Motives for the Foundation of the ECSC

By Berger, Michael | The Poznan University of Economics Review, July 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

Motives for the Foundation of the ECSC


Berger, Michael, The Poznan University of Economics Review


Abstract: The establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) can be considered as a milestone for the development of European integration. It is the first concrete achievement of several centuries of reflection on European construction, the gradual evolvement from a coal and steel pooling into the Union in which we live today. The process of subordinating the nation-state order by establishing supranational Community structures was a complex development, provoking national interests, reciprocal obstacles and different methodological approaches to the subject. A fundamental issue was the fact that the coal industry problem could not be reduced to a mere question of adequate supply of raw materials in times of scarcity of coal; it was rather composed of a whole range of closely interconnected problem areas within different political and economic levels. The focus was thus, additionally set on growth, competition issues as well as socio-political aspects coupled with security policy dimensions which appeared to slow down the whole process.

The present paper tries to outline the background and motivation of a European alliance within a supranational agency, the initiatives and methods that were used as well as the institutions that were needed in order to eventually transfer power to a common High Authority. The different driving forces shall be examined as well as the motivation of the main actors behind the scenes who were, in this particular case, of prominent importance. The question why Britain did not join the treaty of the six shall be examined and put in the right context. The author finds it especially crucial at present to underline how the first steps towards a European cooperation took place, in particular at a time where the integrity of the Union is being questioned. The motives for such a step will be considered in order on examine whether the decisions taken were based on economic aspects, political aspects or rather on purely external factors. This work is based around two sections and its scope is to illustrate the conceptual approach of the initial six ECSC countries to pool their resources and to go ahead with the unification project. The first section of the paper deals with the chronological order and its developments of an idea of a unified Europe which eventually became political reality. It is divided in three subsections: the period before and after WW II, the announcement of the Schuman Declaration and the negotiation process at the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) in Paris. It will be argued that France was the main initiator in the process of this early European integration, albeit not from the very beginning, and this section will analyze the motives of France in bringing into existence the ECSC. The second section is devoted to the reactions of the other countries that were invited to join the Community and their reasons behind the decision to become signatory members of the Treaty.

Keywords: European Community, Coal and Steel Community, European integration, ECSC, economic history, energy security.

JEL codes: E13, E59, F13, F59, L16, L44, N44.

1. Initial situation

The European Union of the 27 Member States has become a reality in todays political thinking with the historic origins arising out of the European Coal & Steel Community (ECSC) of 1952. In order to understand the motivation behind the creation of such a regional European system, one has to understand the role steel played in the past. One of the earliest cartels was the Rheinisch-Westphalian Coal Syndicate (Rheinisch-Westfálisches Kohle-Syndikat -RWKS-) which was established in 1893, consisting of 98 German mines aiming to avoid "further unhealthy competition" (Deutsches Bergbau-Museum). The cartel employed over five hundred workers and controlled 50 per cent of Germany's coal production by 1912, being able to regulate both prices and production [Peters 1989, p. 420]. British inventions were a key part of the value-added chain of steel production and steel processing in the 19th century and in particular, on the steel industry of the European continent. …

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