Federal Chancellor and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany

Speech made to the Assembly

Thursday, 20 May 1954

First of all, allow me to express my gratification at being privileged to address the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe a few days after the fifth anniversary of the Council’s foundation.

All of us have reason to look back with some measure of satisfaction upon what the Council of Europe has so far accomplished in the direction of European co-operation; we must now endeavour to gain a clear picture of what will be expected of it for the future.

Before coming to the main theme of my address, I should like to recall the change in the management of the Secretariat-General which took place last year. The Secretary-General, M. Jacques – Camille Paris, was called from our midst by a sudden, blow of fate. The memory of the first Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, who was not only a gifted personality but also a true European, will always remain dear to us. We know that his successor, M. Léon Marchai, who is preceded by a brilliant reputation, will ably continue the work of his predecessor. May his endeavours be attended by success!

When, five years ago, by the Resolution on the Statute of the Council of Europe passed on May 5th, 1949, the nations and statesmen of Europe founded a European Assembly of Representatives and a European Committee of Governments, this; by the standards of those times, was in the nature of a well-nigh revolutionary step. In the meantime the Council of Europe has become firmly established in the hearts and minds of all responsible Europeans. Despite its undeniable shortcomings, no one today can imagine the life of Europe without it. After all, the idea of a Consultative Assembly embracing all nations of Europe—before which the demands of European public opinion are heard—and the idea of a European Council of Ministers embracing all States— in which the European Governments consult one another—are in accord with the needs of our times. It is the desire of the overwhelming majority of European citizens that the countries of Europe shall proceed on their way together, consulting one another and co-operating with one another to the benefit of the community as a whole and of every single one of them. Here is the foundation on which the Council of Europe was established and on which it has been operating.

It is true, Ladies and Gentlemen, that the Statute of the Council of Europe and the course of events have imposed certain bounds upon our efforts. The Council of Europe is not authorized to take decisions proper, and major political affairs are outside its competence. Thus, in particular, the problem of European defence has been excluded and entrusted for settlement to other important joint institutions, and the hardly less important question of a Joint European Market has in the meantime been taken up only in certain limited fields within a restricted community of six European countries. However, it is still competent for a multitude of tasks. They devolve upon it from the precept laid down in the Statute of the Council of Europe, that greater unity must be achieved between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realizing the ideals and principles which are their common heritage, and facilitating their economic and social progress. This imposes upon the organs of the Council the obligation to study questions of common concern, to include agreements and pursue common action in the economic, social, cultural, scientific, legal and administrative fields, thereby achieving ever closer cooperation in all spheres of activity in which the J States of Europe are active.

Clearly, this cannot be done simultaneously and uniformly for all European spheres of life. In some fields technical co-operation is more easily accomplished than in others which are at present still regarded as special preserves for national policy. The essential point, however, is that there be cooperation in day-to-day work. In order to expedite European co-operation and to initiate practical measures in as many fields as possible, we, the Member Governments of the Council of Europe, therefore decided by Resolution 14 of May 7th, 1953, to lay down in a Programme of Work the steps which should be taken in the various fields of inter-governmental practice.

The results, Ladies and Gentlemen, will be made available to you in the course of the day in the form of a Message from the Committee of Ministers to the Consultative Assembly.

In the first place this is due to the systematic work, indicative of a truly European spirit, performed by my predecessors in the office of Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, M. van Zeeland and M. Bidault. Under their guidance and direction, the numerous and very voluminous proposals submitted by the Member Governments have been examined by the Committee of Ministers and coordinated.

I take special pleasure in recording that all Member Governments have taken a very active part in the labours connected with the Programme of Work. Participation was on such a scale, and the material sent in so extensive, that it has not proved possible as yet to give consideration here to all the proposals put forward, although they will certainly prove of value in the future. All the Member Governments without exception have responded to our appeal of May 7th of last year, asking them on occasion to accept a limitation or forego a privilege in favour of, and in the interests of, a greater European community. All of them have thereby given proof of their intention not to halt on the road upon which we set out five years ago, but to continue on their way, with courage and confidence.

Let me now, Ladies and Gentlemen, explain to you briefly the chief points of the forthcoming Programme of Work. In drafting the programme we have borne in mind that, under the terms of our Resolution 13 of May 7th, 1953, the Council of Europe is to form “the general framework of European policy” as I have just indicated. Within this framework practical co-operation must be developed by the aid of as many technical conventions as possible. In this we shall be able to build up further on existing foundations. In particular, it gives me great satisfaction to observe that the 13th Session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe meeting in Paris on December 11th, 1953, signed five Agreements, namely, on Social Security and Medical Assistance, International Patent Application, and the Equivalence of Diplomas. Other agreements, especially the important convention relating to the peaceful settlement of disputes, are due to follow in the near future.

