However, before that Schuman had talked to the third key actor.
This was then-US secretary of state Dean Acheson. The conversation took place at a reception for Acheson given by the US ambassador, who was on his way to London for the three-power meeting. For once, a cocktail-party conversation meant something.
Acheson should be remembered as one of the EU’s founders. He was the architect of NATO; and it was only when the fundamental problem of European security had been solved that it became possible to think in the creative terms of the Schuman Plan. Moreover, the US was the only benevolent power left standing in Western Europe at the end of World War II.
Without its consent, nothing was possible.
Acheson understood that the Schuman Plan, though modest and limited to dealing with industrial matters, was in reality more far-reaching than anything Bidault was proposing, and he gave more than consent. In his biography of Jean Monnet, Francois Duchene comments that “perhaps the most extraordinary feature of the Schuman Conference [which approved the idea of a Coal and Steel Community] was the enormous, almost internal role that the Americans played.”
So it has been ever since.
The EU has contributed to the longest period of peace in European history. NATO, too, is a part of the story. However, the EU has created a political society in Europe such as has never existed before: a continuous process among Europe’s nations that enables adaptation of policies and institutions to tackle problems as they arise — and to tackle them together.
There is much that is wrong with Europe, and much will need to change to solve the problems of the euro. However, if we recall the problems that Europe faced in the 1950s, there is no reason to suppose that this cannot be done.
One can understand why the Nobel Committee does not award prizes posthumously. If it did, the prize for literature would be an annual battle between Shakespeare, Dante and Goethe.
However, we should also understand that this year’s award honors not so much a very imperfect set of institutions as it does the three men who founded them.
Robert Cooper, former director-general of political and military affairs of the EU Council of Ministers, and a former chief foreign policy adviser to former British prime minister Tony Blair, served most recently as a counselor in the European External Action Service.
Copyright: Project Syndicate