The European Defence Community
- Richard GriffithsRichard GriffithsFaculty of Humanities, Leiden University
In 1950, France, West Germany, Italy, and the Benelux countries started talks that would culminate in a treaty for a European Defence Community (EDC), a treaty that was signed but never ratified. The initiative for a common European army was the French response to the American demand for a rearmed Germany. Against the background of the North Korean invasion of the South in June 1950 and the numerical superiority of Soviet conventional ground forces on the European continent, US President Truman wanted to see the major increase in US defense capacity in Europe compensated by an equivalent effort in Europe, including a rearmament of Germany.
For France, such rearmament, only five years after the end of World War II, was politically unacceptable. With the support of Jean Monnet, Prime Minister René Pléven proposed a scheme for a European army operating within the framework of a single political and military authority. The plan included a European defense minister, appointed by national governments and responsible to a Council of Ministers and a European Assembly. While each state would retain national defense and command structures, there would be no German defense ministry or army. The German troops would be recruited directly into the European army.
The Treaty creating a European Defence Community was signed in Paris on May 27, 1952, by all six negotiation parties (Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Italy, and Germany), but was not ratified by France, the initiator of the initiative. On August 30, 1954, the French Assembly decided not to put the EDC treaty to a vote, meaning that it in effect rejected the proposal for a European army.
The problem of German rearmament was ultimately addressed by admitting West Germany into the Western Union, which was renamed the Western European Union, and by welcoming it as a member of NATO.