The Programme of Work will show that, as regards the future course of events, we are quite clear in our minds on the distribution of roles among the Council’s two organs, the Consultative Assembly, on the one hand and the Committee of Ministers, on the other. It is for the Assembly to offer suggestions, to submit proposals and to make recommendations. In so doing, it will be able not only to express itself in connexion with all the fundamental questions of European politics, as the meeting in September, 1953 so excellently showed, but should bring its discussions to bear on all questions of topical interest affecting European life. Only thus does it represent a European forum. The Committee of Ministers, on the other hand, tackles the work proposed, while at the same time acting on its own initiative. It may happen that suggestions or recommendations made by the Assembly are not realized, or at least, initially, not in the desired form. As you are aware, Ladies and Gentlemen, the actions of Governments are apt to encounter difficulties of a special nature. Whenever progress is halted and delays occur, this is not so much due to lack of determination to achieve the unification of Europe as to the need to co-ordinate and adapt the individual interests of the States, which, after all, exist. Nevertheless, the Assembly should not tire in its task of tendering advice and exhortation to the Governments: and the Member Governments should insist on coming before the Assembly time and again to hear its criticism and ask for its suggestions. Only if such reciprocal action between the Consultative Assembly and the Committee of Ministers is assured will it be possible for European cooperation to function successfully. In our Message we have included detailed proposals as to the manner in which this co-operation can be strengthened and rendered still more efficacious.

There are one or two other points to which I should like to refer in this context. Both for the Committee of Ministers and for the Consultative Assembly the committees of experts are the most important means for the implementation of technical work on the details. We intend to increase the number of experts’ committees working under the Committee of Ministers according to the volume of work with which we are confronted. We desire close co-operation between our experts and those of the Consultative Assembly. The Assembly must be consulted as frequently as possible on its recommendations and suggestions, while we on our part wish to see the Assembly kept equally informed at each stage on the development of the work of the Committee of Ministers.

In accordance with our Resolution 37 of December 12th, 1953, we attach special importance to avoiding any dispersion of efforts. The principal consideration is that a given problem of European interest be tackled and worked upon, and that a rapid solution be sought. There must be no disputes as to preference among the great international organizations. The organization best qualified is the one that must tackle the work. If the Council of Europe has so far in certain important fields failed to take action, or has not done so in the manner desired, this has been due to the desire, above all, not to disperse our efforts. On the other hand, the proposals submitted by the Member Governments for the Programme of Work indicate that they are allotting to the Council of Europe itself an important part in international cooperation.

Finally, we deem it desirable that the delegations of the Member Governments should achieve a minimum of co-operation as between the other great international organizations as well. We believe that such mutual contacts among the members are useful and capable of serving the great aim of European unification desired by all of us.

In the spirit of this general political purpose we have proceeded to work out this Programme of Work. I should like to deal with a number of special points in this connexion.

Economic cooperation among the European countries takes practical shape chiefly within the special organizations, such as the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation, the European Payments Union, the European Conferences on Agricultural Markets and Transport, and, particularly, in the European Coal and Steel Community. This, however, by no means renders superfluous the activities of the Council of Europe in the economic sphere. These are, indeed, necessary in order to provide for the specialized work of these organizations and Communities the general political impulsion which is alone in the long run capable of ensuring life and continuity to the economic arrangements. The discussions within the Consultative Assembly on the subject of convertibility of currencies, freedom of movement of manpower, co-ordination of investments, increase in productivity, reduction in customs tariffs and, in fact, on the great problem of economic integration for the whole of Europe, have secured very useful and valuable results. We are continuing to work on these problems in co-operation with the above-mentioned international organizations and institutions of a European character, and with other bodies. In particular, we propose to make sure that as many practical solutions as possible are reached in limited, although by no means unimportant, individual fields such as, to quote a few examples, patents, animal epidemics and plant protection. This also holds good for the study of the ways and means by which the useful ideas set forth in the Strasbourg economic plan might be realised. Finally, the range of economic matters which I have just been discussing includes the European Conference on Aviation which assembled here at Strasbourg on April 21st. Although this conference was held under the auspices for the International Organization of Civil Aviation, the underlying idea has its roots in the consultations of the Council of Europe, and the results of its deliberations are destined primarily to serve the interests of aviation in the European countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen, in the social field the work of the Council of Europe has already secured good results. In these matters we can rely upon the Committee of Experts for the special problems of Social Security, which has done excellent work and which we propose to maintain.

