CIFE | European Institute – Institut européen

Robert Schuman: Political Realism and European Spirit

In recent days, France and Germany have been commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty, signed by Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer on 22 January 1963. It is now considered a seminal event, marking the beginning of Franco-German reconciliation and political partnership.

A closer look into post-war European history invites us to reconsider this interpretation. In fact, Franco-German political cooperation began more than ten years earlier, with the Schuman Declaration on 9 May 1950 and the foundation of the European Community for Coal and Steal one year later. It was the decision to overcome past violent conflicts and to jointly organise the coal and steel sector that in fact launched the Franco-German partnership, embedded into the larger framework of European integration.

As for Charles de Gaulle, he had been an opponent of this process, had contributed to the failure of the European Defence Community in the French National Assembly in 1954 and staunchly defended French sovereignty against those who wanted to deepen European integration. When the French President visited Germany in 1962, German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer addressed a letter to Robert Schuman, in which he praised him as the founder of the Franco-German partnership: “During the visit of General de Gaulle in the last week, I have thought of you very often as the man, who through the proposition of the European Coal and Steel Community laid the foundation for the friendship, which is now so closely connecting our two countries. I feel the strong need to express my gratitude to you especially on this occasion.”

In the book 'Robert Schuman: Politischer Realismus und Europäischer Geist', CIFE together with its Austrian partners from the Leopold-Figl-Haus pay homage to this extraordinary statesman, whose personality found its roots both in Christianity and in the excruciating experience of the Franco-German conflict.

With contributions by Peter Becker, Pascale Joannin, Margriet Krijtenburg, Hartmut Marhold, Otto Neubauer, Matthias Waechter and Cesare Zucconi.