IN ITS unending endeavor to create order out of chaos the human mind tries to establish guiding principles, to circumscribe the desired goals and direct the course of events. But the interplay of the innumerable factors that change the world in which we live tends to frustrate the most ingenious theories of economists and scholars. The year 1950 reminded all of us once again what severe limitations hamper forceful and concerted action by even such a large group of nations as is engaged upon the most ambitious program of economic recovery ever known--the program of repairing the devastations of war in Europe and infusing strength into the West European nations. The nations concerned could not have hoped to accomplish this by their own resources. They were prostrate after the liberation and seemed an easy prey for aggression and Communist infiltration unless the United States made funds available for economic and financial recovery. This the United States did.

In the circumstances, any considerable military effort would only have impeded and frustrated the execution of the economic plan. For several years, therefore, Western Europe remained practically without military defenses of any sort, apart from the Allied forces of occupation stationed in Germany--and the first task of those troops was to control the beaten enemy and not to defend the frontiers of Western Europe. The general concern lest a military rearmament program upset the precarious balance of national economies was so great that even when the danger from the East induced the Benelux countries, France and England to conclude the Brussels Treaty in March 1948 they were careful to contemplate only such increases in military effectiveness as did not affect economic viability. Western Europe's hope was that there would be time to complete the work of economic recovery and initiate the related work of European integration, so that military strength might then be built on a sound economic basis.

Gigantic progress has indeed been made in the field of economic coöperation. Ambitious schemes of European unity have been conceived and in part worked out. Nevertheless, in recent months the emphasis has changed radically. What was first considered the major task may turn out to be only one element in the general situation, to be taken into account from now on only to the extent that military considerations permit.

The effort to integrate Europe has often been viewed as a slow and painstaking program, in which the elimination of economic and financial barriers would lead by stages to political and military coöperation. But the pressure of the political situation has decreed otherwise. The pyramid of our theoretical conceptions now stands on its military top instead of, as formerly, on a broad and well-constructed economic and financial foundation. Korea and its consequences have destroyed the pleasant idea that economic and military considerations should and could be given equal weight. We are in a period in which military requirements have absolute priority, in which the remaining work of economic and financial recovery will be relegated consciously to second place. We regret that the attack on South Korea prevented the timely completion of the Marshall Aid program. Nevertheless we may be confident that those responsible for the interruption can no longer hope to destroy the solid foundation for coöperation among the European countries and their overseas associates laid in the years since the armistice.

The military alliance now being forged can be infinitely more effective if it is based on the efforts of a unified Europe than if it rests only on haphazard and incidental coöperation among the industries and manpower of more than a dozen different nations. Continuation of the work of integration thus remains highly important, in spite of the fact that military requirements may change the lines of approach. The example of nations like Australia and Canada, which made gigantic strides toward industrialization during World War II, indicates that a joint military effort may act as a catalytic agent, bringing to rapid realization projects which in normal times would be weighed and considered for years. On several counts, then, it is difficult to estimate with certainty how far European integration will progress in the near future and what shape it will take.

II

In its rich and varied history the old Continent has shown amazingly advanced forms of unification. Thus the Roman Empire succeeded in creating a strong common civilization around the Mediterranean and left vestiges which today still permeate the life of most European nations. The Holy Roman Empire of the Middle Ages never succeeded in unifying the whole Roman area, but even when Europe was badly split its claim of worldly domination had some validity. The crusades demonstrated the force of religious and spiritual unity at a time when the physical strength of the individual seemed to be the main yardstick for the rule of law.

To an American observer today, Europe seems a conglomeration of political entities of various shapes and sizes, the position and importance of which are in most cases the result of an apparently endless series of political and military conflicts. The baffling confusion of frontiers, races, religions and political parties appears to him to indicate total disunity. When he travels through Europe this impression is confirmed by the variety of frontier regulations. If he is there on business, he is irritated by the rules which complicate transactions with European countries.

