Former President of the Council (Prime Minister) and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the French Republic

Speech made to the Assembly

Thursday, 10 August 1950

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen, you have done me the honour of asking me to give an account in broad outline of the Proposal put forward by the French Government on 9th May last. This account will be strictly objective and will avoid anything of a polemical character.

It will not commit the Committee of Ministers.

I am speaking on behalf of the French Government, but you are already aware that studies of our Proposal and negotiations based upon it are now in progress between the representatives of seven countries. I am therefore in a position to inform you, if not of the final conclusions reached, at least of the horizons opened by these conversations.

You already know the main points of our Proposal: a Treaty, signed by the participating countries and ratified by their parliaments, is to place all coal and steel undertakings under a common Authority. This Authority will lay down general rules to ensure the rapid creation of a single market for these products, without quantitative or tariff restrictions. The Authority will see that these rules are applied, and at the same time that production is expanded while prices are kept at the lowest levels. These are our aims.

This system presents therefore, two essential characteristics: an independent Authority, and a single market. Let us examine these in turn.

What will this Authority be?

Let us first say what it will not be – at least in the view of the French Government. It will not be a Committee of Ministers or of Delegates of Ministers, the members of which would have the duty of defending the national interests of their own countries, in pursuance of definite instructions and subject to the permanent supervision of the different Governments.

With this clash of national interests, this search for compromises and mutual concessions obtained with more or less difficulty, we are already familiar. We are well acquainted with them because, up till now, such has been and is still our practice in all the international institutions that exist today as much as in those grouped about UNO as those of a regional or European character. There unanimity is the rule. Your Assembly represented the first effort to be made outside and beyond this tradition; but it is only consultative and so far lacks any power of decision.

The common Authority which we propose will be a body representing neither management nor any other single private interest or group of interests. It will therefore be neither a cartel nor an organ of industrial alliance. The Authority will have the task of preserving the whole complex of interests of all the associated countries, those of the consumer as much as of the producer, those of the workers no less than those of the management.

The Authority will not be purely and simply a Committee or a board of directors. It will be an institution that is autonomous and, in consequence, one that has its own responsibilities. The signatories of the Treaty will, with certain guarantees, submit to the authority that they will have set up. In spite of its contractual origin, the Authority will exercise its powers according to an unfettered estimation of needs and possibilities, but always within the limits of its Charter. It will itself be subordinated only to the objectives specified and the rulings arising therefrom. The Authority thus set up will be the first example of an independent supranational institution.

It will be invested with powers 'which will have to be precisely defined by the Treaty. Their nature and importance will be determined strictly in accordance with the proposed aim, namely: the establishment and maintenance of a single market. Certain participating States will be abandoning some degree of sovereignty in favour of the common Authority, and will be accepting a fusion or pooling of powers which are at present being exercised or capable of being exercised by the governments. Such a prospect gives rise in some quarters to apprehension or indeed provokes a refusal in principle to accept the scheme, in other quarters it evokes enthusiasm. You will allow me perhaps to observe that I fall into neither of these categories.

As far as I am concerned I accept the principle of a renunciation of sovereign rights not for its own sake alone, not as an end in itself, but as a necessity, as the sole means at our disposal for overcoming the national selfishness, the antagonism and narrow-mindedness which are destroying us.

Thus the participating nations will in advance accept the notion of submission to the Authority that they will have set up and within such limits as they themselves will have defined. The essential object of the Treaty will be to determine both the terms of reference and the competence of the Authority.

Firms will retain their present proprietors; in this respect national law will remain entirely sovereign. The owner will remain quite free to organise his business, to draw profits from his own personal skill, from any natural advantages he enjoys, and from the general combination of circumstances in which he finds himself, all this within the framework of the rules which the existence of a single market and the consequent discipline that this entails, will impose on him. Healthy and loyal competition will be not only permitted but welcomed.

It would be an error to suppose that the system we are commending would necessarily end in one gigantic controlled economy. On the contrary, there will be every call for the spirit of enterprise freed from the fetters imposed on it to-day by undesirable or dishonest practices. Neither is there any question of superimposing a new bureaucracy on commercial undertakings. The Authority will be simply and essentially seeking to evolve general conceptions inspired by the common interest and checked as time goes on in the light of experience and events.

The Authority will have no political functions. Its task will be exclusively economic. Its sole pre-occupation must be the development of productivity in the industry and the raising of the standard of living. The aim is to produce and sell the greatest possible amount of coal and steel at the lowest possible prices.

