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Europe’s Experience in Political Reconciliation:the Entrepreneurs and the Entrepreneurship (Zhao Chen)

Europe’s Experience in Political Reconciliation:the Entrepreneurs and the Entrepreneurship (Zhao Chen)

Author:Zhao Chen From:Site author Update:2017-08-21 13:43:57

Under your (Jean Monnet’s) inspiration, Europe has moved closer to unity in less than twenty years than it had done before in a thousand……You are transforming Europe by the power of a constructive idea.

-- John F. Kennedy, the Former President of USA

 

Politics is the art of the possible……(Monnet)……enlarged the possible.

-- Michel Rasquin, the former Luxembourg Minister of Economic Affairs

 

The Master said, "The Duke Hwan assembled all the princes together, and that not with weapons of war and chariots:it was all through the influence of Kwan Chung.

-- Confucius: The Analects, Chapter 14

 

It is extremely farfetched to say the Europe was a paradigm for the political reconciliation before 1945. During the first half of 20th century, the two world wars were all originated from the Europe, France and Germany had experienced three major military conflicts in less than 70 years. Nowadays the whole situation has change dramatically. It is unimaginable that there will happen wars between the countries within the European Union and the France-Germany have been cooperating too well to be seen the engine of the European integration for more than half a century. So what is the secret of the Europe? Will its experience be replicated? These two questions are of people’s deep concerns.

Explanations of the success of the European political reconciliation 

Even though Europe was divided into two opposing camps for a long time in the second half of the 20th century, the cold war had never been escalated to military conflicts in Europe. Especially in the Western Europe, political and social stability is the dominant feature. After the cold war came to an end, the middle and eastern European countries successfully realized the peaceful transition through joining the European Union. In Europe, the relationship among the countries made the breakthrough change. Within the European Union (originated from the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951), which was a new regional organization with supranationality, the cooperation between the countries were incomparable in terms of width and depth in any other regions in the world. Why Europe could conclude the antagonistic situation and harvest the continuous and systematical political reconciliation? There are mainly four types of opinions in the realm of historians and International Relations scholars as listed below[1]:

The first explanation is the devastating lesson of two world wars. The continent was destroyed by war and the population was left destitute. How to prevent wars became a major political subject in the post-war reconstruction. After the World War II, nationalism was no longer a good word in Europe, and many intellectual elites believed nationalism should be accountable for the two world wars. Some intellectuals and underground Resistance organizations during the WWII proposed to set up a European federation. In July 1944, a draft of European Federation Manifesto was released in Geneva to establish a European federation to maintain the peace and prosperity of Europe and avoid the suicidal effects of nationalism. However, not many people agreed with this idea at that time in Europe. For the most common people, the principal question was to realize the independence of their own nations and the recovery of their countries’ economies. But European political elites generally came to an understanding that the Germany issue must be resolved.  Germany launched two world wars, but it was the biggest country in the western Europe in terms of the population, and its potential military power and economy recovery capacity were anticipatory. If Germany issue cannot be resolved, European stability cannot be realized. Therefore, the imminence of Germany issue compelled the political figures of both the Atlantists such as Winston Churchill and European federalists such as Jean Monnet to table the European framework plan.

The second explanation is the highly interdependence of economies between the western European countries. From the perspective of economics, it believes that the reason why the cooperation within the EU is more developed and advanced than under other institutions is because the member states of the EU are far more interdependent than countries elsewhere, and because this intense globalization gives their members a stronger national interest in cooperation. Compared the dependency of foreign trade among Germany, US and Japan in 1960, it is found that the dependency of Germany on European Community is 3 times as big as US on other regions and 6 times as big as Japan on other regions; in 1990, with the enlargement of European Community, the ratio became 7 times and 10 times[2]. Besides the trade interdependence, small markets caused by boundary, lack of labor mobility, tariffs and loss of currency exchanges all accounted for the establishment of common market and currency union through political cooperation in Europe. 

The third explanation is the background of the Cold War. It believes the structure and progress of European integration is a reflection of the conflict between the east and the west. Especially in the field of security, the western European countries had a stronger impulse of cooperation and alliance when they were witnessing the continuous growth of USSR’s military and security threats. When the WWII just ended, there was a hope of cooperation throughout Europe, but it failed because the interest discrepancy between USSR and the west was escalated into Cold War. One evidence is the Marshall Plan, the US aid which was meant to provide for the whole Europe, but in practice, it was only limited in the Western European countries of market economy. This reasoning is also reflected remarkably in the structural realism, the one of the mainstream international relations theories, which believes the conflict confrontation and power allocation when the WWII ended determined the structure of the global system, and hence inevitably determined the structure of European region[3]. Western Europe and Eastern Europe are subject to US and USSR respectively, and the achievement of political stability and peace of the Western Europe is because it was under the protection of US and threats of USSR.

