Alex Orr: Robert Schuman’s vision changed a warring continent

Robert Schuman, centre
Robert Schuman, centre
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Schuman Day is one worth celebrating, writes Alex Orr

On Monday, celebrations take place across Scotland and the rest of the European Union (EU) to mark Europe Day, an annual celebration of peace and unity across the continent. The event is especially relevant this year, given the impending referendum in the UK on EU membership.

The day is also known as Schuman Day, commemorating the historical declaration 66 years ago on 9 May, 1950 by the French foreign minister, Robert Schuman, which marked the first move towards the creation of the European Union. Europe had just come out of the Second World War, a conflict that had nearly destroyed the continent and split it between two spheres of influence.

In a desire not to repeat such destruction, there was a great deal of momentum towards European co-operation, which would make war between Europe’s nations unthinkable.

Schuman’s vision was to create a European institution that would pool and manage coal and steel production. Through the Schuman Declaration the French foreign minister proposed the creation of a supranational European institution. This led firstly to the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) the following year. It was also the forerunner of several other European Communities and also what is now the European Union.

The ECSC was founded on the principle that tying former arch-enemies economically together – originally through the weapons of war of coal and steel – would assist in ending the horrors of such conflicts and deliver much-needed reconciliation. And it has proven to be highly successful in transforming a previously warring continent.

As we look towards our own referendum it does no harm to be reminded what we have enjoyed, the precious gift of more than 60 years of peace and stability, and the role of the EU in delivering this achievement must be recognised and celebrated.

• Alex Orr, policy adviser, the European Movement in Scotland

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