Robert Schuman

[shoo-muhn or, for 1, Fr. shoo-mahn]

Robert Schuman (29 June 1886 4 September 1963) was a noted French Statesman. Schuman was a Christian Democrat (M.R.P.) and an independent political thinker and activist. Twice Prime Minister of France, a reformist Minister of Finance and a Foreign Minister, he was instrumental in building post-war European and trans-Atlantic institutions and is regarded as one of the founders of the European Union, the Council of Europe and NATO.


Early life

Schuman was a man of several cultures. His father, Jean-Pierre Schuman (1837-1900), was born in Évrange, Lorraine, just across the border with Luxembourg. Jean-Pierre Schuman was a French citizen but after Alsace-Lorraine was annexed by the German Empire in 1871, he became a German citizen. Robert's mother, Eugénie Duren (1864-1911), a Luxembourgian born in Bettembourg, became a German citizen by marriage in 1884.

Schuman was born in 1886 in Clausen, a suburb of Luxembourg as a German by virtue of the principle of jus sanguinis. His mother tongue was Luxembourgish but was taught French and Standard German at school. Since he learned French only in school (which is mandatory in Luxembourg) he spoke it with a distinct accent..

Schuman pursued his secondary education at the Athénée de Luxembourg secondary school in Luxembourg, a former Jesuit College. He then decided to study at German universities, but since the Luxembourg secondary school diploma was not valid in Germany, he had to pass an the entrance exam at the Kaiserliches Gymnasium in Metz. His university education in law, economics, political philosophy, theology and statistics took place in the German education system. He received his law degree after studying at the University of Bonn, the University of Munich, the Humboldt University in Berlin and in Strasbourg in Alsace.

After graduation he became a lawyer and was elected to the city council of Metz.

In 1911, after the death of his mother in a coach accident, Schuman may have briefly considered the religious life, but resolved to pursue a lay apostolate. He remained single and celibate throughout his life and was a member of the German Katholikentag.

He was judged medically unfit for military call-up, but served in a civilian capacity during the First World War.

Inter-war period

After the First World War, Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France and Schuman became a French citizen in 1919.

Schuman became active in French politics. In 1919 he was first elected as député to parliament on a regional list, and later serving as the député for Thionville until 1958 with an interval during the war years. He made a major contribution to the drafting and parliamentary passage of the Lex Schuman by the French parliament. Schuman also investigated and patiently uncovered postwar corruption in the Lorraine steel industries.

World War II

In 1940, because of his expertise on Germany, Schuman was called to become a member of Paul Reynaud's wartime government. Later that year, he was arrested for acts of resistance and protest against Nazi methods. He was interrogated by the Gestapo but thanks to an honourable German, he was saved from being sent to Dachau. Transferred as a personal prisoner of Gauleiter Joseph Buerckel, he escaped in 1942 and joined the French Resistance. Although his life was still at risk, he spoke to friends about a Franco-German and European reconciliation that must take place after the end of hostilities, as he had already done in 1939-40.

French minister

After the war Schuman rose to great prominence. He was Minister of Finance, then Prime Minister from 1947–1948, assuring parliamentary stability during a period of revolutionary strikes and attempted insurrection. He was part of the Third Force coalition governments which opposed to both the Communists and Gaullists. Becoming Foreign Minister in 1948, he retained the post in different governments until early 1953. Schuman's first government proposed the creation of a European Assembly, making the issue a governmental matter for Europe. This proposal saw life as the Council of Europe and was created within the tight schedule Schuman had set. At the signing of its Statutes at St James's Palace, London, 5 May 1949, the founding States agreed to defining the frontiers of Europe based on the principles of human rights and fundamental freedoms that Schuman enunciated there. He also announced a coming supranational union for Europe. In September 1948 as Foreign Minister, he had announced before the United Nations General Assembly, France's aim to create a democratic organisation for Europe which a post-Nazi and democratic Germany could join. In 1949-50, he made a series of speeches in Europe and North America about creating a supranational European Community. This structure, he said, would create lasting peace between Member States.

On 9 May 1950, these principles of supranational democracy were announced in a Declaration jointly prepared by Paul Reuter, the legal adviser at the Foreign Ministry, his chef-de Cabinet, Bernard Clappier and Jean Monnet and two of his team.The French Government agreed to the Schuman Declaration which invited the Germans and all other European countries to manage their coal and steel industries jointly and democratically in Europe's first supranational Community with its five foundational institutions. On 18 April 1951 six founder members signed the Treaty of Paris (1951) that formed the basis of the European Coal and Steel Community. They declared this date and the corresponding democratic, suprantional principles to be the 'real foundation of Europe'. Three Communities have been created so far. The Treaties of Rome, 1957, created the Economic community and the nuclear non-proliferation Community, Euratom. Together with intergovernmental machinery of later treaties, these eventually evolved into the European Union. The Schuman Declaration, was made on 9 May 1950 and to this day 9 May is designated Europe Day.

As Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Schuman was instrumental in the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO. Schuman also signed the Treaty of Washington for France.The defensive principles of Nato's Article 5 were also repeated in the European Defence Community Treaty which failed as the French National Assembly declined to vote its ratification. Schuman was a proponent of an Atlantic Community. This was strongly resisted by Communists, ultranationalists and Gaullists.

European politics

Schuman later served as Minister of Justice before becoming the first President of the European Parliamentary Assembly (the successor to the Common Assembly) which bestowed on him by acclamation the title 'Father of Europe'. He is considered one of the founding fathers of the European Union. In 1958 he received the Karlspreis, an Award by the German city of Aachen to people who contributed to the European idea and European peace, commemorating Charlemagne, ruler of what is today France and Germany, who resided and is buried at Aachen. He was also a knight of the Order of Pope Pius IX.

Celibate, modest and un-ostentatious, Schuman was an intensely religious man and Bible scholar. He was strongly influenced by the writings of Pope Pius XII, St. Thomas Aquinas and Jacques Maritain. It was announced on 15 May 2004 that the diocesan investigation of the cause of beatification would soon conclude, this might have as its result that Schuman will be declared "Blessed" by the Roman Catholic Church.


The Schuman District of Brussels (including a metro/railway station, square) is named in his honour. Around the square ("Schuman roundabout") can be found various European institutions, including the Berlaymont building which is the headquarters of the European Commission and has a monument to Schuman outside, as well as key European Parliament buildings. In the nearby Cinquantenaire Park, there is a bust of Schuman as a memorial to him.

A Social Science University named after him lies in Strasbourg (France) along with the Avenue du President Robert Schuman in that city's European Quarter. In Luxembourg there is a Rond Point Schuman, Boulevard Robert Schuman and a Robert Schuman Building, of the European Parliament. The house where he was born was restored by the European Parliament and can be visited; as can his home in Scy-Chazelle just outside Metz.

In Aix-en-Provence, a town in Bouches-du-Rhone, France, there is an Avenue Robert Schumann, which homes the three university buildings of the town and in Ireland there is a building in the University of Limerick named the "Robert Schuman" building. This building is commonly referred to by the students of the University simply as "the Schuman", or jokingly as "the Shoeman".

Schuman in numismatics

Schuman has left such a legacy behind, that he was the main motive for one of the most recent and famous gold commemorative coin: the Belgian 3 pioneers of the European unification coin, minted in 2002. The obverse side shows a portrait with the names Robert Schuman, Paul-Henri Spaak and Konrad Adenauer.


First ministry (24 November 1947 - 26 July 1948)


  • 12 February 1948 - Édouard Depreux succeeds Naegelen as Minister of National Education.

Second ministry (5 September - 11 September 1948)

External links

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