Nevertheless many unifying tendencies have been at work in Europe since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Uniformity of weights and measures, of railroad gauge and so on may seem trivial. But the common use of identical technical facilities such as the motor car, the sewing machine, the radio, the refrigerator and innumerable industrial processes is a strong unifying influence. The movies are a constant force for unification; so are the newspapers, many of which print information from the same news agencies. And the best books and music circulate everywhere.

New phenomena in Europe are labelled by new words. "Integration" is one of them. The expression "functional approach" is another. Europe's plight does indeed call for an entirely new approach, and for the application of drastic remedies.

At the end of the war the European countries faced the task of providing the necessities of life for their citizens and at the same time of reconstructing their damaged industrial equipment. Moreover, there was a considerable deficiency in the balance of payments, especially with America. This was due not only to the war, but to a prolonged lag in industrial productivity and efficiency. At the same time, the change in economic relations between the European countries and the Asiatic territories dependent upon them helped undermine Europe's position in world trade, which was partly based on multilateral trade with these Asiatic territories and with North and South America. The shortage of goods on the home market made Europeans suddenly painfully aware that their backwardness in production methods was what slowed industrial output. New attention to the idea of a single free market for European manufactures which would integrate the various national industries and restore a certain equilibrium in international trade was a logical result.

Another powerful impulse toward unity came from a different quarter. It soon became evident that coöperation among the Big Four had not survived the war. A succession of threats from the East made Western Europe a vital frontier of freedom. The mounting danger of aggression brought the free nations together for defense, reawakening the sense of a common bond which had been created by resistance to a common enemy during the Second World War.

We must remember, however, that strong influences also run the other way. European industry has developed on a nationalistic basis since the early nineteenth century, and the "economy of scarcity" which prevailed in the liberated countries in 1945 rooted the various industries still more deeply in separate economic and social systems. In an effort to create some sort of equilibrium in foreign trade, the European nations turned to bilateral arrangements. In many cases the customary sources of supply had disappeared from the market, and every country had to make itself as self-sufficient as possible. Economic nationalism thus was intensified.

The political confusion of the postwar years likewise strengthened the forces of nationalism. Frustration, cynicism and fear nourished selfish opportunism. Diversities were further accentuated by conflicts of language and religion, and sometimes even by dynastic conflicts. Though it is a good omen that the forces making for unity have taken shape and are gaining ground, we must always remember that the opposing forces are real.

Unification must be carefully planned, and carried out step by step, for a premature move would actually encourage the disruptive tendencies. The program cannot be constructed by analogy from antiquity or the Middle Ages, nor even from the impressive example of the United States. It must fit the particular circumstances of the Continent. Eastern Europe has been integrated forcibly, at the expense of democracy and independence. Western Europe strives for the voluntary coöperation of free peoples, without the destruction of those qualities or of their healthy variety. The form of organization must help meet immediate needs, but must be one from which a European federation can develop.

There is no single center of European gravity around which the nations can group to speed up this process. That is the reason why the functional approach offers the most direct path to the goal. "Functional integration" is based on the existence of very real national interests, and at the same time recognizes the necessity of subordinating separate interests more and more to the common welfare. It is based on a mixture of realism and idealism. It seeks to restrict national sovereignty, but does not attempt the feat of abolishing it at a stroke; to await the ideal situation in which complete federation became possible would mean never starting at all. It proposes that the countries of Western Europe at once proceed to coöperate wherever they can. Whenever a nation enters a new field of coöperation national sovereignty is transferred to a certain extent by that very fact. These new organizations create what might be called a limited federation--limited not geographically but functionally. In short, this approach does not claim to provide the final answer to Europe's problems but simply a series of practical steps forward. It is not a theoretical answer but an outcome of the concrete developments of the last few years.

