France Restored: Cold War Diplomacy and the Quest for Leadership in Europe, 1944-1954

By William I. Hitchcock | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 6
The European Defense Community and French National Strategy

On August 30, 1954, after two years of debate, prevarication, and delay, the French parliament voted against the ratification of the treaties of Paris and Bonn -- the agreements instituting the European Defense Community and returning to Germany its full sovereignty. The debate, it was often said, rivaled the Dreyfus Affair, so great were the divisions within French society over the issue of German rearmament. The members of the Atlantic Alliance, too, engaged in polemics and harangues to secure ratification, ultimately without success. Yet despite the central role of France in these interallied arguments over the EDC, historical accounts of the debate have not given sustained analysis to the French position. American historians tend to see the entire affair as indicative of French weakness and indecision, as well as confirmation of the petulant character of France's postwar leadership. These accounts depict the Eisenhower administration as engaged in a well-meaning and constructive effort to encourage Franco-German rapprochement, a policy in which they were ably supported by Chancellor Adenauer and stymied by a Germanophobic French parliament. 1 Few historians have examined the EDC debate within the context of France's overall national strategy of postwar recovery. 2

Materials from the French Foreign Ministry archives provide a much fuller picture of French official thinking about the EDC issue. The EDC encapsulated many of the painful dilemmas that had bedeviled French planners since the end of the war. What price was France willing to pay to achieve a stable and balanced relationship with Germany? How could supranational institutions be used to advance the national interest? Did integration diminish France's stature in Europe or bolster it? Despite the twists and turns of the EDC story, French objectives remained consistent throughout: policymakers sought to limit German influence and sovereignty while at the same time bringing Germany into the Western

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