It’s all about Europe
In the Dutch elections on 12 September 2012, Europe was one of the controversial issues. On the day before the elections, 11 September, Margriet Krijtenburg was defending her thesis on Robert Schuman, founder of the European Union (EU). Krijtenburg: ‘Schuman’s original version gives a refreshing perspective on the current EU.’
Krijtenburg considers Robert Schuman (1886-1963) to be the architect of European unification. ‘And not Jean Monnet, which takes care of that misunderstanding.’ Monnet, head of the French Planning Bureau did play an important role in the unification, as did Adenauer, Chancellor of Germany, and the Italian Prime Minister De Gasperi. But the idea came from Schuman, a conciliator by nature. He was born in the French-German border region of Alsace-Lorraine and his aim was to solve the region’s century-long border conflicts.
Alsace-Lorraine is rich in coal and iron ore. Coal and steel are instruments of war, but Schuman wanted to make them into instruments for peace. Think of the heaps of rubble in the wake of World War II; add to this the financial Marshall Plan from America and the threat of Communism. In this light, economic collaboration for the post-war reconstruction of Europe is logical. However, for Schuman the real reason for collaboration was European unification.
Plaque: 'In the peace of this home in Lorraine Robert Schuman laid the foundations for the European Union. Symbol of prosperity and peace in the world.’
Schuman, French Minister of Foreign Affairs, took as his starting point the moral order shared by the countries of Europe. Europe has its own identity. His goal was peace and safety for citizens with a common spiritual and cultural heritage and the solidarity this engendered. Schuman sketched an ideal European Union: not a copy of the United States of America, but a supra-national collaboration of the European Member States in matters they chose themselves: effective solidarity that stretched across borders, and which took into account as much as possible the varying national interests. This process was not supposed to be a rush job, but a step-by-step unfolding which could take generations. Unification was not to be imposed unnecessarily, since this would endanger the process of unification.
Krijtenburg: ‘Schuman’s original vision offers a refreshing perspective on the modern EU. We clearly went too fast. According to Schuman, the member states should first have their economy in order before you can start thinking of a general coordinating economic policy, let alone a common currency. The latter should be the roof on the house!’ Her tip in the spirit of Schuman: ‘Hold on to what is good about the EU. And in the footsteps of Van Rompuy, first President of Europe, work gradually towards a budgetary and bank union, an economic and political union.’
‘We have come loose from the moral basis: the dignity of the individual, ’ continues Krijtenburg. ‘According to Schuman, the binding element for European citizens is the spiritual and cultural heritage, which gives everyone a chance to become who they were meant to be. Schuman, a Catholic, saw it as the purpose of each person’s life to unite the godly and the human in himself.’
‘We have to be aware of a specific common European heritage and have the will to protect and develop it.’ R. Schuman.
Combining professional practice and PhD research
G. Krijtenburg: Schuman’s Europe
Date: Tuesday 11 September 2012
Start: 10:00 hrs
Supervisor: Professor P.B. Cliteur
Venue: Academy Building
(3 September 2012)