The Fourth explanation is about the creativity of great men. This opinion thinks that it is the visionary prominent political figures who raised the significant treaties which affected the early history of European integration.  French foreign minister Robert Schuman’s strategic proposal led to the birth of European Coal and Steel Community. Western German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer’s assistance led to the inclusion of Germany. French Premier René Pleven proposed to establish a common European army. The compromise to establish the European Economic Community(EEC) and European Atomic Community(EURATOM) among the countries is because German Chancellor Adenauer didn’t accept his Economy Minister Ludwig Erhard’s advice, and French Premier Guy Mollet believed Germany’s joining could make Europeans more confident in front of Americans[4]. This explanation thinks politicians are not only the decision-makers, but also the influential opinion-makers during the European integration history.

The four opinions all reasoned that European post-war success lied in political reconciliation from different perspectives, but which one is the most important and special one? Counter-examples can be discovered against the first three explanations: There are many times of comprehensive wars in Europe and other regions in the world, and the intellectuals and politicians would in many cases reflect on the justification after the wars; European’s economic interdependence was higher when the WWI broke out than that after the WWII, but it didn’t prevent the outbreak of the war; There were external threats like the Cold War throughout the history, but no unification and cooperation like the European integration emerged in face of the threats. The fourth explanation is unique. The visionary and ambitious European thinkers and politicians proposed many framework treaties to relieve European politics and peacefully accommodate the defeated nations, and through competitions and trials, they finally found a road of peace and prosperity which fit the Western Europe. Admittedly, the first three reasons are also important, and they composed the historic condition for the start of European integration, under which, entrepreneurial elite ideas can become the reality, and the ideas of minority can be accepted by the majority. Next I will interpret the fourth explanation combining with the early history of post-war Europe.

The Key Role of the Entrepreneurs at the Key Time

For every major historic event, at every major historic moment, there will be major historic figures. But the early history of post-war European integration was special in that: firstly, there was an elite network of government and non-government people of common wishes; secondly, all proposals underwent the trials; thirdly, a stable system was set up. Let us review the historical progress. 

In the early days of the conclusion of the WWII, there are three kinds of opinions on architectures and systems in regard to the resolution of Germany issue and prevention of wars in the European political circle. One is the radical federalists. There were some people who have followed the arguments of people like the Italian federalist Altiero Spinelli who, in the Ventotene Manifesto of 1940 and his subsequent writings and actions, urged a one and for all “big bang” solution, and instantaneous and all-embracing transformation into a federal European state. Spinelli produced a blueprint for a United States of Europe as the overriding priority for the post-war peace in 1940. His arguments found strong favour among the various national Resistance movements. But the impact and rate of advance of the federalist impulses had to be modified by the input and role of national governments – by their policies and by the degree to which integrative proposals have been seen as fitting with, or at the very least not seeming to threaten, what regimes perceive to be the national interests of their own states. Evidently, the radical federalists’ plan was over magnificent and unrealistic.

The second camp is the people who advocated intensive intergovernmental collaborations like Winston Churchill. Churchill delivered an important speech in Zurich on September 19, 1946 to bring about the importance of reconciliation of France and Germany and terminate the punishment on Germany at an appropriate time. He pointed out to establish “a kind of United States of Europe” to guarantee the European peace. But the “United States” Churchill referred to was not the federal state like the United States of America, but an intergovernmental organization like the United Nations or Commonwealth. He also said UK would not join it [5].

After the WWII, the Western Europe gradually set up some intergovernmental organizations with specialty. To echo the European Recovery Program raised by US and accept the Marshall Plan funding, the 16 countries of the Western Europe established the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris in April, 1948. In March, Belgium, France, Holland, Luxemburg and UK signed The Brussels Treaty to launch an automatic aiding system of preventing armed invasion. The five countries made an alliance, of which the NATO grew out. These European organizations of economy and security did not surpass the League of Nations founded after the WWI in terms of constraint and concentration, but the history had proved the League did not successfully put a stop to the outbreak of the WWII because of its lack of forceful executive capacity.

