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Forging Partnerships: The European Coal & Steel Community

December 8, 2011

This entry is the first in a twelve-part series on the European Union as part of the One State, One World project. The series is jointly produced by WFIU Public Radio and the European Union Center at Indiana University. Each segment looks at a particular historical moment or a specific contemporary topic related to the European Union and connects it to the lives of ordinary Hoosiers. Each part will feature a short audio program broadcast on WFIU, as well as a corresponding blog post featuring additional information.

The current European Union can trace its roots back to the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). The ECSC, formed by the Treaty of Paris in 1951, was the most significant attempt at economic and political integration by European states up to that point. (The EU has more detailed information about the Treaty of Paris here.) The desire for an integrated or ‘federal’ Europe derived from two factors.


Six founding members of the ECSC

The Second World War was still fresh in the minds of European leaders and citizens, a war that in large part had been driven by nationalist rhetoric and territorial ambitions. Integration would help prevent such conflicts in the future, its proponents argued, by tying the fate of states together. Integration would ensure that one state’s prosperity would contribute, rather than come at the expense of, another state’s prosperity. Political and economic relations would become positive sum, rather than zero sum, affairs. French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman, one of the most significant architects of European integration, articulated these goals and principles in his May 9, 1950 declaration. To celebrate this influential declaration, European leaders later designated May 9 as Europe Day. The European Union Center at Indiana University organized a Europe Day celebration on the IU Art Museum in Spring 2011 and will do so again on April 22nd in conjunction with a performance by the European Union Youth Orchestra at the IU Auditorium.

The second factor contributing to integration was the drawing of the Iron Curtain between Soviet-controlled Eastern Europe and the West. The dawning of the Cold War spurred the creation of NATO in 1949, and an economically prosperous, democratic, united Europe was seen as the best way to stand up to the new Soviet menace.

The purpose of the ECSC was to pool the coal and steel resources of the six founding members: West Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Luxembourg. The main architects of the integration project were two Frenchmen: Schuman and Jean Monnet, who had been the head of France’s General Planning Commission. From the very outset, they and others had ambitions to eventually expand economic integration to sectors other than coal and steel. The actual achievements of the ECSC in the coal and steel industries were relatively modest. However, the organization’s most lasting effect was to kickstart the process of European integration and to lay down the institutional architecture of the future European Union.

Robert Schuman (R) and Jean Monnet (L):

Robert Schuman (R) and Jean Monnet (L)

 The ECSC from the beginning tried to find a compromise between those who sought to create a “United States of Europe” and those who favored a more modest plan in which states still retained a great deal of national sovereignty. The two main decision-making institutions of the newly created organization reflected these conflicting goals. The High Authority, which would later become the European Commission, represented the supranational interests of the ECSC as a whole, while the Council of Ministers represented the national interests of the member states. And the founders’ dream to expand integration to other sectors was realized a short time later with the Treaty of Rome in 1957 and the subsequent founding of the European Economic Community.

As mentioned above, the direct economic effects of the ECSC on the coal and steel sectors were mixed. On the one hand, trade in these sectors between member states increased dramatically, and the ECSC provided modernization loans that improved working conditions for miners. On the other hand, the ECSC did not succeed in its goal of preventing the reemergence of large cartels, as firms now merged across national borders in Europe. For instance, a Luxembourg-based steel company, ArcelorMittal, was created from firms based in France, Luxembourg, and Spain, and has steel mills in 10 of the 27 current EU member states.   ArcelorMittal also has strong Indiana ties, as the company employs thousands of Hoosiers in its northwest Indiana operations.


For further reading on the topic, see:

Jean Monnet: The Path to European Unity, edited by Douglas Brinkly and Clifford Hackett.

Ever Closer Union: An Introduction to European Integration, Desmond Dinan.

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


For more information on the One State, One World series, please visit  This episode of One State One World is produced in partnership of WFIU Public Radio and the EU Center at Indiana University.

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