Trade and Payments in Western Europe: A Study in Economic Cooperation, 1947-51

By William Diebold Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINETEEN
THE PROPOSED FRENCH-ITALIAN CUSTOMS UNION

As COUNT SFORZA told the story afterwards, he had been speaking to the CEEC conference on July 15, 1947. "I said, 'We must look for more than technical understandings: we must will the fall of the autarkic myths, we must limit national sovereignty; to the dogma of national independence we must join the dogma of European independence.' And I gave an example: 'Why not form a customs union between two of the most illustrious peoples of the world, Italy and France? It would be to the eternal glory of Italy and of France if they should complete the first step on the road that sooner or later all Europe will follow.' The concept was so much in the spirit of tomorrow's history [ talmente nelle viscere della storia di domani ] that even that cold assemblage of statesmen and economists applauded."1

The Italians had been examining this idea for some time; their delegation pressed it during tile CEEC conference. The French government announced its willingness to negotiate with any European governments that shared its views on the desirability of enlarging economic areas by forming customs unions "and whose national economies are capable of being combined with the French economy in such a way as to make a viable unit." The Italian govermnent associated itself with this statement, "which, in its view, is in general conformity with the proposals submitted by the Italian Delegation to the Committee."2 Thereupon, the two governments appointed a

____________________
1
Relazioni lnternazionali, January 24, 1948, 57.
2
CEEC, Report, paras. 98, 99. The arrangement of these statements has given some the impression that the initiative for the customs union negotiations came from France. Although documentation is sparse, the weight of the evidence is that the Italians made the first proposals.

-354-

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