In regard to building a supranational or intergovernmental European organization, French and British political leaders had different opinions. Their difference was shown prominently on the founding of Council of Europe. Under the support of Belgium and Italy, French Foreign Minister George Bidault proposed to organize a conference of Brussels Treaty members and other nations with interest to set up a Pan-Europe conference of wide authorities, composed by parliament members from all countries to conduct the majority voting. Thus, the European conference would play a core role. Such a plan was very revolutionary in the international order led by the state governments. However, UK strongly opposed the plan, and it still advocated the intergovernmental collaboration raised by April, 1948.ions or C plan, and it still advocated the intergovernmental collaboration Paris in April, 1948.ions or C raised by Churchill, under which, the European conference only had consultative function. At the end, with the support of Scandinavian nations, UK won and set up a Council including one Ministers Council and one Consultative Assembly. The Ministers Council held closed-door meeting and the Consultative Assembly was open to the public. The Assembly only had the deliberative power, Ministers Council had the decision-making power, and every nation had the veto power. In May 1949, the five signatory nations of Brussels Treaty and Italy, Denmark, Irish, Norway and Sweden signed to found Council of Europe. Many people both the rationalists in favor of federation, and the pragmatists in wish for addressing security and economy issues had great hopes on Council of Europe, but they became disappointed soon because the Council was lack of powerful and overriding voting mechanism, and countries had discrepancies.  

The third opinion is shared by the moderate federalists represented by French political activist Jean Monnet, French Foreign Minister Robert Schumann and Belgium Foreign Minister Paul-Henry Spaak. Just as mentioned above, in the five years after the WWII, Europe did not generate an effective method to solve the Germany issue. After the new Republic of Germany was founded, France and Germany encountered the controversy over Saar area[6], which added the fuel of the imminence.  At this point, the French Foreign Minister Robert Schumann proposed Schumann Declaration drafted by Jean Monnet to establish European Coal and Steel Community and change the track of Europe. It proposed that Franco-German production of coal and steel as a whole be placed under a common High Authority, within the framework of an organization open to the participation of the other countries of Europe.  The pooling of coal and steel production should immediately provide for the setting up of common foundations for economic development as a first step in the federation of Europe, and will change the destinies of those regions which have long been devoted to the manufacture of munitions of war, of which they have been the most constant victims。The jointly control of coal and steel to ensure its peaceful application made the war “unimaginable and unrealistic”. The innovative proposition was acclaimed by German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, because it addressed the issue of Germany’s integration into Europe.

Schumann Declaration shows the path of incrementalism and functionalism when Jean Monnet built European peace. His biography writer said that Jean Monnet’s thinking was roughly equivalent to the blitzkrieg tank warfare tactics General de Gaulle had futilely advocated in Paris during the late 1930s: concentrate all available power at a specific point in a narrow sector, then break through. After that, they can spread out behind the lines. So Monnet believed that, once the breakthrough had been accomplished in the sector of coal and steel, the scope and jurisdiction of the new institutions could then be expanded[7]. This approach defeated other methods in maintaining peace. In 1951, France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Belgium and Luxemburg signed to set up ECSC, a both supranational and intergovernmental organization. The supranational organization was High Authority and the Court, both independent from the member states, and the intergovernmental organization referred to the ministers council and a public assembly composed by the parliaments of all member states.  The three-part agency comprising the executive authorities, the state supervisory authorities (the council), and the democratic supervisory authorities (the Assembly) paved the way for the European integration mechanism. As history had proved, this mechanism was very stable. The European Economic Community established in 1957, European Community after being combined with others in 1973, and the European Union founded in 1991 and survived until today, all grew and developed under this framework[8].

Jean Monnet was neither a civil servant nor a politician. But he had been the centre of an elites net in a pan-Europe politics circle. Many entrepreneurs with the strong entrepreneurship to bring a stable institutional arrangement for the west Europe played very important role in the early time when the World War II ended facing a new opportunity to construct a big plan. Not only the political elites in France and Germany had the wisdom, but also the leaders in Belgium, Holland, Luxemburg realized that only with a stable European architecture can their security and prosperity be ensured. Belgian Foreign Minister Paul-Henry Spaak was the representing figure. He well knew that military guarantees by themselves, were insufficient to preserve the Belgian state, and his interest in Benelux increased with his increasing belief that economic security was a fundamental aspect of overall national security. The security of small states, he became convinced, was first and foremost a question of their capacity to provide a secure economic and social framework for their citizens.[9] Under his leading, Belgium, Holland and Luxemburg took the initiative to found the tariff union in 1948. He also helped Monnet, Schumann and Adenauer in preparing for establish ECSC. And especially, Spaak played a vital role in proposition and mediation when he chaired at Messina conference in 1955 to establish the European Economy Community.

