THE day before Foreign Minister Schuman proposed the pooling of the steel and coal industries of France and Germany any number of statesmen, experts and journalists would have explained why such an offer could not be made. Now they are explaining why it has been made--the greatest gesture toward French-German rapprochement and the economic integration of Western Europe since the end of the war. What seemed but "the shadow of desires of desires" has suddenly become a possibility of practical politics, the daily fare of civil servants and politicians in half a dozen capitals.
By this initiative France has renewed her claim to a position of leadership in European affairs. She has, at one blow, stored up credit for herself in the opinion of much of the western world. Much has already been said and written about the vistas of peace and prosperity opened by the thought of creating "a new community of interests" in Western Europe. Rather less has been said about the aura of ambiguity that surrounds the Schuman Plan. There is, of course, great uncertainty about the kind of economic arrangements that will result from the negotiations. But the ambiguity stems from other sources as well, from the nature of the proposal and the circumstances in which it has been advanced.
The Schuman Plan may provide an end of Franco-German rivalry that is satisfactory to France. It may provide the machinery by which Germany finally dominates France. It may mark the point at which the continent moves sharply toward economic integration without Britain or it may demonstrate that British caution has all along enabled Continental governments to avoid facing decisions they did not care to make. The Plan may increase or decrease the amount of competition in the European steel industry; it may promote the most efficient allocation of production or it may hinder such a development in the interest of high cost producers and their governments. Carrying out the Schuman Plan may weld Germany to the West
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