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

CONCLUSION

The Americans might be relieved to see a real Europe able to bear its responsibilities.
That might be more likely to motivate them to defend Europe than if they are confronted
with an incoherent and unreliable mass. —Charles de Gaulle, 30 July 1960

The creation of the Common Market between 1955 and 1957 opened a new phase in Western European and Atlantic relations. With Germany tightly linked to the West and the Soviet military threat somewhat alleviated, the Europeans had greater room for maneuver. While the mercurial Khrushchev provoked crises both in and outside Europe, his Soviet Union offered a less menacing visage to Europe than that of Stalin. Solid Western defenses were now in place in any case. The birth of the Common Market also came at a fortuitous moment economically. With recovery from the war largely complete and in the midst of a sustained economic boom, European leaders had the freedom and confidence to open their borders to trade. Such a commitment would have been impossible in the midst of economic uncertainty, either in the immediate aftermath of the war or in the more unstable environment produced by the oil crisis and the end of the boom in the 1970s. The fact that the community had its start during the era of European decolonization also propelled its development. With Britain, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands losing the empires that had guaranteed markets and resources and symbolized their world roles for centuries, they sought new means to ensure economic development and political influence. In a variety of ways and at different rates of speed, they turned away from the imperial past and toward a European future.

After the failure of the over-ambitious EDC in 1954, a period of relative pragmatism and flexibility followed in Europe. It was this willingness for compromise on all sides that made possible the creation of the Common Market. Once the Common Market came into being, it forced all the Atlantic countries to reexamine their European policies and consider how best to advance their interests in the new environment. Each country's leaders thereafter developed a variety of proposals to reorganize European and Atlantic relations, to adjust them not only to the existence of the Common Market, but also to wider changes in the world. The propagation of so many plans to update European and Atlantic relations and promote purely national interests at the same time led to a period

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