The New Europe

Lawyer, politician, and statesman, PAUL-HENRI SPAAK has Jar many years displayed rare qualities of leadership. Before the outbreak of World War II he. headed the Belgian cabinet as the youngest Premier in Belgian history. He has served as Foreign Minister several times, has been Secretary General of NATO since May, 1957, and was the prime mover in the creation of the European Common Market and Euratom.


TEN years ago, when I used to make speeches about Europe, people would listen to me goodnaturedly and sometimes, I can even say, with interest, but also with a great deal of indulgence. They seemed to think that the activity I was engaged in was not, after all, a bad one and that even though I was pursuing a beautiful and unattainable ideal, there was no reason why I should not talk about it to those willing to give me a hearing. I, fortunately along with many others, at that time was looked upon as a kind of prophet.

Today the situation has completely changed. Europe is no longer something which needs to be prophesied; it is something which needs explaining. For from the first of January of this year &emdah; with the ratification of the Euratom and Common Market treaties by the parliaments of the six member countries — the idea of an integrated Europe has entered a new and, I believe, decisive stage.

Fifty years ago, if someone lecturing on Europe had raised these questions: Where in more than two thousand years of history has civilization been concentrated? Where have military might, diplomatic influence, economic power, or intellectual attraction been centered? no one would have hesitated in replying that civilization had, for two thousand years of human history, been concentrated around the coasts of the Mediterranean and along the European shores of the Atlantic Ocean. The names of Athens, Rome, Paris, Madrid. London, and Berlin spring to mind to symbolize the most brilliant centers of this civilization.

But consider the political center of the world today. Are we not forced to recognize that in the last fifty years there has occurred a truly extraordinary displacement of power? And must not we Europeans recognize with humility, not to say with a certain feeling of humiliation, that today the great decisions affecting the fate of the world and our destiny are made in Washington? And if we are absolutely sincere, must we not also add, in Moscow?

Since 1939 Europe has lost the Baltic states, most of the Balkan states, and the bulk of the states of Central Europe, and in this shift we have been witnessing a spectacle which is, in my opinion, one of the greatest tragedies in human history. It is certain that in these countries there are millions of men and women — the majority of their populations, I would say — who would like to live under other conditions of life, under other moral and political systems, but who are prevented from doing so by their political regimes. Yet in contemplating this human tragedy, Europe is if not indifferent, at any rate powerless.

A year and a half ago, when Hungary sought to regain its political and economic independence and the dignity of a free people, we were able to give the suffering Hungarian people some material aid, but politically we were unable to do anything essential. And once again, in the face of the Hungarian tragedy, we were forced to recognize Europe’s powerlessness to promote a policy in keeping with our ideals and sentiments.

We have seen the same thing happen in the Middle East. When I was a schoolboy, we used to be told that the major problem in the Middle East was the rivalry between France and Britain. In the autumn of 1956 we saw France and Britain adopt a common stand on a vital problem, and we saw how it all ended. It seems to me that this was a new sign of the weakness and diminished strength of the countries of Western Europe, and that this is now so obvious that no one can seriously contest it.

This political decline has been accompanied by an economic and social decline which is just as great. Not long ago I read in a book written by a French economist, Jean Fourastié, and entitled Europe in I960, that “in 1880 with an hour’s wages, a French worker could buy 3.5 kilograms of bread, and at the same time, in 1880, with an hour’s wages an American worker could also buy 3.5 kilograms of bread. In 1950, the French worker with an hour’s wages could still buy 3.5 kilograms of bread, but the American worker could with an hour’s wages buy 18 kilograms of bread.”

When, more than a year ago, we held a conference at Brussels to launch the Common Market and Euratom, the experts who had prepared the preliminary reports confronted us with some simple facts which, so far as I know, no one has been able to challenge. In their report they noted that there was not a single automobile company in Europe today capable of running the huge machines which are currently used in manufacturing cars in the United States. They noted that there was not a single company, or even a single country, on the continent in Europe capable of building the great commercial airliners which are a necessity of modern life. Finally, they noted that in the fields of nuclear research and development — that is to say, in the research of the future Europe was ten to fifteen years behind the United States, and I think they might well have added, behind Russia. Automation has already made immense strides in the United States and Russia, but in the countries of Western Europe it has been treated as a social problem and as a threat of unemployment. This is another indication of the decline of our economic life.

