This Day in History (23-May-1949) – Federal Republic of Germany is Established

In accordance with the Yalta conference, by the end of the war Germany was split in 1945, into four occupation zones – a French administrative zone to the west; a British zone of administration to the northwest; an American administrative zone to the south; and a Soviet zone of administration to the east. At the time the divisions were not meant to be political but merely temporary boundaries of an imminently unified Germany. Between 1946 and 1949, three of these arbitrary zones started to merge. Initially, in December 1946, the zones under British and American occupation were combined and Bizonia was formed. In 1949, France agreed to merge the French administrative zone to form Trizonia. The pre-war German states came to be replaced by Länder, the new administrative states. The Soviet zone, however, remained distinct and separate.

By 1947, the commencement of the Cold War between the US-led Western Bloc and the USSR–dominated Eastern Bloc led to an escalation in political and military tensions. This further inhibited any negotiation between the two nations with regard to a merger of what had now become two parts of Germany – commonly called East Germany and West Germany. The West German Parliamentary Council convened on May 23, 1949 and formally declared the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany. The Soviet Union was quick to react to the establishment of West Germany. In October 1949, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) was officially established. The young Federal Republic built close links with the western democracies. It was one of the founding members of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 and one of the six countries that signed the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community – today’s European Union.

For the next 41 years, Germany remained divided with cold war. East Germany  sealed off the “zonal border” and built a wall throughout the city, ending free access to West Berlin. However over a period, economic conditions worsened in East Germany necessitating a breakdown of the strict sanctions and barriers and the Berlin Wall was demolished in 1989, uniting Germany again.



This Day in History (9-May-1950) – The Schuman Declaration, a proposal for a unified Europe by French diplomat Robert Schuman, is issued

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.