Grand Designs and Visions of Unity: The Atlantic Powers and the Reorganization of Western Europe, 1955-1963

By Jeffrey Glen Giauque | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

France, Germany and Italy were devastated, but these three countries are regaining the
elements of their power and there is no reason to abandon the direction of Europe to the
Anglo-Saxons, especially the Americans. It is a bad idea, because our peoples will lose
interest in the actions of their governments. A state cannot survive unless its people are
convinced that their government is responsible for their fate and not some organization
with an acronym name or some foreign country, however friendly it may be.
— Charles de Gaulle, 24 June 1959

Between 1955 and 1963, Western European and transatlantic relations witnessed a period of political and economic ferment as a wide variety of proposals for unity and cooperation appeared on both sides of the Atlantic. Among the accomplishments of the period were the creation of the European Common Market, the antecedent of today's European Union, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the main transatlantic organization for economic cooperation to this day, as well as the cementing of the postwar rapprochement between France and Germany in treaty form in 1963. Other proposed institutions and arrangements did not come into being. These included a political union to provide Western Europe greater cohesion in foreign policy and a voice in global affairs, a structured Atlantic political and economic community to strengthen the connections between the United States and its European partners, and the admission of Britain to the Common Market to increase the political and economic weight of the European community.

In retrospect, it is not surprising that the late 1950s and early 1960s was a time to explore new forms of cooperation in Western Europe. Throughout much of the world, both inside and outside the Cold War blocs, this was an era of adaptation to a bilateral international system that placed overwhelming power in the hands of the United States and Soviet Union. Nineteen fifty-five marked the formal construction of the Warsaw Pact, which represented the Soviet response to the Atlantic alliance, the creation of NATO, and the rearming of West Germany. 1 The same year also witnessed the beginning of the nonaligned movement at the Bandung conference, reflecting the increasing assertiveness of Europe's former colonies at a time when decolonization was at its peak. The United States was actively intervening around the world to support friendly governments and re

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