It has been exactly sixty years since the Treaty of Paris came into force. Nouvelle Europe's Florian Chevoppe and new recruit Sissie Derdelinckx-Furham were invited by the Centre Virtuel de la Connaissance sur l'Europe (CVCE) to attend a day of seminar in the lovely Luxembourgish capital city, here is an account of this nice day of celebrating sixty years of our past.
A ticket to Luxembourg please !
The Pierre Werner Institute and the Centre Virtuel de la Connaissance sur l'Europe (CVCE) invited students from Germany and France for a seminar in the honour of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Paris, hosted at the CVCE headquarters. The CVCE is an institute which focuses its research on the topic of the European integration process, with an historical vision as its slogan shows “Knowing the past to build the future”. The CVCE pursues its research in the Castle of Sanem, which is a seven-hundred-years old castle, which is a property of the Luxembourgish government. As the CVCE says itself, it has “a vision [and] desire to share the results of its studies and research activities on the European integration process with as broad a public as possible”.
The students have been chosen according to their studies, all in a European field, their level and where they come form. The seminar have been held at the Sanem's castle on December the 5th, 2011, in Luxembourg.
The registration process has been managed by Nadège Mougel, the seminar organizer, whom was also responsible for receiving the registration form and notifying the students of the progress of their application to attend the seminar. The CVCE has taken in charge the train tickets cost, and the gaz for those who have chosen to use their own car. Also, the CVCE has booked hotel room for all the students, for the night before the seminar or the night at the end of the seminar's day. The hotels were the Golden Tulip Molitor and the City Hotel, very close to the central train station.
Most of the students arrived the day before the seminar, which gave them the opportunity to discover the capital city. Luxembourg-city is in the very heart of Western Europe. In the crossroads of France, Germany and Belgium, and as it is the seat of most European institutions (at least some departments), it represents an incredible multi-linguistic and multiculturalism melting-pot. Luxembourg-city is an unique place in Europe, where every single child could follow a class in one of the twenty-three European official languages, where the criminal rate is close to zero and where the highest human development index in the Union. The students could discover the city, in which all the shops were open on Sunday. The European centre (plateau de Kirchberg), the historic centre and the famous “place d'armes” in which there is a very traditional and multicultural Christmas market. The CVCE gave the opportunity to the students not only to assist to the seminar, but even to discover this European crossroad.
In this European feeling in Luxembourg, the CVCE decided to organise a seminar about the anniversary of the foundation of modern Europe, the Treaty of Paris. The treaty's duty was to prevent any conflict between the Western European countries and to put the basis for the emergence of a third force in the Cold War. France and Germany are reconciled and the basis of our institutions has been shaped. Sixty years later, the CVCE invited professionals to expose their research in the field of the evolution of the European Union since then.
In the morning of the seminar a bus picked up the students at each of the hotel and then went to the train station, waiting for the students whom arrived in Luxembourg at 9.30am. Then the bus has taken the students to the castle of Sanem, close to Luxembourg-city, where the organisation's staff welcomed them at 10am.
The day begins
The day begins with a seminar about what brought peoples once divided by way together, and students from many places in Europe to this adorable country : the Treaty of Paris. There are French and German speakers, so everyone is provided with a helmet – and secretly hoping that they won't have to use them.
We start with a short introduction about the Treaty of Paris. What the CVCE is keen on pointing out is the importance of this 1951 achievement, and how we can trace back to its roots to see how it defined our modern European Union.
Ingo Espenschied inaugurates the floor with a high-technology presentation using pictures, animated maps and videos. It is astounding and he speaks like clockwork. We do get a strange feeling, somewhat like archaeologists studying an ancient time were things were different, but it only happened sixty years ago. In his words, it is nothing, but most of the men and women who contributed to it were actually born in the 19th century. Will they say the same of ourselves who are born in the 1980s ?
Nevertheless, the presentation doesn't start with the Schuman Declaration but with a history of Franco-German relations. To put it shortly, the French were the “bad guys” for centuries, and Lorraine (or Lothringen) was both a battlefield and a laboratory for the French and the Germans. Once united and at the centre of a gigantic empire under Charlemagne, it was prized by Louis XIV and the révolutionnaires. But Bismarck turned the tide, and so did the infamous Hitler.
