The European Union is a system that unites 27 democracies in the world’s greatest trading power. It should be the model of democracy for the world. The EU is larger than the USA. The populous Chinese have a tiny economy in comparison. Democracy in Europe is therefore a major topic for all. It is of global importance. In the past half century, the Community system astounded the world by its rise from the ruins of war. It must therefore have features that are invaluable for inhabitants of the entire planet. But today many ask: is the European system coherent as a democracy? If not why not? The origin of the system is important for everyone to understand.
The EU and its core Community system has features known in no other system in the world. One new idea is the European Commission (originally called the High Authority). It has a Parliament but also other features such as Consultative Committees. Where did they come from? How are they supposed to work together? Who originated such a system that not only unites 27 democracies but requires they practice good values towards neighbouring States? It thus also reinforces democratic practice at home.
Did the idea come from Jean Monnet whom Charles de Gaulle called the ‘inspirer’ of the European Community? Did Monnet bring the system into existence in April-May 1950? He was supposed then, according to popular legend, to have given a key paper for a speech explaining all this to the allegedly docile and ignorant Robert Schuman, France’s Foreign Minister.
If he was so clever in his ideas, Monnet must have meditated long and hard on what sort of democratic system was best suited for the purpose. It had to fit, without dissension, six divergent countries of western Europe. It had to have a stable basis to make a Community. Stability is essential in order to solve problems that had never been tackled before. It solved the problem of almost endless war. It dismantled the dangerous, exploitative international cartels, some of whom paid Hitler. It also created for the first time a single market in Europe without any quotas or tariffs. All this without the Community falling apart at the first political row.
Luckily to solve this problem of the origin of European democracy we have Monnet’s Mémoires. IF Monnet was at the origin, then the book should tell us all about his original views about European democracy.
Do they tell us about European Democracy? NO. The word, Democracy, does not even appear in the Index.
What Monnet tells is nothing to do with democracy. The whole question seems to come up by accident during a discussion. Jean Monnet was the chairman of the intergovernmental conference to create the Treaty. He had been nominated for the post by Schuman and was assisted by some of Schuman’s colleagues. Monnet contributed very little to the debate about European democracy among the politicians who insisted on a Parliament. Only after the Community institutions were formed and met did Monnet confess that he delivered his first ‘political’ speech to the Council of Ministers. That seems tantamount to saying that Monnet usually avoided politics and with it any debate, discussion or analysis about democracy.
What did Monnet write about his own ideas in relation to the European Community? Not much. His comments are mainly confused and contradictory, but hardly democratic. His point of departure in April 1950 is, he records, the plans that he had discussed during the war in 1943. He was then with de Gaulle and some colleagues in Algeria. This wartime plan centered on the ‘amputating’ the Ruhr area from a German State and putting it under international or French control (Mémoires p263-4). This concept curiously coincided with the Gaullist, nationalist policy pursued vehemently after the war. This revanchist idea was opposed by the Americans and others who saw it leading straight to another war of revenge by the Germans.
The other idea that Monnet promoted was that of creating a single market like that of the USA. As a young man Monnet was impressed that he could sell the family’s cognac across the United States without any customs or tariff barriers. He wanted to see the same single market happen in Europe. This idea was of course in direct contradiction with military amputation of the Ruhr. It was unrealistic to assume that Germans, still high on a dose of nationalistic adrenaline, would sit passively by to the loss of their industrial heartland. Could a single market ever happen if the Ruhr was under military occupation? The experience of the 1920s showed this was not possible.
Neither of these ‘big’ ideas of Monnet had much connection with democracy. They were rather Big Business plans for the exploitation of the market. Significantly missing was any mention of democratic rights or even consumer participation in industrial decisions.
Monnet wrote that in April 1950 that he realised that he had to rethink these ideas! Why? Because Germany had already begun to have a democratic government in 1949. His plan originally depended on military occupation to dissect the Ruhr. By 1950 the Ruhr was already part of that democratic Germany. Its borders were defined. There was no chance of forming a separate Ruhr colony as de Gaulle wished.