We have now, over and above this, decided to establish a general Social Committee composed of leading officials from the competent ministries of the Member Governments. This Committee will have the task of examining the great interconnecting questions of European social policy, of advising the Committee of Ministers in this field, and of making suggestions of its own and taking the initiative, in co-operation, in particular, with the International Labour Organization and the O. E. E. C. We expect to hear your comments specifically on this point in the course of the present Session. The social field is extremely important and covers a very wide range. Clearly, we have not yet reached the point at which a general European Social Charter can be introduced. Nevertheless, our work will serve to prepare the ground in this direction. We are advocating a close exchange of views in the field of social policy between the Member Governments and the Conferences on Social Questions uniting employees, employers and Governments in joint efforts. We are especially concerned with eliminating any form of discrimination against nationals of the Member Governments in the social field. If Europe is to live in economic prosperity and social security, it must be able to guarantee, across all existing barriers, freedom of movement and equal treatment to all its inhabitants.

Let me deal at this point with a matter which I have very much at heart. Even today, almost ten years after the Great War, Europe is filled with refugees and homeless persons. Every day more of these unfortunates are coming to us from the countries on the other side of the iron curtain. As a German, I am particularly concerned about this; but I feel that I should also be failing in my duties as Chairman of the Committee of Ministers if I did not entreat you to recognise that an end must be put to this distressing situation at a European level and by European action. In accordance with our Resolution 35 of December 12th, 1953, we have appointed an eminent European personality, M. Pierre Schneiter, to act as Special Representative for National Refugees and Over-Population. It will be M. Schneiter’s task to arouse the interest of European public opinion in this matter, to examine the refugee problem in collaboration with the Member Governments and the international organizations concerned, and to put before the Committee of Ministers proposals for a solution. We have full confidence in M. Schneiter and in his devotion to the task that faces him and we shall focus our attention on the questions of housing construction and occupational integration of the refugees and exiles, with which he will have to deal in the first place. Furthermore, Ladies and Gentlemen, we have before us the generous proposal coming from the Netherlands Government for the establishment of a special Expellee Fund within the framework of the Council of Europe. Allow me to say how happy I am to see that on European soil and within this European framework an eminent Frenchman is concerning himself with the distressing situation in which, among others, the German refugees in particular find themselves, and that our Dutch neighbours are extending a helping hand towards the solution of this difficult problem. I look upon this as indicative of a truly European spirit and an unselfish European outlook, which will do more towards finally overcoming the controversies existing in former times than any number of gestures and declarations.

I should also like to point out that we have before us extensive proposals regarding European cooperation in the field of health, which are being examined jointly with the European Regional Office of the World Health Organisation.

In conclusion, let me say a few words on the subject of cultural and administrative co-operation. The cultural work carried out by the Council of Europe is, perhaps, not so much in the public eye. Nevertheless, it assumes an important place among our endeavours. We have every reason to feel satisfied with what is being done in connexion with the exchange of university students and lecturers, facilitating access to foreign universities and residence for the purpose of study, cultural gatherings of outstanding European personalities and periodical meetings of European cultural experts. I think we may say that these endeavours amply show with what measure of success the Council of Europe is striving to accomplish the formation of a truly European spirit.

In the field of legislation and administration we are doing our best to ensure continuity in our efforts to achieving the harmonisation of European legislation and administration. The draft conventions on the reciprocal treatment of nationals and on extradition, which the experts are at present working upon, are intended to align an important sector of European administration. Furthermore, we shall take the necessary steps towards studying the possibilities of establishing a European civil service code, which should be applicable to as many European organizations as possible and should provide a uniform status for the European officials working with these organizations.

It gives me special satisfaction to note the great extent to which the Member States have responded to the recommendation made by the Consultative Assembly in the direction of dispensing with visas and simplifying customs and foreign exchange formalities. This particular measure, namely, the possibility of entering a European neighbour country without a visa, is most effective in reminding the citizens of our countries of the fact that they all have a greater homeland— Europe.

I have only been able to give you a brief survey. We are faced with a vast number of possibilities which we are only now beginning to exploit. The coming years will see us busily at work upon them. Fresh points of view, of which we are as yet unaware, will take shape before us and may well bring forth results which a cursory consideration of the Programme of Work does not at present permit us to foresee. Our work will have to serve the exploitation of all these possibilities. It will be assured of success as long as the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers continue to assist each other in mutual collaboration in the same way as hitherto.

