Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Oxford Research Encyclopedias, Politics. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 20 April 2024

The Treaty of Parisfree

The Treaty of Parisfree

  • Desmond DinanDesmond DinanDepartment of Public Policy, George Mason University


On June 20, 1950, representatives of six countries (Belgium, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands) met in Paris to launch what became the first intergovernmental conference in the history of European integration. The outcome, after a year of difficult negotiations, was an agreement to establish the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), signed in Paris on April 18, 1951. Based on the Schuman Declaration of May 1950, the Paris Treaty established a High Authority of a “supranational character,” with responsibility for managing a common market for two key industrial sectors. The Coal and Steel Community was a political as much as an economic undertaking. It institutionalized a new departure in relations between France and West Germany and helped cement a postwar peace settlement in Western Europe, within the broader framework of an emerging transatlantic system.


  • World Politics

Few Europeans in the early 21st century are likely to know much about the Treaty of Paris. If asked, they might respond that the Treaty of Paris (1783) ended the American Revolutionary War. Another, perhaps less well-known Treaty of Paris (1951)—the subject of this article—established the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). Despite their seeming obscurity, both treaties were highly consequential. The 1951 Treaty did not end a war, but it consolidated a postwar peace settlement. The war in question was the Second World War; the postwar settlement that followed bound erstwhile enemies France and West Germany, and other Western European countries, into a novel, supranational entity that morphed over time into the trans-continental European Union. Just as the 1783 Treaty of Paris was a first step toward the establishment of the United States, the 1951 Treaty of Paris was a first step toward establishing a deeply integrated, federal union of European states. In each case, nobody could have predicted such momentous consequences when the treaties were signed.

The post–World War II European settlement did not involve a grand international conference like the post–World War I conference that resulted in the Versailles Treaty. Because the Versailles Treaty was so deeply discredited in the interwar period, the idea of trying to negotiate a similar treaty after World War II never enjoyed much support. Instead, postwar planners, who began their planning well before the end of the war, aimed to establish a framework for peace, prosperity, and security that would consist of a web of new international organizations. The most prominent and all-encompassing of these were the United Nations and the so-called Bretton Woods Institutions: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank); the International Monetary Fund; and what was to have been the International Trade Organization but which instead became the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

The Bretton Woods Institutions were not enough, by themselves, to resolve the large-scale problems of postwar European reconstruction and recovery. In addition to them, the United States launched the Marshall Plan. Given the dire situation in Europe, notably a dearth of dollars with which to buy capital and consumer goods from the United States, thereby stimulating regional and broader transatlantic economic growth, the U.S. administration promised to provide massive financial assistance to European countries. Marshall Aid, which began to arrive in 1948, had an immediate beneficial effect.

Thanks in part to the Marshall Plan, the three zones of postwar Germany occupied by the Western Powers (France, the United Kingdom, and the United States), which in 1949 became the Federal Republic of Germany, continued to experience a strong economic resurgence. Nevertheless, a punitive French policy toward the erstwhile enemy impeded West Germany’s potential for further economic growth. Coal and steel were essential for industrial development. Understandably, perhaps, in view of its wartime experience, and also in view of its prewar economic weakness relative to West Germany, France wanted to limit its neighbor’s ability after the war to become, again, a coal and steel powerhouse. At the same time, France wanted to exploit access to high-grade coking coal from the Ruhr region of West Germany for use in steel mills being newly constructed or modernized in France itself. In that way, France hoped to develop industrially at West Germany’s expense.

Such a beggar-thy-neighbor approach was increasingly untenable in postwar Europe, economically and strategically. Economically, Europe could not hope to reach its full potential unless West Germany reached its full potential. Since the late 19th century, Germany was the economic heart of the Continent. Geopolitically, it was also at the center of European affairs. With the onset of the Cold War in the late 1940s, the United States—the leading Western power—had an additional, strategic incentive to promote Germany’s unfettered economic recovery. Not only would economic weakness in Western Europe impede America’s economic prospects, it would also strengthen the appeal in Western European countries of Communist political parties, thereby increasing the influence of the Soviet Union.

As a result, the United States put considerable diplomatic pressure on France to revise its policy toward West Germany and to come up with a solution that would lift economic restrictions on the newly formed Federal Republic while at the same time alleviating French concerns about their own economic development. Such diplomatic pressure centered on Jean Monnet, a senior French government official, who was well known in Washington, where he had close contacts in successive administrations. Monnet and others had been searching for some time for a resolution of the “German Question,” which could also be called the “French Question”—how to establish a durable postwar settlement that would reconcile France and Germany, satisfy each country’s economic and strategic concerns, and eradicate the possibility of future German revanchism.