The major European countries are no longer in the running, and nobody talks of them any more. They seem to have been struck from the map, from that industrial and scientific map where, not so long ago, they were well in the lead. Though I am not a technician, nor a scientist, nor an engineer, one thing seems to me undeniable: none of Lhe countries of Europe today can give its people the full benefit of the latest inventions and possibilities of science and technology if we just stay where we are. In saying this, I am not merely thinking of my own country, Belgium, a country of 9 million inhabitants, but also of countries like France and Britain, which have from 40 to 50 million inhabitants. In the existing state of science and technology I am convinced that markets of this size are simply too small.

Both the United States and the Soviet Union are undergoing an extremely rapid economic and social development. It can be argued, with an impressive show of logic, that the Amcerican and Russian markets are organized on diametrically opposed principles and that of the two systems one is good and therefore likely to have a brilliant future, while the other is bad and therefore likely to run into difficulties and crises. In practice both are developing, and it seems evident that they are doing so because, over and above their differences, they share one thing in common: the size of the market, the number of consumers — in America 170 million, in Russia more than 200 million. Now I do not see why, if Europe had conditions like these, instead of trying to get along with markets which are quite obviously insufficient and incapable of even allowing us to try what has succeeded in other countries, we could not do as well as the United States or Russia.

AFTER World War II there was a moment of hesitation and also a moment of illusion. It was hoped that an essentially new world could be built up on a universal basis around the United Nations. But it did not take people long to realize that these were grandiose illusions and vain hopes, and around 1948 the idea of “Europe” re-emerged from its ashes and a new flame was lit.

Since 1948 the progress of European integration has been considerable. There was first of all the Council of Europe, which was created in 1948. Those who took part in the first session of the Council of Europe, held in 1949 in Strasbourg, will always retain a particularly stirring memory of the occasion, for in those circles interested in the experiment we had the impression that we had scored a well-nigh decisive victory and that this Council of Europe was to be the springboard from which we could go on to the real political integration of the different countries of Europe.

Unfortunately, here too the illusions were quickly shattered, and it became clear that while for certain countries the Council of Europe was the start of a great European adventure, for others it was the end of the road, it was the maximum they were prepared to concede to Europe. And so the dissensions broke out, notably between constitutionalists and functionalists.

The constitutionalists and federalists perhaps had logic on their side. Their arguments, at any rate, had the merit of simplicity. They said, in effect, “Let us draw up a European constitution, integrate the countries of Europe and those who wish to adhere to the constitution, and at one blow Europe will be politically constituted.” But though this approach was logical and rapid, it was impractical and too much in advance of the times and of prevailing ideas to be capable of realization.

A few people of a more practical frame of mind thereupon turned their efforts to building by what came to be known in the jargon of Strasbourg as the “functional method.” What they said in effect was, “Let us not try to achieve aims that are too ideal and perfect. Let us take some particular problem of genuine importance and, instead of giving it a French, German, or Italian solution, give it a European solution.” The model of this approach was the European Coal and Steel Community, rightly labeled the Schuman Plan and based on the ideas of Jean Monnet.

The Coal and Steel Community has been a success, and in my opinion an extremely interesting demonstration of the validity of the arguments I have put forward in favor of a Common Market. The Coal and Steel Community has eliminated the tariff barriers and all the obstacles to the free circulation of two essential products, coal and steel.

We had considerable difficulty, however, getting the European Coal and Steel Community accepted. I do not wish to go into details about all the objections that were made to it. I shall only mention my own opinion in listening to what the experts had to say about it. In the parliaments of the six member countries of the Community (Germany, France, Italy, and the Benelux countries— Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg) the same arguments were repeated, and there were people who asserted, with the greatest seriousness and with the aid of seemingly irrefutable statistics, that the Coal and Steel Community must fatally ruin the coal and steel industries in their respective countries. Now, this could obviously not be time of all six countries. The Coal and Steel Community might perhaps ruin one or two of them, but it could not conceivably ruin all six. In actual fact, it has ruined none of them, and all have made out pretty well with it. What we have seen, at any rate, is that intra-Community trade in coal and steel has considerably increased and that since a Common Market worked for two such important industries, other experiments became possible.

THE functional method having worked for coal and steel, it was decided to apply it to military problems — that is, to the European Defense Community. Those Europeans who wanted the integration of Europe were quite aware that the military sphere was not a particularly favorable one, and I must say that we fully appreciated the dangers of trying a second experiment aimed at a military community.

The failure of the EDC was a terrible blow to the idea of European integration, for in a movement like the one for a united Europe, each success furthers the cause but each defeat sets you way back. The rejection of the EDC was not simply a refusal to accept a certain form of military integration; it was a blow to the whole European idea, and at that moment it was a question as to whether the efforts in this direction, which had been constant since 1948, would not be halted once and for all.

