electricity and other vectors that was suggested at Messina in 1955. In a time of high inflation and monetary instability ECSC also fell short of ensuring an upward equalisation of pay of workers within the market. These failures could be put down to overambition in a short period of time, or that the goals were merely political posturing to be ignored. The greatest achievements of the European Coal and Steel Community lie in its revolutionary democratic concepts of a supranational Community. This is a potential that has yet to be fully explored and exploited.