Monnet’s proposed solution, revealed publicly in a short speech by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman on May 9, 1950, was to pool regulatory responsibility for the coal and steel sectors of France, West Germany, and other participating countries in a supranational High Authority. By denationalizing and supranationalizing those two economically and strategically important sectors, Monnet and Schuman sought to resolve a pressing problem while at the same time laying the foundations for a “New Europe.” The Schuman Declaration was the first step on the road that led, less than a year later, to the Treaty of Paris, the founding charter of the European Coal and Steel Community and the foundation for a durable postwar settlement.

The Schuman Plan

The Schuman Declaration (Schuman, 1950), as the foreign minister’s speech of May 1950 soon became known, represented a remarkable change in French external relations, specifically in economic and strategic policy toward West Germany. According to the Declaration, the key aspects of the Schuman Plan for postwar Europe were:

Gradualism and functionalism: “Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity.”

Centrality of France and Germany: “The coming together of the nations of Europe requires the elimination of the age-old opposition of France and Germany. Any action taken must in the first place concern these two countries.”

Participation of other countries: The proposed organization would be “open to the participation of the other countries of Europe . . . willing to take part.”

Supranationalism: Although the word “supranational” was not used in the Declaration, the concept of supranationalism was central to it: “the French Government proposes that action be taken immediately on one limited but decisive point . . . that Franco-German production of coal and steel as a whole be placed under a common High Authority . . . whose decisions will bind France, Germany and other member countries . . . within the framework of [a new] organization.”

Prelude to deeper integration: “The pooling of coal and steel production . . . (will be) a first step in the federation of Europe . . . (will) lay a true foundation for . . . economic unification . . . (and will be) the first concrete foundation of a European federation.”

Economic openness: Reflecting the prevailing U.S. ethos of economic liberalism, the benefits of European economic integration “will be offered to the world as a whole without distinction or exception.”

In order to implement the Schuman Plan, the Declaration proposed that the French government open negotiations with other interested governments for “a treaty [to be] signed between the [participating] States and submitted for the ratification of their parliaments.” The treaty would provide for the immediate “movement of coal and steel between member countries . . . freed from all customs duty.” Beyond that, the treaty would cover “the essential principles and undertakings” of the new organization, notably the means by which the High Authority “(could secure) in the shortest possible time the modernization of production and the improvement of its quality; the supply of coal and steel on identical terms to the French and German markets, as well as to the markets of other member countries; the development in common of exports to other countries; the equalization and improvement of the living conditions of workers in these industries.”

The treaty would also include “certain transitional measures . . . such as the application of a production and investment plan, the establishment of compensating machinery for equating prices, and the creation of a restructuring fund to facilitate the rationalization of production” and measures to ensure that “in contrast to international cartels, which tend to impose restrictive practices on distribution and the exploitation of national markets, and to maintain high profits, the organization will ensure the fusion of markets and the expansion of production.”

The Declaration specified certain institutional arrangements that would have to be included in the treaty: “The common High Authority entrusted with the management of the scheme will be composed of independent persons appointed by the governments, giving equal representation. A chairman will be chosen by common agreement between the governments. The Authority’s decisions will be enforceable in France, Germany and other member countries. Appropriate measures will be provided for means of appeal against the decisions of the Authority.” Accordingly, the two institutions envisioned in the Schuman Declaration were the High Authority and a court.

Prelude to the Negotiations

Monnet had drafted the Declaration secretly and swiftly. Although French officials had been thinking for some time about a possible reversal of policy toward Germany, entrenched opposition in France to a rapprochement with Germany obliged Monnet to proceed carefully and quietly. Having come up with the idea of a supranational organization for coal and steel, Monnet approached Schuman in confidence. Monnet knew that Schuman, a Christian Democrat who espoused Franco-German rapprochement, would be receptive to the idea. But he also knew that other members of the French government, still wedded to a hardline position toward Germany, would try to kill the idea at the earliest possible stage.

Outside France there were three countries whose positions were pivotal for the success of the Schuman initiative: the Federal Republic of Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Monnet, an assiduous networker, had close contacts in each country’s capital. He used those contacts in Bonn and Washington, in the run-up to Schuman’s speech, to assure support for it. The German government was highly receptive to the idea. After all, West Germany lacked full sovereignty at that time. Apart from wanting the Western powers to remove economic restrictions, the new government in Bonn wanted to gain as much political independence as possible. Paradoxically, by sharing sovereignty in the proposed new organization, Germany could regain economic and political sovereignty in international relations. The U.S. administration was equally receptive, as long as the new organization would not distort international economic competition. From a political point of view, the Declaration offered a way out of the zero-sum approach to Franco-German relations pursued at that time by the French government, an approach that Washington wanted the French government to end.