Fortunately, there were a number of political partisans of the new Europe who were not completely discouraged. But eventually the foreign ministers of the three Benelux countries got together and decided to relaunch the European idea, agreeing in effect to the creation of a Common Market to cover all products and industries, not just coal and steel, and to the pooling of atomic research and development.

In 1955 the foreign ministers of “Little Europe” gathered together at Messina, and at the end of their meeting they published a communiqué which in effect declared — this was only a few months after the failure of the EDC — “The goal of our foreign policy is the creation of a Common Market.” They were very proud of their communiqué, yet the fact remains that though it did not go completely unnoticed it made no great impression because no one at the time took the foreign ministers seriously. No one, after the failure of the EDC, really thought it possible to proclaim that the first foreign policy aim of the six countries of Little Europe was the creation of a Common Market.

It must be admitted that politicians often use big words to veil the hollowness of their policies, and the public is well aware of it and no longer gets much excited over speeches, but looks for deeds. But that day the ministers were really inspired.

A major trouble with political conferences is that when politicians cannot agree on something, they create a committee and refer the problem to experts. Whenever you see this announced in a communiqué, be wary. It means that the difficulties are really very great. Such cases attest an inexcusable shifting of responsibilities. For experts are not made to resolve difficulties; they are made to find technical solutions to political decisions taken by heads of governments. My own experience, in fact, allows me to state that where there is a political will, there is no technical difficulty which cannot be overcome.

For once, the ministers at Messina had posed the question correctly. They did not say to their experts, “Tell us if there is a possibility of creating a Common Market.” They said to them, We are going to establish one; you must now tell us how to go about it.” The entire difference between success and failure resides in this slight nuance.

DURING the war, when the Belgian government of which I was a member was in London, we got together with the ministers of Holland and Luxembourg and conceived the idea of creating what later came to be known as Benelux. When we returned to Belgium and showed the treaty we had signed to the government officials who had not followed us abroad, they looked at us with gentle indulgence and shrugged their shoulders, as much as to say. “These ministers, when left on their own, are really terrible. They’ve considered none of the practical difficulties involved.” And so for six months the Benelux idea was stalled.

One day I went to Holland to meet the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, and we had a conversation which went roughly like this. He said to me, “Do you really want a union with Holland?” I said to him, “Yes.” I then asked him, “And you, do you want a union with Belgium?" He answered, “Yes.” We then said, “So our decision is taken?” “Yes.”

In the Prime Minister’s office was a bell. We pressed the bell and our experts entered, and we said to them, “Gentlemen, our decision has just been confirmed. The technical questions posed by Benelux must be solved within six months. “ They threw up their hands and looked at us as though we were off our heads, but we simply said to them, “Gentlemen, we ask you to place your knowledge at the service of our policies, and we have such confidence in your skill that we are sure you will find the proper solutions.”

Six months later it was all finished, and I am convinced that this is the approach to employ in politics, Each group has its particular responsibilities: the statesmen, in making decisions; the experts, in finding the practical solutions to the problems thereby raised.

Well, that is what we decided at Messina. We communicated our decision to our experts, and we also had the idea of appointing a political coordinator to oversee their work. It was not a bad idea — and I say so not because it was I who was chosen for it but because in dealing with experts one must, at a given moment, make a choice between them. Experts are such learned people that they don’t come up with just one solution; usually they come up with three or four, and needless to say each regards his own as the best and defends it as though it were the honor of his mother. After a certain lapse of time the moment comes when a nonspecialist, a man as thoroughly inexpert as a politician, must choose between them, basing his decision not on technical considerations but on the one quality which should be demanded of all politicians: common sense. When a politician applies common sense to the work of experts, the result is excellent.

We then set to work, and after two years, to everyone’s astonishment, we produced the first report in which the experts declared that a Common Market could be set up on such and such a basis. Following this, we held a conference at Venice where we decided to draw up a treaty on the basis of the preliminary Brussels report. We realized, of course, that between the acceptance of a preliminary report and the drafting of a treaty there is quite a gap, but on March 25, 1957, on the Capitoline in Rome and to the pealing of bells, we signed the treaty for the Common Market and the treaty for Euratom.

When I let myself be swept away by my enthusiasm for a united Europe, I declare that March 25, 1957, is, from the European point of view, as important a date as July 14, 1789. I believe that the Common Market is for the future of Europe as important a social and economic event as were the taking of the Bastille and the French Revolution. Indeed, this is not merely a European event, it is an event of world importance; for the European Common Market is in terms of world trade — I do not say in terms of production — the largest on earth, more important than the United States, more important than Great Britain, far more important than Russia and the whole Communist world.