The Universality and Uniqueness of European Experience

Europe created history by rebuilding prosperity and peace and going on a new collaboration track. Especially for France and Germany, they ended their feud and jointly became the engines for European integration. Jean Monnet, Robert Schumann and Paul-Henry Spaak creatively proposed to place the production of two kinds of war resources coal and steel under the control of a supranational organ to lay the foundation of European integration, and thus they produced the “institutional cost” and “path dependence” to sustain the European integration path and make it a paradigm for regional cooperation. Equally importantly, they dissolved the root of European political conflict in notion, and made wars unimaginable in Europe.  Then can the European experience on the political reconciliation be replicated? To answer this question, we need go through if these experiences are universal or unique.

Comparative political scholars usually believe the European Union is a sui-generis polity which is neither a regular international organization nor one normal state. The supranationality aspect in the EU is evidently superior to the other international or regional international organization in that it forcefully ensured the effective political consultation and compromise among the member states in Europe. The birth of European Coal and Steel Community had its historical particularity. As mentioned earlier in the first part of this article, the bitter lessons of wars, the Cold War background, the high interdependence of their economies among all the European countries, and especially the imminence of addressing the Germany issue, all mingled together, and became the historical coincidence. Under such a historical context, the political figures such as Jean Monnet timingly proposed an appropriate political plan and realized the peace and prosperity in Europe. In fact, after the WWI, the former French commerce and post minister Etienne Clémentel in 1919 realized that France would be too weak to take on a revived exporting Germany, carving up markets through dominant cartels. He therefore proposed a scheme for the worldwide control of raw material supplies, building on Allied economic cooperation during the war. The aim was not to penalize Germany so much as to create a framework to contain her economic power[10]. Clémentel was the ideal chief for Monnet. The former did not succeed in 1919, but the latter succeeded with a similar plan.

But from another aspect, the European experiences are universal to some degree. At the early stage of setting up the system, elites and the common people shared the wishes of political reconciliation and war prevention, an attractive and bounding  system was formed, and a political culture of peace was recognized, and these can all be applied into other areas in the world. More importantly, some great men at the crucial moment, are able to suggest unconventional and creative proposals and turn them into reality through mediation to change the track of historical development. For example, Schumman Declaration signaled the major turning point of French policy towards Germany, and impelled the most people to change their stands and give up the Versailles Treaty or other traditional approaches in order to stamp out the hundreds of years of antagonism. Such a new concept is equally important in realizing political reconciliation and sustainable peace in other regions in the world.

 

Contact the author:

Zhao Chen  zhaochen@cass.org.cn

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[1] Political reconciliation includes both domestic political phase and international political phase. This article mainly discusses the international phase.

[2] See Alan Milward, The European Rescue of the Nation-State, Second Edition, London: Routledge, 2000. Andrew Moravcsik, The Choice for Europe, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998.

[3] Kenneth N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics, New York: McGraw Hill, 1979.

[4] Wilfried Loth, Geschichte der europaeischen Integration seit 1945, in Beate Kohler-Koch und Wichard Woyke (Hrsg.): Die Europaeische Union, Muenchen: C. H. Beck, S.137-143, 1996.

[5] Winston Churchill, “Speech to the Academic Youth”, Zurich, Sep. 19, 1946. See http://www.europa-web.de/europa/02wwswww/202histo/churchil.htm

[6] The reviving quarrel between France and the new Germany after the Second World War over the Saar was a major factor leading Monnet to propose the Schuman Plan in 1950. See Francois Duchene, Jean Monnet: The First Statesman of Interdependence, New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1994, p.42.

[7] Francois Duchene, Jean Monnet: The First Statesman of Interdependence, New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1994, p.10.

[8] Some historical institutionalists think that a system has strong inertia, and once formed, it is hard to change, because the change will have high institutional threshold and sunk cost. This is the path dependence. Paul Pierson, “The Path to European Integration: A Historical Institutionalist Analysis”, in W. Sandholtz and A. Stone Sweet (eds), European Integration and Supranational Governance, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998, p.39.

[9] Alan S. Milward, The European Rescue of the Nation-State, Second Edition, London: Routledge, 2000, p.322.

[10] Francois Duchene, Jean Monnet: The First Statesman of Interdependence, New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1994, p.39.

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