In this spirit, Ladies and Gentlemen, I have the honour of transmitting to you for examination and comment the Programme of Work of the Committee of Ministers.

I trust you will allow me to add a few more general observations:

The road towards the unification of Europe, like all roads towards truly great goals, is a difficult and arduous one. If it is our desire to proceed along this road successfully until the very end we must realize that two prior conditions will have to be met. We must be in agreement as to methods, and steadfast in the execution of what we have come to realize as the proper course of procedure.

Agreement as to the method of procedure is not synonymous with uniformity. On the contrary, the diversity which is typical of Europe demands that its very unification he brought about by divers means. On the other hand, these means must be in harmony with one another. I believe that we have recently been making progress in this respect, and that a number of misunderstandings have been cleared up. This, I feel, may be said, in particular, of the conflict of ideas supposedly existing between what is known as the greater European and the smaller European conception—that of a community of the States forming the Council of Europe and that of the Community of the Six. In reality there is no such conflict of ideas. It would indeed be at variance with historical evolution, seeing that in this very place, within the framework of the Council of Europe, the proposals underlying the formation of the Community of the Six were discussed in great detail and strongly supported. In actual fact the Community of the Six and the large community of the Council of Europe harmonize with one another and, from a wider angle, form a European whole. Within the Community of the Six those countries have associated with one another which already at this juncture feel able to enter into closer ties. Any State can, however, as the agreements establishing it specifically declare, join the Community without this requiring a specific invitation; and it is inherent in its character that even where other States have not yet accepted full membership it should establish with them a relationship of association conforming to the circumstances obtaining in each case. Above all, however, the Community places itself within the general political frame provided by the Council of Europe, which, for its part, signifies those links that at the present stage can be accepted by every one of our States, This all-embracing character is an essential feature of the Council of Europe. Under the terms of its Statute every European State ready to do so may take an active share in the Council’s work. It is true that as yet the Council does not comprise all European States, but we desire and hope that those who have not yet joined will also in time become members. We do not wish to continue without them in the long run and indeed, we cannot, and they must know that we are expecting them here.

We have today, Ladies and Gentlemen, been afforded an opportunity of looking back upon what has already been accomplished on the Way towards European unification. We may well feel satisfaction at the achievements, but success must not make us blind in the face of the dangers which today threaten the structure of European unification in a greater measure than during the early years of our common efforts. Any weakening in our zeal, in our striving to fulfil what we have begun, will spell retrogression, and will indeed jeopardize the entire structure. Here and there we can already discern signs of impatience and even disappointment, for instance, in connection with the position in the field of common defence. Let us heed these warning signs, Ladies and Gentlemen, and let us beware lest the driving power behind the conception of Europe, which was received with so much understanding and willingness by the nations of Europe, should lose its force. It is dangerous to miss historical opportunities: they rarely recur.

A sober appreciation of the general situation in the world will clearly show up the dangerous position in which we find ourselves. In Europe, the Berlin Conference has led to complete inflexibility on both sides and has shown that the Powers threatening our form of life are not prepared to open their boundaries to freedom, and that, instead, they are merely concerned with extending their own sphere of influence, and thus depriving the whole world of freedom. Nor is the course which the Geneva Conference has so far taken such as to offer encouragement. There, again, we have hitherto not been able to register any genuine willingness on the part of; the Soviet Union and its partners to permit a true relaxation of tension to come about.

We must at all times bear in mind, Ladies and Gentlemen, the fact that, whatever we may wish or not wish, we here In Europe form a part of that world-wide field of tension. Our potential in highly qualified labour and highly developed industries, and our wealth as regards the most important raw material resources, are bound to arouse cupidity. Whoever gains control of this Continent will have won in this conflict without there being any need for recourse to military exertions. The ways and means in existence today for the purpose of subjecting other nations are manifold. Open military aggression is but the most primitive among them. The risk of the internal structure of a State being undermined by subversive activities is far greater. The post-war years have shown us how many European countries, one by one, have succumbed to this danger and have sunk to the level of satellite States. What can the often so tragic heritage of our history mean for us if we fail to learn there from the lesson that no member of this European Community is today, by itself, in a position to protect its existence, and that in this world beset with dangers we cannot but stand together.

Let us, therefore, expend all the energy we can muster on an endeavour to advance along the road we have taken. Let us revive the great tradition of this Continent, and call upon all those forces which through thousands of years have time and again enabled our nations to perform valiant deeds. Let us make sure, by joint effort, that these forces shall never again become active against one another, but will in future act in unison for the maintenance of peace and freedom, for the protection of this Europe of ours and the whole free world. (Applause.)