The use of these products, however, will not be the business of the Authority. Questions of armament, for example, will remain outside its province. The manufacture of war material will no doubt entail rather large orders, and will provide rather easy markets; but in this respect, the Authority will have no power of decision or initiative. Its task will be to provide coal and steel in sufficient quantities and at the best rates.

If the Authority’s powers are not in essence political, its decisions are nevertheless capable of having political influence, of having repercussions beyond the firms under its direction, upon the social and economic situation of the country, and of calling into question the principles which guide and inspire the general policy of Governments.

From the opposite angle, positions adopted in other fields may have very great consequences regarding the production of coal and steel.

An indispensable element, then, is the harmonization of the action of the common Authority with that of Governments responsible for general policy.

By its attitude towards prices, for instance (and that will be its main concern), the Authority will have an influence, willy-nilly, upon other prices, upon wages, upon the labour market and upon the general availability of man-power. Decisions which, in themselves, relate to Coal and Steel alone will, therefore, have to take their place within the general framework of general economic policy. Governments cannot afford to remain indifferent to decisions which might well seriously upset the whole economic equilibrium or the social stability of the country. Safeguards and precautions will be needed, which, without raising the actual question of the transfer of sovereign power, contrive to avoid or to control conflicts between the different authorities involved. The political authorities which have the task and the responsibility of maintaining public order in a country, may have to preserve it against the dangers involved in any decisions which the Authority might take within the limits of its own power, and which might have serious repercussions outside the sphere for which the Authority itself assumes responsibility.

By organising a permanent contact between Governments, on the one hand, and the Authority, on the other hand, for information and reciprocal consultation, we shall be able to avoid many pitfalls and prevent serious disagreements.

From what has been said, we can draw one conclusion: the Authority cannot be completely independent. We shall have to visualize, and from the outset we have visualized, precautionary measures, to be taken in the interests of the social and economic structure of the countries concerned. The greatest safeguard, and the essential condition, will be an exact definition of the powers of the Authority. The latter will have to be given all necessary powers for a wise administration of the production of Coal and Steel. It must have no other powers. The Treaty must, therefore, define its powers as clearly as possible, without ambiguity or confusion.

Above all, we shall have to set clear limits to the objects we wish to achieve: the creation of a single market for Coal and Steel; their free circulation within that market; and the suppression of all unhealthy or artificially-fomented competition.

These aims cannot be achieved unless the production within participating countries is undertaken in conditions which, if not identical, are at least comparable. To this end it will be necessary to eliminate, gradually, the disparities between the cost prices and the cost of transport, to do away with all dumping and discrimination. There will be an opportunity of undertaking rapidly the progressive harmonization of wages, of social, fiscal and financial charges, and of transport costs. Obviously, there would be no question of entrusting to the Authority itself any power of legislation or regulation, which can only appertain to political organs. At any rate it will be necessary to ensure that the Authority has the means of achieving the desired result, thanks to the undertakings signed by the Governments, and a constant and confident co-operation between the Authority and the political authorities.

We can calculate the complexity of these problems without difficulty. They will arise every time an economic integration or unification is undertaken. Moreover, it is not necessary to seek for uniformity in all respects between the social and economic legislation— this would be both useless and impossible. It will be sufficient to establish an overall balance of the burdens which production will have to bear. Moreover, this will only be reached by stages and by proceeding cautiously. Since the national Parliaments will necessarily be associated with this work, we need not, I believe, fear any precipitate action. In no case will the workers’ standard of living have to be lowered; this is an absolute rule which we laid down as a basic principle from the very first.

Against the inequalities of Nature, on the other hand, we can do nothing. Nobody can make poor deposits rich. On the other hand, what will be both possible and necessary is to proceed in accordance with the general scheme to a new division of labour, to the avoidance of duplication of employment, and to the bringing together of companies doing complementary work. The action of the Authority, on these points, will essentially be of a persuasive nature.

In all this, we must constantly keep in view the maintenance of full employment, without any large-scale displacement of man-power. Since these structural reforms are to be elaborated and to become operative within a very vast framework, extremely diverse in resources, they will be realised more easily than they would be within the narrow limits of national frontiers.

Such a rational re-organisation will furthermore be made easier by the creation of equalization, re-conversion or adjustment funds. Such funds will be derived from the sum total of the joint production. The re-organization of production is in fact in the general interest, and will be in the end beneficial to all enterprises, even to those which are most favourably situated.

