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The European integration process, from 1945 to the 21st century

The different phases of the European integration process, concerns and driving forces, from 1945 to the 21st century

Essay 2012 8 Seiten

Geschichte Europa - and. Länder - Europa Nachkriegszeit


The different phases of the European integration process, concerns and driving forces, from 1945 to the 21st century

The Second World War was an utterly brutal episode in the history of Europe which would leave its marks for the next half century that followed. It had altered the ethnic structure of Europe through population movements and mass murder, transforming pre-war Europe into a completely different continent. In 1945 the European countries were weakened and divided by two super-powers, the USA on the Western side, and the USSR in the East. In the following decades Europe will slowly regain confidence: the experienced defeat of war brought many countries to place their hope in a unified Europe in which civil wars like the previous two would become impossible. The wish to pacify the continent gained in strength and this was the backdrop for the idea of forming a European Community.

This paper will demonstrate through chronological phases how the integration process of the EU took place, while focusing on the various driving forces/actors that spurred the community's growth, without forgetting to look at the different concerns that darkened the bright horizon of the Union.

From 1945 to 1959: Common strife towards pacifism and beginnings of cooperation

With the common aim of ending the frequent and bloody wars that have shattered most european countries and which were at its highest during the Second World War (1939-1945), the European Union seemed like a bright and promising project, even if European leaders were facing heavy challenges: since the Yalta summit in 1945, Europe was divided between the United States and the USSR, both retaining control over the Western and the Eastern part of the continent respectively. This brought about several conditions and changes for the European countries: they were bound to be dominated by the US economically as well as militarily, the loss of their status as a 'Great Power' was very painful especially for Britain and France who also gradually lost most of their colonies. In spite of a certain number of draw-backs, the US tutelage also had its good points. In the year 1947 for instance, the Marshall Plan was set up by the US in order to help Europe recover after the war. This strategy was also meant to encourage cooperation between the recipient nation, and that was very important so as to bond the two bitter enemies, France and Germany, and avoid another outbreak of violence in the future (Warleigh, 2004).

As Winston Churchill (1874-1965) lead Britain through the war, and although he was no longer Prime Minister after 1945, his contribution to the establishment of the European Union is fundamental. Indeed in his 1946 speech at the University of Zürich he thoroughly shaped Europe in its structure. He called for the countries to unite in order to avoid any further war likely to destroy what was then left, and used the words “United States of Europe”. Bizarrely, he didn't seem to include Britain into his logic of unified European continent. This historical speech prompted concrete measures: not only did it generate an increased economic and political cooperation between the European neighbours, but it also led to the Hague Congress held in May 1948 and in 1949 the Council of Europe was created (Nelsen and Stubb, 1994).

We can thus consider Winston Churchill as a driving actor in the process of European integration.

Nonetheless although he delivered an inspiring speech, Churchill was not able to give clear instruction on how to achieve such a union.

On 9 May 1950 Robert Schuman (1886-1963), Foreign Minister of France, launched the idea of pooling Europe's resources of coal and steel in what was to become the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) (McAllister, 1997). The purpose of creating a community that would link the nations to one another was to prevent another outbreak of war on the European continent, something that had already happened twice in only 30 years between 1914 and 1945. Maintaining a durable freedom was thus a key topic of concern in the process (Warleigh, 2004).

Jean Monnet (1888-1979), head of the French national Planning Commission, set Schuman's plan into action with the goal of “building a peaceful, united Europe one step at a time”. This would not only make war between France and Germany “merely unthinkable, but materially impossible” as well (Nelsen and Stubb, 1994; p.12). Also this concept of “one step at a time” can be resumed in the 'domino theory' or 'Monnet method', the only way to achieve European integration, namely by “proceeding gradually, sector by sector, rather than in great leaps forward” (Warleigh, 2004; p.19).

The Schuman Declaration won favour and six States (France, Germany, Italy, and the Benelux countries) eventually joined the ECSC in 1952, an indispensable step in preserving the peace. The first out of three European Communities was born.

Unfortunately the practical approach of Schuman and Monnet had its limits: although the creation of a European Defence Community (EDC) would have been logical given that coal and steel were key elements of the economic and military policies, the EDC was voted down by France in 1954, and consequently failed to be established. Indeed, the six member states were not yet ready for a commitment which would bind them together in matters of defence and thus compromise their sovereignty in such pivotal sectors (Warleigh, 2004).

Three years later however, the six members met again in Rome where they signed another treaty designed to set up the European Economic Community (EEC) as well as the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). Since the 25 March 1957 these three treaties together were henceforth known as the Treaty of Rome.

In these three years between the establishment of the ECSC and the EEC one can notice the evolution: there is a shift in the motives that underlie the unity. While the leitmotif was “peace and liberty” for the ECSC, it was rather “economic and social progress” for the EEC (Nelsen and Stubb, 1994; p.13). Indeed the EEC's main roles were to ensure an economic and trade-friendly environment by eliminating all barriers between the European countries' borders; thus, the Treaty of Rome extended the Common Market from only steel and coal (as it was the case in the ECSC) to a general market including all goods.

However in 1959 the UK, in spite of Churchill's pro-integration views, set up its own European Free Trade Association (EFTA) meant to rival with the EEC. The EFTA united Austria, Britain, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland. In the 1960s the members' economies developed very well, except for Britain who felt the impact of the loss of its colonies. Gradually the EEC seemed appealing.

“The deep desire for peace on the continent runs through each of the preambles and links them to the visions articulated by Churchill, Schuman, and Monnet” (Nelsen and Stubb, 1994; p.13) and it is therefore important to count all three of them among the key actors of European integration.

The development and limits of integration in the 1960s and 1970s

The period between 1958 and 1962 has been described as tough in terms of European integration which was often considered a “battle for supremacy between the EU and the national levels”, as opinions were divided between the members in favour or against a federal United States of Europe (Warleigh, 2004; p.21). Indeed, as the first President of France's fifth's Republic, Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970) didn't count the European Union among his priorities. As a former resistance leader during World War II his overriding goal in the aftermath of the war was to restore France's image as a world power and liberate it from the domination of the USA. As a result he wasn't particularly keen on developing a European federation, fearing that the EEC would expand into a more supranational community. Although he wasn't completely opposed to the idea of European unity, he was rather in favour of a coordination of the member-states' policies without giving up their sovereignty. As a matter of fact de Gaulle withstood the first attempts of enlargement, as the UK first submitted its application to join the EEC in 1961. He justified his veto by arguing that Britain was not committed to the EEC, as it rejected membership at the time of the ratification of the Rome Treaties and created its own free-trade association to compete with the EEC. Furthermore, de Gaulle suspected Britain of having too tight bonds with the US, who would get a foot in the door if the UK were to join the Union. Moreover, the General was suspicious of Nato and didn't trust the US imperialism (McAllister, 1997). Thus, for de Gaulle the EEC was tolerable as long as it did not interfere with his wish to promote and enhance the French status abroad, and Britain would certainly have challenged the French leadership. In his logic the French leader even proposed to set up European security institutions which would rival NATO (ratified in 1949) and consequently reduce the dependence on the US in matters of security. However, these plans did not lead nowhere as the members in favour of the Monnet Method did not share his desire to drop the so-called 'Atlanticism' (dependence upon the US) (Warleigh, 2004).



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University of Southampton



Titel: The European integration process, from 1945 to the 21st century