The United Kingdom’s position was more problematic. Monnet knew, from his contacts in London and from Britain’s postwar foreign policy, that the United Kingdom would not subscribe to supranationalism. Britain was participating actively in a number of postwar European initiatives and organizations but had made it clear that it was doing so only on an intergovernmental basis. Such was the case, for example, with the Council of Europe, which at British insistence did not involve any diminution of national sovereignty. Given the centrality of supranationalism to the Schuman Declaration, Monnet and Schuman decided not to inform the British in advance of the foreign minister’s speech. Just as they did not want recalcitrant ministers in their own government to thwart their bold new initiative, they did not want the British government to use its diplomatic influence for the same purpose.

The Schuman Declaration therefore came as a surprise to the British government, but not to the governments of Germany and the Unites States. (As for the French government, Schuman had run the Declaration by his cabinet colleagues shortly before making his famous speech). U.K. Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin took the Declaration as a personal affront. Schuman justified the lack of prior notification on the grounds of urgency and expressed the hope that the United Kingdom would nonetheless participate in the ensuing negotiations. Schuman made it clear, however, that the price of admission would be acceptance, in advance, of the principle of supranationality, meaning a willingness to pool national sovereignty for the coal and steel sectors in the putative High Authority.

The Declaration led to intense deliberations within the British government in the following days over how to respond. British concerns included the possible implications of the proposed new organization for the United Kingdom’s coal and steel sectors; for economic relations with Commonwealth countries; for the stability and security of the Federal Republic of Germany; and for the conduct of the Cold War. Fundamentally, however, Britain was not willing to enter any international negotiations on the basis of a commitment to share national sovereignty, regardless of what such a commitment might eventually mean in practice. Oliver Harvey, Britain’s ambassador to France, put this succinctly in a note to London on June 6, 1950, outlining the events that led to the United Kingdom’s absence from the negotiations on the Schuman Plan: “The French Government continued to insist on . . . a prior commitment. His Majesty’s Government continued to refuse to sign a blank cheque” (Harvey, 1950).

The French were not surprised by Britain’s absence from the negotiations, which would proceed with West Germany and a handful of other countries—Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg—whose economies were closely connected to the West German coal and steel sectors and that were willing to pay the political price of admission. The Netherlands’ acceptance of the French invitation was not unqualified. Although the Dutch expressed reservations about ceding too much national sovereignty to the proposed High Authority and would try during the negotiations to limit its power, they nonetheless accepted the principle of supranationality.

Negotiating the Treaty

Negotiations began on June 20, 1950, on the basis of a working paper (Document de Travail) drafted by Monnet, head of the French delegation and chair of the conference, which elaborated upon the Schuman Declaration. France provided the secretariat. The heads of delegations met at least monthly; other delegation members met more often in various special committees dealing with technical issues, such as investment, prices, and wages. Given the centrality of the High Authority to the Schuman Plan, Monnet chaired the special committee on institutional affairs.

The negotiations were far from easy. Monnet hoped that they would be over by the end of the summer, or at least by the end of the year. In the event, they lasted until April 1951, when the foreign ministers of the six negotiating states signed the Treaty of Paris. John Gillingham, whose history of the origins of the Coal and Steel Community remains one of the most authoritative accounts of the early years of European integration, wrote that the Treaty “was the product of difficult and not always satisfactory compromises” (Gillingham, 1991, p. 228). In the section of the book dealing with the negotiations, cleverly called “From Summit to Swamp,” Gillingham describes in considerable detail “the hard, and sometimes nasty elbowing for advantage that frequently took place” (Gillingham, 1991, p. 242).

Apart from numerous differences over technical matters, including over the composition of the institutions, the principal political problem was that industrialists in both France and West Germany hated the idea of a supranational organization to regulate coal and steel. French industrialists wanted their government to continue to help them to develop at West Germany’s expense; West German industrialists resisted outside interference in their affairs. West Germany was subject after the war to occupation controls, including by means of the International Ruhr Authority. Nevertheless, West German industrialists believed that time was on their side; that the momentum of West German and Western European economic recovery, combined with the onset of the Cold War, would result soon enough in the removal of Allied economic controls without recourse to an initiative such as the Coal and Steel Community.

Although used to having things their own way, Ruhr industrialists were not averse to international cooperation. Indeed, there was a long history of cooperation among coal and steel producers in France, Germany, and the Benelux countries (Cohen, 2018). Such cooperation, however, was based on anti-competitive collusion. German coal and steel bosses would have been happy to revert to similar arrangements after the war.