The governments also will, no doubt, have to contribute to this effort of re-organisation. They will not refuse to do so, for they will understand that such an effort in common will make it possible, at the lowest cost, to introduce reforms which will one day be inevitable, and which would prove a terrible burden were they to be undertaken with purely national resources.

Such a programme pre-supposes much clear thinking and great courage. It would be wrong and injust to close our eyes to, or to minimize, the risks involved. But it would also be a mistake to believe that these difficulties would be the consequence of our Plan. They exist (even to-day) perhaps not acutely, but they are latent, and sometimes even obvious. It will be by the establishment of a supra-national solidarity that each of the associated countries will find solutions which will prove to be less onerous and more rational.

It is still too early in the day to draw up a detailed programme of reforms. That will be the business of the Authority, which will first of all undertake preliminary investigations such as have never yet been undertaken on the international plane. It is true that present-day inconsistencies and the increasingly menacing disorder of our European production were pointed out in statistics and in reports; but so far it has not been possible to undertake any structural reform outside the national plane. The mere fact of the existence of a supra-national Directorate will open up new horizons. Without being beguiled into excessive rationalisation, in blind disregard of social and political considerations, this Directorate will advance by easy stages, making progressive improvements which would be impracticable under the present system of water-tight compartments.

The very amplitude of these aims makes us overwhelmingly aware of the essential importance of the selection of the men on whom such a task will devolve. They will have to take into account all the problems and situations as a whole. They will not act within the Authority as the defenders of particular, national or class interests. True, the Authority will not be entitled to neglect such interests; it will have to reconcile them with the common interest. The common interest is identified with the prosperity of all the associated national economies; but the latter, for their part, will have to accept the principle and reality of a common discipline, and of that rational co-ordination which is a condition of their own improvement just as much as that of collective prosperity.

These ideas of solidarity, of the common good, of the pooling of resources and efforts could find no place in discussions held during the war. We now accept them, we now proclaim them, – as you have heard us doing in the last few days, with so much eloquence – in this time of international tension, as elements in the organization of our common defence. With all speed and more completely than in the past they will have to take shape and form in our economic relations.

These principles do not exclude, but on the contrary they demand, guarantees against mistakes or possible abuse; they require, when they come to operation, progress by stages and with all necessary precautions. Circumspection and prudence are necessary, but not to such an extent that they paralyse the reforms that we recognise as essential and deprive them of substance.

We shall have to convince those sceptics who have an eye only for the risks and who consider – and that is where they are wrong – that to do nothing is always the course that involves the least danger. We shall have to contend, further, with the defenders of political prerogatives. I have taken the opportunity, just now, and on many occasions, of indicating our desire to respect the functions and responsibilities of public authorities. It will be our constant task to distinguish and separate authorities of various kinds. Thus we are convinced that in the economic field the political authorities should exercise no more than a general supervision, and should not assume responsibility for practical decisions. The crux of the question is to establish a judicious balance between the already-existing authorities and the new Authority to be set up. In our opinion it would be for the political authorities to define ultimate aims, to set up statutory organs, to determine their functions, to supervise the use made of any powers conferred, to act even in a preventive sense by giving indications or warnings to the competent Authority. On the other hand political organs are not competent to carry on the administration proper, to draw up production, investment, or equipment programmes, or to lay down the rules controlling prices. Their role will be that of a perpetually vigilant supervisor who is concerned to ensure, and to impose if necessary, the observance of a general policy of well-being, of full employment and social justice. To this end, and only to this end, should Governments be given the power to make appeal to the courts against decisions which would seriously compromise the general interest of their country. A Committee of Ministers would maintain permanent contact with the Authority so that at all times the needs of general policy are appreciated and taken into due consideration.

In order to safeguard the vital interests of firms and workers, the representatives of private interests will be recognised as possessing similar rights. Permanent advisory organs consisting of employees, employers and technicians, will help the Authority to draw up plans and to prepare and implement decisions. Furthermore, an independent international judicial body will give judgment in cases where proceedings are instituted for grave breaches of the regulations or of the principles set out in the Statute.

Finally, it is proposed to provide a supreme sanction applicable against the administration as a whole, and not merely in regard to a single decision. It will appertain to a Supranational Political Assembly to pronounce this sanction, at the conclusion of a discussion which it will hold on the Annual Reports submitted by the Authority. That Assembly will have power to approve or reject this Report. In the latter case, if a sufficient majority witholds its approval from the Authority, that body will resign and will be entirely replaced.