Why mention this one could think ? Well, because it is in this area that both Konrad Adenauer and Robert Schuman were born, in a century were territories were surrendered, annexed or traded. They both suffered from this situation, and felt the dire consequences from the Battle of Verdun (1916).
The speaker goes on with the many failed attempts at unifying Europe, only to get to the Treaty of Paris as a symbol of a final blow to Franco-German amnety. Why such a treaty ? Because it benefited everyone, especially a much-needed Western European industry in a time were Europe had to be rebuilt. Don't get it wrong, if Germany is reborn, it is mostly because it can't just remain a buffer area between the Soviets and the West : a strong Germany will make the West stronger. And never mind the British.
Marie-Thérèse Bitsch : tact and experience
The next speaker is Marie-Thérèse Bitsch, an apostle of European political studies who would be seated close to the middle if the EU ever were to hold its last supper. As a specialist, she focuses on the institutional system of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). She goes back to all the famous contributions by illustrious men such as Blum, Beveridge and Spinelli (yes, I am not saying “and women”, because they were actually quite absent for quite a long time).
She mentions the first failures of Europeans to agree on a structure for Europe – something we can say is still the case. Neither will the OECD or Council of Europe be the main structures : they are too inter-governmental. At that time the consensus is that supranationalism is a crucial need is not shared by all.
Although the Schuman Declaration calls for a “federation” twice in its wording, the smaller countries who agree to take part in negociations remain committed to supranationalism as a way of avoiding an already-feared Franco-German dominance over the functioning of the institution, as spearheaded by the Dutch. A consensus is found where there would be a High Authority, a Council of Ministers, a (parliamentary) Assembly and a Court of Justice. Roughly said, it is a balance between supranationalism and inter-governmentalism.
It is from this that today's institutions have evolved. The Authority is our Commission, the Assembly is our Parliament, and so on. To her, the system has become more democratic and federal with things such as a parliament elected by universal suffrage or the generalisation or majority voting.
The men of the ECSC
But what about the men who shaped the institution ? It is Mauve Carbonell's task to explain this to us, and this comes to a great surprise. Although she says that the ECSC generally inspired peace and stability in the hearts of those days, very few were willing to work for it. But the careers of those who did, especially under Monnet's presidency saw their careers skyrocket.
They had very different backgrounds : doctors, university graduates, students from French “grandes écoles”, some with no actual studies or even one with a “formation initiale” - does this mean less than a baccalaureate ? They also had very different jobs, some were lawyers, high civil servants, teachers, or even administrators in factories or administrations, or humble workers. After this passage in the Authority, most became “fonctionnaires”, that is to say civil servants or administrators in ministries.
Nevertheless, some of these men were highly controversial and because not all wanted to work for the Authority, some had to been dragged in by force or substitutes had to be found. One such example is Karl-Maria Hettlage, a former SS and friend of Albert Speer, whose curriculum vitae was “cleansed” out of any reference to his dark days.
A finale : l'entente élémentaire.
After this is an ultimate presentation in German by Joachim Schild, about what he defines as an “entente élémentaire” between France and Germany as opposed to the “entente cordiale” between France and Britain. He will try to show us how this cooperation, what is often called a “couple”, has helped Europe get out of its crisis and has become its core.
From the start, even in shapping the ECSC, he shows that France and German always negotiatiated first to show a united position during negociations with the four others, although they were respectively strongly agricultural and industrial countries and their interests were rarely the same.
One of the first, and to this day only according to our speaker, crisis in the Franco-German relationship with the empty chair crisis which de Gaulle initiated and the question of Britain's accession to the European Economic Community (EEC), which was not a crisis caused by a rift in points of views but simply because France refused to negotiate.
But from the 1970s and for instance with the start of the European Monetary System (1979), Berlin-Paris relations thawed and became more crucial every day. He refutes any idea that any of this was a “German concession” : to him Germany fully consented to this. To him, in the context of EU enlargement and crisis, the Franco-German core has been instrumental in providing Europe with a way forward, somehow like a “destinée manifeste” or a “grand scheme”. This couple is, to him, still relevant today and as a German man, he insisted on the importance of bi-lateral relations only to say that with their past, present economic weight and future agendas, France and Germany will indeed remain the core countries of Europe for “many decades to come”... We shall see.
This article was written by Sissie Derdelinckx Furhmann and Florian Chevoppe