In 1950, the nations of Europe were still struggling to overcome the devastation wrought by World War II, which had ended 5 years earlier. Robert Schuman was an influential political figure in post war France, serving as Prime Minister between 1947 and 1948. He then took on the role of Foreign Minister between 1948 and 1953. France’s main concern at this time was to prevent another invasion by Germany. Determined to prevent another such terrible war, European governments concluded that pooling coal and steel production would – in the words of the Declaration – make war between historic rivals France and Germany “not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible”. It was thought – correctly – that merging of economic interests would help raise standards of living and be the first step towards a more united Europe.
The Schuman Declaration was presented by Schuman on 9 May 1950. It proposed the creation of a European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), whose members would pool coal and steel production. Membership of the ECSC was open to other countries as well. The ECSC was founding by France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. ECSC introduced a common steel and coal market across the member countries with freely set market prices, and without internal import/export duties or subsidies.
The success of ECSC led to further steps, foreseen by Schuman, being taken with the creation of the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community. The two European Commissions of the latter Rome Treaties and the High Authority merged into a single European Commission in the 1960s. Further intergovernmental, (non-supranational), bodies and areas of activities were created leading to the creation of the European Union in 1993. The Declaration is viewed as one of the main founding events of the EU and the event is commemorated annually as Europe Day and Schuman himself is considered one of the Founding fathers of the European Union.