It seems remarkable that the negotiations for the Coal and Steel Community succeeded in the face of outright antagonism from industrial interests. The reason for their success is that political support, at the highest level in France, West Germany, and the United States, outweighed industry opposition. Monnet, who led the French delegation and chaired the negotiations, simply ignored French industrial interests, while courting Schuman assiduously in order to ensure political support within the fractious French government. On the other side of the table, industry representatives participated in the West German delegation and were highly influential in Bonn. West Germany’s chief negotiator, Walter Hallstein, who would become the first president of the European Commission, and Germany’s economics minister, Ludwig Erhard, who later became Chancellor, sympathized with the Ruhr industrialists. At the top of the West German government, however, then-Chancellor Konrad Adenauer understood the overwhelming political importance of the Paris negotiations. Regardless of deep discontent in the Ruhr, Adenauer believed that the formation of the Coal and Steel Community was fundamentally in West Germany’s national interest.

The Americans, who never doubted that the Schuman Declaration served the interests of all concerned, were determined to ensure that the Paris negotiations ended successfully. As Gillingham notes, the U.S. Embassy in Paris set up a special “Working Group on the Schuman Proposal,” which was “a hotbed of Monnet enthusiasts” and acted as an informal think-tank for the French negotiators (Gillingham, 1991, pp. 235, 254). That, in itself, would not have been sufficient to push the negotiations over the line. What mattered more was that Monnet had unrivaled access to the highest levels of the U.S. administration, which he used to pressure the West German government to make key concessions. Adenauer, who shared Monnet’s goal, was highly receptive to American overtures. Indeed, American pressure gave Adenauer convenient cover to overrule Erhard, Hallstein, and the Rhur lobby and to accept key French demands.

The most controversial issue for the West Germans, which almost caused the negotiations to collapse, concerned competition policy. Arrangements among coal and steel producers in the Ruhr were anticompetitive, at least by the standards of U.S. competition (antitrust) policy. Monnet wanted to break up the concentration of economic power in the Ruhr. So did the Americans, for political as well as for economic reasons (the Ruhr industrial barons had provided vital support for the Nazi regime). The Americans had insisted, immediately after the war, on decartelization and deconcentration of Ruhr heavy industry, but as was the case with denazification, initial enthusiasm gave way to inertia. German industrialists thought that it was only a matter of time before the Americans would formally abandon the goals of decartelization and deconcentration.

The sudden intensification of the Cold War in late 1950 convinced the West German industrialists that their time had come much sooner than expected. Following the outbreak of the Korean War, Western leaders feared that hostilities with the Soviet Union were imminent. The United States responded by ramping up the defense of Western Europe, notably by giving the North Atlantic Treaty, which the United States, Canada, and several Western European countries had signed in 1949, concrete military form. In addition, the United States pressed for a West German military contribution to the defense of Western Europe. Coming so soon after the end of the Second World War, this was highly controversial and caused a political crisis in France, where the idea of German rearmament was deeply distressing.

America’s position unintentionally jeopardized the Paris negotiations, as elements within the French government, already opposed to a possible Coal and Steel Community, argued that European integration amounted to a sellout to West German industrial interests and was also a cover for West German rearmament. Across the Rhine, West German industrialists were gleeful because the Korean War, and the ensuing military buildup in Western Europe, brought rising demand for coal and steel and because, under these new political and economic circumstances, the Americans were likely to forget all about decartelization and deconcentration of Ruhr heavy industry.

Monnet responded with two initiatives to save the Schuman Plan. One was to propose a European Defence Community (EDC), along the lines of the proposed European Coal and Steel Community. Realizing that German rearmament was likely to happen in any case, Monnet wanted to ensure that it would happen in a way that would be tolerable to France. Supranational control of newly formed West German military units, Monnet believed, would be acceptable as well to West Germany and the United States.

Just as Schuman had fronted Monnet’s plan for a supranational coal and steel organization, French Prime Minister René Pleven fronted Monnet’s plan for a supranational defense organization in October 1950. It took some time to get the Americans on board and to convince a wavering French government that the EDC was its best option. Adenauer, who wanted to raise West German military units in order to strengthen the country’s defense and regain more sovereignty, welcomed the EDC initiative.

With some justification, Monnet worried that the Pleven Plan would overshadow and possibly undermine the Schuman Plan. As it was, the West German delegation was stalling in Paris, and the West German government seemed increasingly reluctant to break up the Ruhr industrial conglomerates. Geopolitical developments seemed to have strengthened the hand of those in Germany who opposed implementation of the Schuman Declaration. If the Americans were likely to lift all economic controls on the Federal Republic in any case, due to the rapidly deteriorating security situation, then why not wait and let the Schuman Declaration wither on the vine? Much to Monnet’s dismay, Adenauer seemed disinclined to assert his authority.

