EURDEMOCRACY

 

On 12 December 1952, before representatives of European States, French Foreign Minster Robert Schuman opened a conference on the proposed creation of a European Health Community.

If politicians had listened, Schuman’s Plan for a European Health Community would have solved today’s Covid-19 problems and much more besides.

How?

 

Robert Schuman, with Health Minister Paul Ribeyre on his right, opens the conference on the European Health Community.

This European Health Community would have given Europeans today a streamlined machine to deal with a broad range of problems.

It was not exclusively for the Europe of the Six. Those invited included Austria and Turkey to Portugal, UK and Iceland in the West.

Today’s Tumult

Today’s virus tumult has already cost untold billions in damage to the economy. It will cost untold billions more.

European top leaders met in an extraordinary five-day European Council in mid-June 2020 to work out a multi-trillion euro plan to rescue the European economy from mortal collapse. The world’s largest trading unit is in danger of falling down as the centre of its historic age of prosperity it had enjoyed since 1950. That’s when the first European Community set Europeans on a path to three-quarters of a century of peace and prosperity.

Today Europe is left with a ramshackle, uneven way for tackling the COVID-19 crisis. The Health Community, in contrast, aimed to provide a democratic and scientific way to reach consensus. It also had safeguards against global politics that today we see wrecking the western economy.

Would it have saved lives?

Yes.

Would the economy have avoided such a costly lockdown?

Yes.

Would it have replaced today’s secretive Councils that extract trillions of extra taxes without taxpayer representation?

Yes. It would have put all financial fiddling under the spotlight of open democratic control.

It would have also tackled the future problems that only some politicians will face Europe in the coming years when most people are closing their eyes.

The Community Thread

The European Community was a revolutionary idea of genius. Instead of war, it brought peace and prosperity. Instead of hatred, it brought trust among nations and cooperation between former foes.

Five short years after WW2, on 9 May 1950, the French Government had proposed a European Coal and Steel Community, ECSC.

What had the Health Community in common with Europe’s first Community?

A lot, it would seem.

Why did Schuman, the Father of Europe, consider that this further Community was required? What have medicine and pills in common with coal, steel, canons and battleships?

Schuman was not motivated by utopian ideas of a Federation of Europe (he denounced it as unrealistic) or by American theories of ‘functionalism‘. He was not interested in adding further bureaucracy, rather the reverse. He was not interested in creating a huge European budget. In contrast to many leaders today, he wished to reduce taxes and make individuals freer and more prosperous.

He worked for one goal.

Stopping War

Stopping the outbreak of a further war in Europe was the key concept behind the ECSC. It succeeded. By 2020 none of the Community’s Member States had had attacked another for three-quarters of a century. No period in Western European history has witnessed such an event.

How did it stop war? Schuman government in July 1948 proposed the formula: a democratic European Assembly — that saw light in Council of Europe and a customs union. The Assembly was instrumental in setting up Europe’s first Court of Justice, the Court that responded to governments’ abuse of power. All States who joined the Council of Europe had to sign up to the Convention of the Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Citizens could take their grievances to the Court, not only to get redress but to stop governments slipping down the slope of autocratic powers against the citizens, like the Nazis and the Fascists.

Armed with this shield to defend democracy, Europeans then benefited from the Coal and Steel Community that outlawed industrial cartels. In the lead up to two world wars industrial cartels had manipulated governments by stoking an arms race. The great national champions of Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia had been working together with a common design to make the national governments procure more arms, build more ships and exploit their patents for profit.

The European Coal and Steel Community combined with the Council of Europe created three major advances for all Europeans. They

  • reinforced Democracy,
  • outlawed war between themselves,
  • strengthened their common defence against aggressors.

The later European Communities, Euratom and the Economic Community did the same things.

  • Euratom outlawed Atomic war between European States,
  • The EEC or Common Market outlawed Trade War.

The Council of Europe ensured that citizens’ rights, such as freedom of thought, assembly and religion were respected. And the freedom to criticise their leaders.

That stalwart defence of democratic values and human rights is now clear to all who wish to study European history. But what was behind the European Health Community that Schuman proposed in 1952?

Its Purpose and Compass

French detractors called the Coal and Steel Community Schuman’s ‘Pool‘ as if the only function was to share the resources of coal and steel. The European Health Community was therefore dubbed ‘the White Pool‘ to contrast it with the black pool of coal.

Was the proposed Health Community merely going to share or pool white bandages, garments and pills?

Far more!

If that had been the motive then there was no need for the elaborate draft treaty that had been prepared. It tells the whole story. Disease is as devastating as war. Health is the way to prosperity.

Schuman’s supranational idea of a European Community was focused on two goals:

Primarily his motive was to create a means to stop war. Schuman wrote:

‘We must remove any motive for a war {between Europeans Member States} suppressing it so no one has the temptation to undertake one.’

Secondarily, the peace-enhancing Community would seek out all means to create benefits for all by drawing on a single market, shared contributions and strategic outcomes.

Paul Ribeyre, the Minister for Health who worked on the project with Schuman, declared that the health of citizens was the first consideration of the State, to which all other values must be subordinated. The first duty of the Statesman was to assure the health of citizens because the foundation of the State depended on it.

But there is far more.

The agreement in the Cabinet of the French Government on 24 September 1952 was merely a first step to broadening the domain of better health to a wider geographical boundary. It extended far beyond France, far beyond the Europe of the Six of the black pool of coal and steel.

On 16 September M. Ribeyre presented his plans to the French Cabinet who gave him approval to take it to members of the OEEC, Organisation of European Economic Cooperation. This was the body set up following the US Marshall Plan, now called the OECD, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Ribeyre invited Member States to join in this common effort of well-being. Besides the Six, it included Austria, Denmark, Greece, Iceland, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Turkey. Ireland was the only State to decline.

The broad compass of States indicated the extent and importance of the plan.

 

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