One consequence of the birth of such a community is already apparent: the whole world has been shaken by its creation. We have in the past had quite a few difficulties with Great Britain; indeed, one must say that not a small part of the obstacles that have arisen in Europe has been due to the lukewarmness of Britain. Since we have set up the Common Market, however, we have already succeeded in making Britain move, and even before the Common Market had gone into effect, Britain was asking to join us in the establishment of a free trade area. We had not finished drafting the Common Market treaty when the Scandinavian countries, who already had a partial entente among themselves, decided to push it much further — something which shows that the mere creation of the Common Market has stimulated new initiatives and set the people of Europe to thinking. And it is essential that these people and their leaders should learn to stop thinking as members of small communities of 8 or 9 million and learn to think and act as members of a community of more than 150 million.

IT IS evident that uniting Europe around the Common Market is anything but an easy policy. It is a policy which consists of asking certain people to give up something that they now possess in the hope of having more in the future. It is not a question of promising each country and each class that they will have more tomorrow than they do today. No, I think it the hallmark of the statesman to place himself above certain particular interests and to view the whole of the situation and the general interest of the community he belongs to. And if he is sure that in the long run the whole will win, he must have the boldness to formulate solutions and to offer remedies.

I am personally absolutely convinced that the general level of welfare will rise and that the total benefit to the community will be greater. There will, of course, be struggles; there will be sufferings. I often tell my compatriots, when speaking of the Common Market, that those who are asleep while this revolution is occurring will never wake up, whereas those who have grasped what is happening and who are ready to adapt themselves to the new conditions and modes of thought engendered by the Common Market will be rewarded with the most splendid economic, and thus social, future.

There are some — and among them perhaps are those who fought us at first and who still wish our defeat — who tell us that we should have done more and done better. But if we had drawn up a bolder treaty, we would have risked never getting it ratified by the parliaments of the six countries. I think we showed political wisdom and maturity in fixing a minimum period of twelve and a maximum period of fifteen years, divided into three stages, for the definitive establishment of the Common Market. In this way no one will be confronted from one day to the next by insoluble problems. Each will have time to reflect, to examine the situation, to try new experiments, and thus progressively the tariff barriers will disappear and a common trade policy will emerge.

Since the first of January of this year we have set out on the road of integration for the six European countries, and those who have long viewed this as an indispensable measure for saving Europe now glimpse the hope of doing even more. For we have a great Western organization — NATO — with fourteen countries, where we should at least strive to coordinate our foreign policies.

Some months ago there occurred an event not unlike that communiqué of Messina. This was the Washington communique which was published last October after the conversations between President Eisenhower and Prime Minister Macmillan. When I returned to Europe — I was in the United States at the time it appeared — I was surprised to find that people either were unaware of the Washington communiqué or simply attached no importance to it. Yet that communiqué contained an extraordinary sentence, in which the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Great Britain declared roughly as follows: “The future, the fate of our countries, no longer lies in independence; it is only in interdependence, in the common use of our resources and in the sharing of our tasks, that we shall find our economic progress and our security.”

If, when I first read this communiqué, I did not feel particularly moved, it was because these are words and phrases we have employed in Europe for a good ten years. How many times have I heard some speaker cry at the end of a speech, “We must unite or perish !” When these words are uttered by the delegate from Belgium or Luxembourg they are not of great importance, but when they are uttered by the President of the United States, by the most powerful country of the Atlantic Alliance, then it is an event, and we must not repeat the error, made at the time of the Messina communiqué, of failing to realize that perhaps something vital has just happened.

I say “perhaps” for we must, of course, look for deeds beyond the words, and we must see what the politicians really mean when they assert that the fate of the entire Western world — and not just of greater Europe or of smaller Europe, but also of Canada and the United States — depends on the common utilization of resources and the sharing of wealth.

For my part I believe that the two Englishspeaking statesmen were right, and that the Western world can solve its problems only by continuing the process of integration we have begun within the framework of Europe. I believe that in the vital struggle between two ways of life, the struggle between Communism and Western civilization, we can triumph — if we do not commit some major blunder. We can triumph: we can win all the scientific battles, all the economic battles, and all the social battles, while preserving our liberties, our democracy, and what is most essential in our civilization, respect for the individual. This we can do if we learn to organize our efforts, first within Europe and then within the Atlantic Alliance.