Sensing the danger, Monnet used his extensive network of American contacts—in Washington, at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, and at the U.S. High Commission in Bonn—to rescue the Paris negotiations. John McCloy, U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, was an old friend of Monnet’s and, after Adenauer (or possibly ahead of Adenauer), the most influential person in the Federal Republic. Monnet leaned on McCloy, who in turn leaned on Adenauer, to pressure the Ruhr industry lobby to accept decartelization and deconcentration and to acquiesce in the anti-trust provisions of the draft Treaty of Paris, which U.S. antitrust lawyers had written for Monnet. After a bitter internal struggle, the German delegation dropped its resistance to the final obstacle in the talks. Accordingly, the heads of delegations initialed the Treaty on March 19, 1951; the foreign ministers signed it one month later after resolving a few other, less contentious issues.

Substance of the Treaty

The Treaty contained a short preamble and four titles (substantive sections), covering the mission and objectives of the ECSC; institutional arrangements; economic and social provisions; and general provisions (Paris Treaty, 1951).

The preamble harked back to the Schuman Declaration. It described the ECSC as a peace project that sought “to establish . . . the foundation of a broad and independent community among peoples long divided by bloody conflicts . . . capable of giving direction to their future common destiny” in order to overcome “historic rivalries” by means of “a fusion of [the Member States’] essential interests.” The preamble referred as well to the importance of strengthening Member States’ security at a time of deteriorating East–West relations. It reiterated the functional approach to peace making: “Europe can be built only by concrete actions which create a real solidarity and by the establishment of common bases for economic development.” Such economic development aimed also at “raising the standard of living” throughout the Community.

Title 1 dealt with the mission and objectives of the Community. According to Article 1, the purpose of the Treaty was to establish an ECSC “based on a common market, common objectives, and common institutions.” Article 2 explained in general terms that the ECSC aimed “to contribute to economic expansion, the development of employment and the improvement of the standard of living in the participating countries,” by establishing “conditions which will in themselves assure the most rational distribution of production at the highest possible level of productivity, while safeguarding the continuity of employment and avoiding the creation of fundamental and persistent disturbances in the economies of the Member States.”

Article 4 defined a common market negatively, in terms of instruments and practices that were incompatible with the existence of such an economic arrangement: “(a) import and export duties, or charges with an equivalent effect, and quantitative restrictions on the movement of coal and steel; (b) measures or practices discriminating among producers, among buyers or among consumers, specifically as concerns prices, delivery terms and transportation rates, as well as measures or practices which hamper the buyer in the free choice of his supplier; (c) subsidies or state assistance, or special charges imposed by the state, in any form whatsoever; and (d) restrictive practices tending toward the division of markets or the exploitation of the consumer.”

Managing a common market would require intervention by the Community’s institutions, notably on the part of the High Authority. In an effort to assuage producers on that score, Article 5 proclaimed, improbably, that “The Community shall accomplish its mission . . . with limited direct intervention.” Mostly, it would “enlighten and facilitate the action of the interested parties by collecting information, organizing consultations and defining general objectives; place financial means at the disposal of enterprises for their investments and participate in the expenses of readaptation; assure the establishment, the maintenance and the observance of normal conditions of competition.” To the extent that the Community would need to “take direct action with respect to production and the operation of the market,” it would do so “only when circumstances make it absolutely necessary; publish the justifications for its action and take the necessary measures to ensure observance of the rules.”

Title 2, on the institutions of the Community, contained four chapters, one for each institution (the High Authority, assisted by a Consultative Committee; the Common Assembly; the Special Council; and the Court of Justice).

Originally, Monnet wanted the Community’s institutional architecture to consist only of the High Authority and a court. Soon after the Schuman Declaration, however, he realized that a supranational Community would need at least the appearance of democratic accountability at the new, European level of governance, in the form of a transnational parliamentary body. That was the origin of the Common Assembly. Worried about the High Authority’s potential power at the expense of national governments, Belgium and the Netherlands insisted that a Special Council (of government ministers) be included as well in the Community’s institutional framework.

The High Authority, at the heart of the Schuman Plan, became the Community’s most distinctive institution. Article 8 referred, twice, to the “supranational character” of the High Authority (this was the only mention of “supranational” in the treaty). As the Community’s executive body, the High Authority was responsible for supervising the common market, including enforcing competition rules; modernizing the coal and steel sectors; curbing overproduction; ensuring price transparency; developing a common export policy; and helping to improve wages and working conditions. In order to carry out its responsibilities, the High Authority “shall issue decisions, recommendations and opinions. Decisions shall be binding in all their details. Recommendations shall be binding with respect to the objectives which they specify but shall leave to those to whom they are directed the choice of appropriate means for attaining these objectives. Opinions shall not be binding.” Decision making in the High Authority would be by simple majority vote (Article 13). A Consultative Committee, made up of representatives of producers, workers, and consumers, could assist the High Authority (in fact, it rarely did).

