This morning I had the great pleasure of giving a talk to the members of the Eynsford Concert Band. They will be playing at a European School this afternoon and in Lavaux St Anne tomorrow (where I will join them). I won’t repeat everything that I told them about the origins of the Union and the integration process but I believe it is impossible to understand the EU if the extraordinary initial (1950) gesture from France to Germany is not understood, together with all of the thinking that went before it about how Europe could avoid further increasingly bloody wars between nation states. In my talk I spoke about the combination of the visionary diplomacy of Schuman and the businessman’s pragmatism of Jean Monnet. As I prepared for the talk I came across the following evocative passages, written by Schuman. I don’t think I was the only person in the room to be moved by the spirit and vision evoked:
‘It is no longer a question of vain words but of a bold act, a constructive act. France has acted and the consequences of its action can be immense. We hope they will be. France has acted primarily for peace and to give peace a real chance.
‘ For this it is necessary that Europe should exist. Five years, almost to the day, after the unconditional surrender of Germany, France is accomplishing the first decisive act for European construction and is associating Germany with this. Conditions in Europe are going to be entirely changed because of it. This transformation will facilitate other action which has been impossible until this day.
‘ Europe will be born from this, a Europe which is solidly united and constructed around a strong framework. It will be a Europe where the standard of living will rise by grouping together production and expanding markets, thus encouraging the lowering of prices.
‘ In this Europe, the Ruhr, the Saar and the French industrial basins will work together for common goals and their progress will be followed by observers from the United Nations. All Europeans without distinction, whether from east or west, and all the overseas territories, especially Africa, which awaits development and prosperity from this old continent, will gain benefits from their labour of peace.’