A European "opinion" has crystallized in the Council of Europe. At Strasbourg the representatives of various countries are not seated according to nationalities, but in the alphabetical order of their names. In the Council, views of speakers are European rather than national. But though the Council is a symbol of the desire for a greater European unity, as expressed particularly by its great champions, Mr. Churchill and Mr. Spaak, it has not been able to do much. The proponents of federation have met with opposition from the British and Scandinavian Governments. The suggestion for a geographically limited federation--a "little Europe" which would omit Britain and Scandinavia--has also failed to win strong backing. The functional approach to European integration has, however, met with general approval. There is a general understanding of Britain's view that her relations with the rest of the Commonwealth are too important to be risked in experiments in Europe, and that she must search for a form of organization which does justice both to her position in Europe and that within the Commonwealth. And there is hope that organs set up to meet limited concrete needs will help solve this problem for her and for the Scandinavian countries. No one wants a "rump Europe."

III

Of particular projects which have been launched the Schuman Plan is the most daring and far-reaching. It involves the partial transfer of sovereignty in the crucial field of coal and steel to a supranational authority. The effort toward integration would extend to subsidiary industries. The political importance of the proposal is also great, since it offers a means of ameliorating Franco-German antagonisms and bringing Germany into partnership in the European community.

In the summer of 1950 several other proposals inspired by the desire for European unity were submitted to the O.E.E.C. The suggestion made by the writer--the so-called Stikker Plan--is thoroughly functional. It aims to promote integration in various lines of industry not only by abolishing quantitative import restrictions but also by reducing the high tariffs which, if left at their present levels, will make the removal of quantitative restrictions an empty gesture. Indeed, their present partial removal is harmful to the smaller countries with a tradition of free trade and low tariffs, notably the Benelux nations, for it permits imports from abroad to come in easily while high tariffs elsewhere prevent these countries from finding a market for their exports.

The plan is also intended to help solve the problem of marginal industries. A real integration which facilitates a more rational organization of industry will inevitably result in considerable difficulties for the least efficient industrial enterprises in certain countries. The writer believes this difficulty should be met by the establishment of a European integration fund, which would have as its object the creation of new opportunities of employment. The coördination of internal monetary and financial policies of the various countries, to avoid inflationary or deflationary tendencies which endanger full employment, would also be sought.

The so-called Mansholt Plan, submitted by the Netherlands Minister of Agriculture, broadens these ideas to cover the special difficulties of European agriculture. It starts with the realistic acknowledgement that the creation at short notice of a single European market for agriculture is impossible. Agricultural products are of vital strategic importance. No European country can permit even its least remunerative agricultural soil to be unused. Moreover, farmers perform essential social as well as economic functions; changes in the pattern of agriculture are difficult, and cannot be made overnight. Full integration will some day have to be achieved in European agriculture no less than in industry, but for the present the objective is a gradual adjustment of prices and costs in the various national markets. The plan proposes that a "European price" be fixed for various products for the participating countries. The quantity of national agricultural production will thus be determined by competition. In the course of time the price will be gradually lowered and adapted to the cost level of the most rational production method. A European integration fund will be established, in part from duties on imports from non-European countries which, as a result of "social dumping," are priced far below European costs. This fund will assist in enforcing gradual rationalization.

M. Petsche, former Minister of Economic and Financial Affairs of France, has suggested the creation of a European investment bank. This is not intended to meet the problems of the rationalization of particular lines of industry, but, generally speaking, to coördinate the investment activities in Europe along European lines. For that purpose it would if possible utilize European as well as American private capital. It might be called a first step toward an integration of investments.

The functional approach also has a part to play in the complicated field of culture. A European Christian civilization was a well-established reality in the Middle Ages. The development of nationalist states promoted a growing divergence among national civilizations, especially in linguistic areas which were geographically isolated. This variety of languages and civilizations was by no means harmful for Europe, and we should all have been poorer without it. But governmental restrictions which hamper cultural intercourse among nations might profitably be removed. Private initiative can help most effectively to promote this objective; freedom from too close ties with governmental authority is essential for a healthy development of a democratic civilization. The European Cultural Center and the College of Europe, both established by the International Cultural Section of the European Movement, are examples of what can be done in this field. Moreover, in promoting European cultural unity we should never lose sight of the strong ties between Anglo-Saxon civilization and the English-speaking world overseas, or the strong bonds among Spain and Portugal and South America. They are being strengthened by the events which unhappily are severing the cultural ties between the Eastern and Western halves of Europe.

