On the Idea of “European Unity”

On the Idea of “European Unity”

The three political fathers of the idea of a United Europe—Robert Schuman, Konrad Adenauer, and Alcide de Gasperi—had each experienced excesses of nationalism that made them sense the urgency of devising a political solution for nationalistic confrontations. Schuman was a Lorrainer, de Gasperi came from the Trentino, and Adenauer was a Rhinelander. The Lorrainer came from a province that had become German in 1870, had reverted to being French in 1918, became German again in 1940 and, finally, French once more in 1944. De Gasperi had represented his province in the Austrian Diet under Franz Josef, and subsequently was elected to the Italian Parliament. Adenauer was also well placed to recognize the difficulties created by the fact of belonging to a disputed and sometimes divided community.

Such experiences suggest why these men formulated a concept of a united Europe that differed from the ideas that first inspired Jean Monnet. They visualized what was essentially a political community ideal. Monnet, because of his experience in two world wars, took as his point of departure economic facts that to him seemed obvious: the economies of the European nations are fated to be at once competitive and complementary. Competition had been one of the causes of both world conflicts. Peace in Europe could be achieved only through such an economic community. In time it would also bring about a power complex capable of counterbalancing the two big powers, Russia and the U.S.

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Duggan | University of California Press Gardels