This system of interlocking safeguards is capable of a number of variants, upon which the participating Governments and Parliaments will have to decide. During the Debate that is to be held on the principles and general structure of the proposed system, the Consultative Assembly will doubtless wish to give its opinion on the solutions which it considers desirable, in particular in regard to such points as the possibility of its associating itself in the same way with the implementation and operation of this first European Institution to be endowed with effective powers. The final form of the relations between the Consultative Assembly and the Authority cannot however be settled until the powers of the Authority have been defined and the essential provisions of the Treaty made known.

These are the facts that I am able to communicate to you in the present state of negotiations. Negotiations were only started on 20th June. A large amount of work of technical and legal nature still remains to be done; on many small points doubts may be felt as to which of several solutions should be followed. But agreement has been reached and maintained on all the essential points.

Moreover, complete latitude has been given to the experts so that they may be encouraged to investigate every possibility, to examine every eventuality, before the governments and parliaments are in their turn called upon to decide.

It is a pleasure for me to pay tribute to the remarkable spirit of co-operation – the genuine team spirit –displayed by the delegations associated with this work. The Authority and its Charter will thus become a common achievement.

What I have had the honour of setting before you is, in fact, the framework of this structure, whose characteristics will distinguish it from anything that has hitherto been accomplished.

The countries associated in these negotiations have indeed set their feet on a new road. They are convinced that, without indeed renouncing traditional formulas, the moment has come for us to attempt for the first time the experiment of a supra-national Authority which shall not be simply a combination or conciliation of national powers.

Your Assembly, I repeat, is itself, though not a wholly satisfactory creation, at least the herald of such a European Authority, with vast plans and possibilities, but still, for the time being, hazy in its outlines, bereft of effective means of action. The French proposal, for its part, is content with a much narrower field of action; on the other hand, the organization which is contemplated will rest on solid foundations, and will be endowed with such a structure that we may at last have the hope of leaving the realms of the symbolic and entering those of reality.

Public opinion among our peoples has not misunderstood the import of this initiative; witness the stir which it aroused, from the very outset, in all countries, in all the political parties which are working for a peaceful reform of our institutions, in all social and economic circles. The interest that was thus awakened has persisted for three months, in spite of so many other matters of grave concern. This is not due to simple curiosity, nor to sympathy for a principle, but to a tenacious hope and will to succeed.

What we have thus observed confirms our conviction that we have given an answer to a common aspiration of the free peoples of Europe, to their desire for a closer association, not only for defence, but for the constructive tasks of peace. We are convinced that from this experimental boring will gush a stream of unexploited energy, whose existence we suspected, whose activity we hoped for, but which prejudice and routine had so far prevented us from tapping. We must succeed in spite of the apprehensions of some people, in spite of the dangers that one or other of us may incur. Such risks are unimportant, in contrast to the certainty of insuperable crises which would inevitably result from a passive maintenance of the status quo.

Our boldness has already been rewarded. The very fact of having put forward and undertaken the examination of this reform has secured for us one immediate result: the political atmosphere, so dark in other climes in this part of Europe, has been transformed; hope is being reborn, antagonisms which were paralysing our efforts and fostering misunderstanding have been dissipated, giving place to a sincere desire for mutual understanding and for confident co-operating together in a joint enterprise. Henceforth, between Germany and France the dangers of tension or even of bloody conflict are eliminated. A decisive step towards reconciliation and peace has been taken without anyone else having legitimate reason to take offence.

But there is more to it than that: more than the rationalization of these two key industries, more than the clearing of the political atmosphere, more than making a considerable contribution to peace. We are not being unduly presumptuous, we think, when we say that the proposal which has been put forward and accepted, if realised in the form in which it was put forward and accepted, contains potentialities which cannot yet be fully measured, but which will rapidly lead us on towards the complete economic and political unification of Europe.

France claims no monopoly in this intiative; others will play a useful part in it and supplement it. The plan evolved and submitted by my colleague M. Stikker in the name of the Dutch Government, for the reform of the O. E. E. C., follows along the same path; we will give it our full support.

The French Government, for its part, is grateful to your Assembly for having been so good as to give careful consideration to this initiative of ours. I venture to hope that you will accord it your moral approbation, and even perhaps an effective support, which will be particularly valuable, as giving the sanction of your high authority to a decisive stage in the building up of Europe.

You will be joining thus in a concrete, constructive and lasting undertaking. You will be giving to our peoples plunged in anxiety, and whose alarm it is no wish of mine to see unjustifiably increased, the guarantee that there is here, side by side with our legitimate concern for security, a spirit of hope, and a will to live and work in peace and for peace.