How did this happen? Monnet does not say. He does not mention that Schuman was the great architect of this German democracy. The archives show that Schuman encouraged this German democracy in spite of major opposition and mass rallies by the Gaullists and Communists. Schuman even came against the resistance of the Americans who thought he was going too far and too fast in untying Allied controls. The British and the other Allies were even more afraid that Schuman was going to release another German monster after Hitler’s war.
So Monnet was forced to re-evaluate his highly nationalist and incendiary ideas simply because progress towards the democratisation of Europe was already well under way in early 1950. Schuman gets no mention or credit for this in the Mémoires. One might ask why.
For several years earlier, Schuman had made his policy clear to all. What is the most public way you can announce a policy to all the world? How about announcing it to all the world’s representatives at the United Nations? That is exactly what Schuman did. He did it not once but on two occasions. Both major speeches were delivered to the UN General Assembly before the Schuman Declaration became government policy on 9 May 1950. He spoke in 1948 and 1949 to the UN General Assembly. He announced that he was not only aiming to create democracy in Germany but also place Germany in a European democratic framework.
Well, you might say, it is true that Schuman spoke about a democratic German in a democratic Europe. But the French people, including Monnet and his team of writers for the Mémoires, could not possibly know about such speeches at the United Nations.
Firstly, let us make it quite clear that Schuman gave many other speeches about creating European democracy specifically for the French people in France. He spoke about it many times in Parliament. These debates were very noisy and sometimes violent occasions as he was opposed by Gaullists and Communists and other assorted nationalists. Some opponents were in his own party. And if any one continues to argue that speeches at the United nations were not heard by the French, let them be reminded of the UN history.
In September 1948, the General Assembly met at the Palais de Chaillot in the heart of Paris. Schuman was well known as a courageous politician. He had a few days previously been Prime Minister. He announced exactly the broad lines of the French government’s European policy. Germany was among the burning topics of the day. Schuman’s policy before the UN was the exactly same as that he had pioneered in his two mandates as Prime Minister. This is what he said in 1948.
‘A renewed Germany will have to insert itself inside the democracy of Europe. The dismemberment of this old continent, so often and cruelly torn by war, is a relic of times past. It is certainly a respectable past and we have no desire to suppress the facts. Now, however, our times are those of large economic units and great political alliances. Europe must unite to survive. France intends to work on this energetically with all its heart and soul. A European public opinion is already being created. Already concrete efforts are taking shape that are marking the first steps on a new road.. …
‘We are, of course, only at the start of what is a great work. … Let us hope, God willing, that those who are presently hesitating will not take to long to be convinced about it. An economic union implies political cooperation. The ideas of a federation and a confederation are being discussed. We are happy to see such concepts being taken up, and studied in numerous international meetings in which personalities most representative of European public opinion are participating. Now is the time for such ideas to be analysed and supported by the governments themselves. In agreement with the Belgian Government, the French Government has proposed to follow up suggestions to call a representative assembly of European public opinion with a view to prepare a project for organising Europe. This assembly will have to weigh all the difficulties and propose reasonable solutions which take into account of the need of a wise and progressive development.‘
It is totally extraordinary and needs a great deal of explaining why the Mémoires have such obvious errors, to use a polite word. They repeat the fable about Monnet’s giving some paper about the future of Germany and Europe to Schuman. On the question of the future of Germany, Monnet says, Schuman ‘had no constructive idea to take with him to the meeting‘ on 10 May 1950 with Allied leaders in London.
This is one of the greatest libels or the greatest admission of ignorance of recent European history. Firstly, the public record says exactly the opposite. Secondly, Schuman did not have any meeting in London on 10 May. The conference started on 11 May 1950. Thirdly, Schuman himself announced to the press that the specific question of the future of Germany was not on the agenda for the meetings. The records in the archives show this to be the case.
For the world to profit from European democracy requires all people to understand Schuman’s ideas. And the first people with a major responsibility to proclaim those ideas are at the European institutions. Why have they failed so miserably at this vital job?