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Rivista di etica e scienze sociali / Journal of Ethics & Social Sciences



It could not be said often and clearly enough that a new epoch had started in European politics, characterized by the fact that the leading politicians of the European nations that were still free had clearly recognized that the age of mutually hostile complexes of sovereignty in Europe must be speedily terminated if our continent was not to fall prey to barbarism. One of the most energetic champions of this policy of European federation, the French Foreign Minister, Robert Schuman, had expressed this recognition, the innermost motive of his policy toward Germany, when he said, ‘The fragmentation of Europe has become an anachronism, a nonsense and an anarchy.’

I was concerned to impress these words on the consciousness of all Germans as emphatically as possible and added that the dismantling of all anachronisms was among the most necessary but also the most difficult things in politics.

The resistance encountered by the Schuman Plan as the basis of a European federation among a part of the German people proved how difficult it was to liberate this part of the German people from their earlier nationalist habits of thought. The suicidal dreams of national autarky kept on being dreamed although the facts were abundantly clear by which there had been created, not only for us but more or less for all the peoples of Europe, the completely new situation of interdependence and the inescapable community of fate.

The reproach, voiced more or less openly by the opposition, that I had sold the sovereignty of Germany with my signature to the Schuman Plan had disturbing echoes abroad. Such irresponsible nationalist excesses showed quite clearly how carefully and sensitively our neighbours registered everything that looked like nationalist longing. But the damage done to our position in Europe by the slander of the honest intentions of our partners in the Schuman Plan, especially its French initiators, was virtually incalculable. These irresponsibilities kept opening old wounds and aggravated the mistrust of Germany. For Germany and for Europe everything depended on overcoming the mistrust that had fed on three Franco-German wars. The removal of this root of all political misfortunes of Europe was a task not only for politicians but a truly national and European task for all who laboured to strengthen our bonds with our neighbours in the light of the new equality of status. One must never forget that between Bonn and Paris lie the gigantic graveyards of Verdun, and that it required a common and continuous effort of the good will of all at last to put an end to one of the most tragic chapters in the history of Europe and to begin a new one.

We had once more. . . our ‘legitimate place in Europe because Western Europe has realized that Europe cannot exist without Germany nor Germany without Europe’. To achieve this legitimate place and to make full use of it for Germany, because it was and is the forum for solving problems we cannot solve alone, therein lay and lies the real task for a German policy of "Germany in Europe". We needed more than ever to fill this place in a spirit of truly European cooperation once the ice that surrounded Germany had cracked . . .

By the two wars, by revolutions and insurrections subsequent upon them, and especially by the tremendous expansion of the Soviet Union – notably in Europe – the unification of the free peoples of Europe had become a political necessity of the first order. The optimism which I preserved in all my endeavours despite all our difficulties was nothing but faith in the force of this necessity, to which the oscillations of daily politics could make no essential difference. At the heart of European unification, however, lay the problem of Franco-German understanding.

In my opinion the European nation states had a past but no future. This applied in the political and economic as well as the social sphere. No single European country could guarantee a secure future to its people by its own strength. I regarded the Schuman Plan and the European Defence Community as preliminary steps to a political unification of Europe. In the EDC treaty there was a specific provision for a controlling body, the so-called Parliamentary assembly – incidentally, the same assembly that exercised the parliamentary controlling function in the Coal and Steel community – to examine the questions arising from the parallelism of diverse existing or future organizations for European cooperation, with a view to securing their coordination in the framework of a federal or confederate structure. . . .

We were a small and very exposed country. By our own strength we could achieve nothing. We must not be a no-man’s-land between the East and West, for then we would have friends nowhere and a dangerous neighbour in the East. Any refusal by the Federal Republic to make common cause with Europe would have been German isolationism, a dangerous escape into inactivity. . .

To my mind, the process by which the Federal Republic was to be firmly placed in a treaty system created by the free nations for the pursuit of their common goals had a significance for the future of Germany that could not be overestimated. Every German had experienced in his own life, and most of them even on their own bodies, the way in which Germany’s relations with the rest of the world and with her neighbours determined the weal or woe of every German citizen.

The signature under the Convention and under the treaty on the EDC [European Defence Community] meant the turning over of a new leaf after the terrible war and post-war period. We Germans would enter a political community in which we shared all rights but also all duties with our partners. The series of agreements that had taken about a year to achieve, which involved four countries in the case of the Convention and six in the case of the treaty in the EDC, probably gave no country the chance to say: it is all as we hoped it would be. The process of give and take is the only way to come to an understanding, to achieve co-operation, and above all to grow together into a community. It had been the guiding idea in our work. . .

It was one of the supreme goals of the policy of the Federal Republic to bring about unification in freedom. At any time the Federal Government would have welcomed promising and proper negotiations by the Western Allies and Soviet Russia in which we should, as a free country, have been entitled to take part. But there was no other way to negotiations with Soviet Russia, there was no other way to the reunification of Germany in conditions of freedom than making the West as strong as possible.

It was the goal of the EDC to create a strong and united Europe. We had to get away from thinking in terms of national states. The last war, the development of weapons technology, and, indeed, of all technology, had created new conditions in the world. . . The countries of Western Europe to which we belonged were impoverished by wars and weakened politically. They were no longer in a position to save European culture if each country acted by itself. The peoples of Western Europe had to unite politically, economically and culturally. It was the only policy that could enable them to protect the peace, to rebuild Europe, and to make it again a real factor in world politics, in cultural and in economic matters. The EDC treaty was to be decisive for this policy.

The creation of the Council of Europe, the founding of the European Community for Coal and Steel, and the establishment of a European Defence Community were to serve the pacification of Europe. The supranational organizations in particular were to bring the contracting powers so close together through renunciation of sovereignty that wars inside Europe would become impossible. With much care and circumspection a political constitution for Europe was already being worked out. The Federal Republic was involved in this work. It had meanwhile become a member of numerous European organizations. Germany had to become a reliable partner in the nascent community of European peoples.

How many difficulties the free world would have been spared if the European Defence Community had become a reality.


Konrad Adenauer, Memoirs, 1945 – 1953, Chicago, Henry Regnery, 1966, pp. 363 – 364, 416 – 417