The High Authority was accountable to the Common Assembly (Article 20), which could exercise its supervisory responsibility only in dramatic fashion. According to Article 24: “The Assembly shall discuss in open session the general report submitted to it by the High Authority. If a motion of censure on the report is presented to the Assembly, a vote may be taken. . . . If the motion of censure is adopted by two-thirds of the members present and voting, representing a majority of the total membership, the members of the High Authority must resign in a body.” Even without such a high threshold, the prospect of the Common Assembly forcing the High Authority to resign was extremely remote. In fact, Monnet and others thought of the Assembly as political window dressing. After all, it was obliged to meet only once a year (Article 22).

According to the Treaty, the purpose of the Special Council was to harmonize “the action of the High Authority and that of the governments, which are responsible for the general economic policy of their countries. To this end, the Council and the High Authority shall consult together and exchange information. The Council may request the High Authority to examine all proposals and measures which it may deem necessary or appropriate for the realization of the common objectives” (Article 23). In some cases, the Council would have to approve decisions taken by the High Authority, either unanimously or by majority vote. Clearly, there was an inherent tension between the supranational character of the High Authority and the intergovernmental character of the Council, which would endure throughout the history of European integration.

The role of the Court of Justice was straightforward: to ensure that the treaty was interpreted and implemented correctly, and to adjudicate disputes.

Negotiations over the composition of the institutions, and decision-making rules, were especially acrimonious. Then, as in subsequent intergovernmental conferences, such institutional issues tended to divide the large and the small Member States. In the case of the putative ECSC, this fault line separated France and West Germany on one side and Italy and the Benelux countries on the other (although a large country geographically and demographically, Italy was not politically influential). The four “small” countries feared Franco-German hegemony within the Community or French domination in the guise of Franco-German rapprochement. Resolving the institutional issues in the negotiations required the direct involvement of the foreign ministers in a special session in mid-April 1951. (The heads of government did not participate in the intergovernmental conference, although Adenauer was both chancellor and foreign minister of West Germany.)

Initially France and West Germany favored a five-member High Authority—one member fewer than the number of Member States. The other negotiating states wanted to ensure that each of them could designate a member of the High Authority and doubted that France and Germany would agree to rotate the remaining seat among themselves. The formula eventually agreed upon was a nine-member High Authority, including “no more than two members of the same nationality” (Article 9). In effect, France and West Germany would designate two members each; the others would designate one member each. Members of the High Authority would be appointed for six-year, renewable terms and would elect (and could re-elect) one of their members as the institution’s president for a two-year (renewable) term. (Monnet, one of the two members of the new High Authority designated by France, became the institution’s first president; he resigned from the High Authority at the end of his first term.)

The Common Assembly would consist of delegated members of national parliaments (direct elections for the European Parliament were far in the future). Negotiators agreed that the Assembly would have 78 members: 18 each for Germany, France, and Italy; 10 each for Belgium and the Netherlands; and 4 for Luxembourg.

The Council would consist of one representative of each national government, with the presidency rotating alphabetically among Member States every six months, according to the name of the country in its own language. Ministers in the Council could cast one vote per Member State in cases where decision making allowed for majority voting.

Finally, the Court would consist of seven judges, appointed (and eligible for reappointment) for six years each by common agreement among the Member States. By implication, at least one judge would come from each Member State.

Title 3 of the Treaty, on Economic and Social Provisions, covered the full range of Community operations and activities, ranging from its budget (levies on the production of coal and steel, loans and grants), to investment and financial assistance (granting and guaranteeing loans to companies), to production (dealing with either excess output or shortage of inputs); to prices (where the Community had only an indirect role, in cooperation with national governments), to competition policy (the High Authority could act against anticompetitive agreements, concentrations, and abuse of dominant positions), to wages (where the High Authority could provide financial assistance in the event of abnormally low wages and wage reductions), to ensuring the free movement of “skilled workers” in the coal and steel sectors, to external trade (the High Authority had various powers, such as setting maximum and minimum rates for customs duties and supervising the granting of import and export licenses).

In some cases the High Authority could be highly interventionist, including being able to fine companies for noncompliance with Community rules. For instance, Article 47 stipulated: “The High Authority may impose fines and daily penalty payments upon those enterprises which evade their obligations [under the terms of the Treaty] . . . or which knowingly furnish false information. The maximum amount of such fines shall be one percent of the annual turnover and the maximum amount of such penalty payments shall be five percent of the average daily turnover for each day the violation continues.”