Joint efforts for defense will strengthen these various bonds. Indeed, they already have called forth proposals for special forms of organization like the European army envisaged by M. Pleven. The first attempt at military coöperation by the five European countries which signed the Brussels Treaty was too limited to be effective. The North Atlantic Treaty made the defense of Europe a transatlantic undertaking, and brought Canada and the United States into the joint effort. European nations such as Switzerland, Sweden, Austria and Greece, while coöperating in the economic field through the O.E.E.C., are not members of a European military alliance; indeed, some of them steadfastly keep aloof from it. Germany, however, has a vital rôle to play. No scheme of European defense can be fully effective unless Germany, the "Heartland" of the Continent, is brought in.

In military problems the functional approach is of paramount importance. The armed forces of the various nations are still "balanced" national units, designed to protect special national interests. At present the joint forces for European defense are simply the sum of these forces, with wide differences in training, equipment and organization. There must be a balanced international force, which can be operated as one unit under a single commander and in which the various national components will concentrate on those tasks for which each individual nation is best fitted. A modern army is a highly complicated affair, and only Great Powers can afford to produce and operate such expensive weapons as long-range bombers and heavy tanks. The functional approach would expedite recruiting and training on an international basis. For a considerable time the infantry and attached units will still be formed and trained on a national basis, though along closely coördinated lines; but international training programs could be initiated at once in special weapons such as tanks and aircraft. These would be the nucleus of a unified force.

The standardization of equipment appears to be more difficult than the standardization of recruiting and training. Equality of sacrifice should be the underlying principle. Every simplification of the machinery, every increase of efficiency, will multiply the strength of the total force. In the face of the great danger with which we are confronted we cannot afford to waste time. We shall have to reëquip, regroup and retrain the units available, and at the same time start to form and train truly international units. This is a joint undertaking of all the Atlantic nations. Europe, however, has a special task, for the danger to her is the most imminent and her efforts at defense have so far been inadequate. If Europe does not make a conspicuous effort of her own to match the assistance she is receiving from outside, her allies overseas will inevitably be influenced to keep their strength at home rather than risk it on Europe's battlefields. The military integration of Europe should be undertaken as a long-term program, pursued through a series of functional integrations in land, naval and air forces. Perhaps the close coöperation between Europe and the American states with the NATO may step by step create a single Atlantic community, the mainstay of a homogeneous Western civilization in which the ancient traditions of Europe are happily blended with the dynamic vigor of the New World.

At the moment the efforts for integration in all these fields are not coördinated. Thus while the proposed High Authority for the coal and steel pool covers only some six continental countries, the power of the Atlantic Council reaches far beyond Europe. The Council of Europe might perhaps be a good center around which functional economic organs can group themselves. But it should be borne in mind that Europe is not a building which can be pulled down and rebuilt. It is a living organism which can be altered only gradually.

Let us proceed step by step, then, always with a practical end in view. Many plans are waiting to be carried out. My own country, the Netherlands, is a country of merchants, sailors and reclaimers of land who are used to weighing the advantages and disadvantages of practical solutions--as adept at making sensible compromises as at exploring new territories. I feel sure that it can make a helpful contribution in this critical period in European history. The sober-mindednes of the Dutch people, and the facts of their country's political and geographical location, lead them naturally to strive for a strong and united Europe. The principle of functional integration is an expression of the middle road to which the Dutchman has always felt naturally drawn.

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  • DIRK U. STIKKER, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands; Chairman of the Council of the O.E.E.C.
  • More By Dirk U. Stikker