The Origins of European Unification


Dietrich Fischer – TRANSCEND Media Service

After World War II, the French economist and diplomat Jean Monnet thought that the best way to end the century old hostility between Germany and France was to tie the two countries together in some mutually beneficial economic venture.

He studied several sectors and found that free trade in coal and steel would bring quick and clearly visible savings to each participating country. He wrote a paper with estimates how much each country would benefit from joining a European Coal and Steel Community, and sent it to every politician he could think of, including the French Foreign Minister Robert Schumann, whom he knew.

Schumann carried Monnet’s report in his briefcase, planning to read it as soon as he found time, but he was always too busy, running from meeting to meeting. One day he barely missed a train and had to wait three hours for the next train. So he sat down and began to read Monnet’s paper. It struck him that this was exactly the kind of initiative needed at this point to help heal the wounds of the war.

Together with Monnet, he drew up the “Schumann Plan for a European Coal and Steel Community.” In 1951, it was established with the signing of the Treaty of Paris by six member countries–France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The European Coal and Steel Community has gradually added more members and developed closer cooperation, becoming the European Union of today. This has indeed made another war between Germany and France almost unthinkable.

When Robert Schumann was a teenager in the Alsace, he loved to go on bicycle trips on weekends, but was annoyed that he was frequently stopped by border guards and had to show his passport. He vowed that when he grew up, he wanted to do something to abolish borders in Europe. Indeed he has. The Schengen region has abolished internal border controls in Europe. Former UN Undersecretary General Robert Muller, also from the Alsace, urges us,

“Never give up your childhood dreams, no matter how big they are. You may be able to realize them!”


Dietrich Fischer (1941-2015) from Münsingen, Switzerland, got a Licentiate in Mathematics from the University of Bern 1968 and his Ph.D. in Computer Science from New York University 1976. Fischer was a MacArthur Fellow in International Peace and Security at Princeton University 1986-88, has taught mathematics, computer science, economics and peace studies at various universities, and been a consultant to the United Nations. He was co-founder, with Johan Galtung, of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment in 1993.

Excerpted from Dietrich Fischer’s Stories to Inspire You – TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 30 Sep 2019.

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