Title 4 dealt with General Provisions. Article 77 stated that “The seat of the institutions of the Community shall be fixed by common agreement of the governments of the member States.” Reaching such an agreement proved unexpectedly difficult. Monnet cherished the idea of locating the Community’s institutions in a small European territory carved out of a Member State, analogous to the District of Columbia in the United States. Foreign ministers resolved the issue at their first meeting after the Treaty came into effect, on July 25, 1952, when they agreed that the High Authority and the Court would be located in Luxembourg, where ministers would also come for meetings of the Council, and the Common Assembly would meet in Strasbourg. At the same meeting, ministers decided that the official languages of the Member States would become the official languages of the Community (Dutch, French, German, and Italian—but not Luxembourgish, because French and German were also official languages in Luxembourg). The principle behind this decision was that citizens had the right to be able to follow Community decision making in their own language.

Article 97 explained that the Treaty would cover a period of 50 years from the date of entering into force, which was July 1952. Article 98 dealt with enlargement. The only criterion for a prospective Member State was that it be European. The procedure for joining was straightforward: “It shall address its request to the Council, which shall act by unanimous vote after having obtained the opinion of the High Authority. Also by a unanimous vote, the Council shall fix the terms of accession.”

Attached to the Treaty was a small number of protocols on practical issues, such as on privileges and immunities of the Community, and a convention on transitional rules concerning implementation of the Treaty, which was as difficult to negotiate as parts of the Treaty itself. An exchange of letters between the French and West German governments, annexed to the Treaty, explained that the coming into existence of the ECSC would not affect the current status or future disposition of Saarland, a German territory still under French control (it joined the Federal Republic on January 1, 1957).


Article 99, the penultimate article in the Treaty, specified that “The present Treaty shall be ratified by all the member States in accordance with their respective constitutional rules; the instruments of ratification shall be deposited with the Government of the French Republic. The Treaty shall enter into force on the date of the deposit of the instrument of ratification of the last signatory nation to accomplish that formality.” The “respective constitutional rules” in each signatory state called for national parliaments to ratify international treaties. No country required ratification by referendum, and no government chose to hold an advisory referendum on ratification.

There had been considerable media coverage of the Schuman Plan and the ensuing intergovernmental conference in all of the negotiating states. The technical nature of the negotiations, and of the proposed Community, inevitably limited the appeal of such coverage, although interested citizens were well aware of the political importance of the Paris conference. It seems fair to say that few people were passionately engaged in the subject. Most people were content to let their elected representatives get on with the work of ratification.

By contrast, many business interests, unhappy with the principle and the provisions of the Paris Treaty, lobbied national parliamentarians to oppose ratification. West German producer groups disliked the Treaty, some viscerally. In general, they tended to support the governing, business-friendly Christian Democratic Party (CDU), but the CDU, under Adenauer’s leadership, supported the Treaty. German producer groups therefore had little likelihood of derailing ratification. Paradoxically, it was the Social Democratic Party (SPD), with which German business interests usually had almost nothing in common, that opposed the Treaty. Kurt Schumacher, the firebrand leader of the SPD, fiercely opposed the Community on the grounds that it would interfere unduly in West German affairs and do nothing to help the working class. The SPD leader and the leaders of Ruhr coal mines and steel mills were strange bedfellows in opposition to the Treaty. Regardless, the Bundesrat (upper house), the first national parliament to vote on ratification, approved the Treaty in a first reading on June 27, 1951 (26-17 vote); the Bundestag (lower house) approved it on January 11, 1952 (232-143); and the Bundesrat again approved it in a final reading on February 1, 1952 (unanimously). West Germany was the first country to complete the ratification process.

The Treaty exposed similar fault lines in France, although the Socialist Party was not hostile to it. The main political opposition came from the two ends of the spectrum: Communists on the left and Gaullists on the right—the same constellation of forces that also adamantly opposed the European Defence Community. French industry groups disliked the Treaty for the same reasons as their German counterparts. Nevertheless, the Assemblée nationale (lower house) approved the Treaty on December 13, 1951 (377-233), and the Conseil de la République (upper house) approved it overwhelmingly on April 1, 1952 (182-32), safe in the knowledge that West Germany had already completed ratification.

Similar concerns—ideological (diminution of national sovereignty) and economic (possible material drawbacks)—surfaced during the ratification debates in the other signatory states, but support for the Treaty greatly outweighed opposition to it. Political elites generally backed the Treaty primarily for political reasons because of what it portended for Franco-German relations and for security and stability in Western Europe as a whole. The fact that the United States unequivocally supported the Treaty undoubtedly helped its prospects. Accordingly, the Treaty was ratified without difficulty in the other signatory states, the Italian Camera dei deputati (lower house) being the last national parliament to approve it, on June 17, 1952 (265-98).


The immediate postwar period was replete with new international organizations. However, the Treaty of Paris emerged out of a process and resulted in an organization that was qualitatively different from other international initiatives at the time. The Schuman Declaration of May 1950 set out a novel plan for tackling the immediate problem of managing the Ruhr in a way that would be acceptable politically to France and West Germany, thereby helping to resolve the long-festering “German problem” and to secure a durable peace settlement. At the core of the plan was the proposed High Authority, a supranational institution with executive responsibility for a common market in coal and steel among the six participating states. In a telling sign of shifting patterns in postwar European relations, Britain was not one of them.

Jean Monnet was the éminence grise of the Schuman Plan and the driving force behind the Treaty. Monnet was then at the height of his influence in Western Europe, thanks to powerful American support (the United States was also at the height of its influence in Western Europe at that time). It took Monnet’s imagination and initiative to launch the plan, rescue it from the potential disaster posed by unexpected pressure in late 1950 for German rearmament, and overcome the fierce resistance of the Ruhr coal and steel interests to the conclusion of the Treaty in early 1951. Monnet could not have succeeded without the active involvement of the United States.

The future of the Coal and Steel Community, and of broader European political and economic integration, was highly uncertain. The Treaty proclaimed that the Community would last for 50 years, but who could have know what Europe would look like at the dawn of the 21st century? In the event, the Coal and Steel Community provided an organizational blueprint for similar supranational initiatives, notably the European Economic Community, which came into existence in 1958. At the outset, the EEC had the same six members as the ECSC. Like the ECSC, the EEC had a supranational executive (the European Commission), a transnational parliamentary assembly, a Council of Ministers, and a Court. In 1993, under the terms of the Maastricht Treaty, the EEC was subsumed into the EU, in which the organizational legacy of the ECSC was clearly visible.

By 2002, when the Treaty of Paris expired and the ECSC ceased to exist, Europe was vastly different from what it had been in 1952. The Cold War, which had lasted 40 years, was over for more than a decade; the EU, which had already enlarged to 15 Member States, was about to expand with the accession of 10 Central and Eastern European countries. Although the EU’s constitutional character and policy scope were poles apart from those of the ECSC, the imprint of the Treaty of Paris could still be discerned in the Maastricht Treaty, the EU’s founding charter. Although mostly forgotten by the time that the Maastricht Treaty came into effect, the Treaty of Paris and the European Coal and Steel Community to which it gave rise were crucial developments in the history of European integration.


  • Bitsch, M.-T. (1995). La première institution supranationale: Du nouveau sur l’histoire de la Haute Autorité de la Communauté européenne du charbon et de l’acier. Revue d’histoire de l’intégration européenne, 1, 129–141.
  • Cohen, A. (2018). Why call it a “European Community”? Ideological continuities and institutional design of nascent European organisations. Contemporary European History, 27(2), 326–344.
  • Dell, E. (1995). The Schuman Plan and the abdication of British leadership in Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Diebold, W. (1959). The Schuman Plan: A study in economic cooperation, New York: Praeger.
  • Gerbet, P. (1962). La génèse du plan Schuman: des origines à la déclaration du 9 Mai 1950. Lausanne, Switzerland: Centre de recherches européennes, Université de Lausanne.
  • Gillingham, J. (1991). Coal, steel, and the rebirth of Europe (1945–1955): The Germans and French from Ruhr conflict to economic community. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.
  • Harvey, O. (1950, June 6). Note from Oliver Harvey on the United Kingdom’s absence from the negotiations on the Schuman Plan.
  • Mioche, P. (2001). La déclaration Schuman, le traité de Paris et la CECA: Débats historiographiques. In M. Catala (Ed.), Histoire de la construction européenne. Cinquante ans après la déclaration Schuman (pp. 31–43). Nantes, France: Ouest éditions,
  • Poidevin, R. (1986a). Robert Schuman, homme d’Etat 1886–1963. Paris, Imprimerie nationale.
  • Poidevin, R. (1986b). Histoire des débuts de la construction européenne (mars 1948–mai 1950): Actes du Colloque de Strasbourg 28–30 novembre 1984. Baden-Baden, Germany: Nomos.
  • Reuter, P. (2000). La naissance de l’Europe communautaire. Lausanne, Switzerland: Jean Monnet Foundation for Europe, European Research Centre.
  • Schuman, R. (1950). Déclaration du 9 mai 1950.
  • Schwabe, K. (Ed.). (1988). Die Anfänge des Schuman-Plans 1950/51. Baden-Baden, Germany: Nomos.
  • Schwabe, K. (2016). Jean Monnet: Frankreich, die Deutschen und die Einigung Europas. Baden-Baden, Germany: Nomos
  • Wilkens, A. (Ed.). (2004). Le plan Schuman dans l’histoire: Intérêts nationaux et projet européen. Brussels: Bruylant.