Robert Schuman (1886-1963)
If you can not read the media, download Flash Player.
Robert Schuman and his government
Robert Schuman and his government. © AFP
A Founding Father of Europe and the man behind the Franco-German reconciliation, Robert Schuman was one of the great French Statesmen of the post-war era. Born in Luxembourg into a family originating from Lorraine and of German nationality, he became a lawyer in Metz in 1912, and after the First World War was elected as a Deputy for Moselle (1919-1940). After a short spell as Undersecretary of State for Refugees between March and July 1940, he became a German citizen once again after Lorraine was annexed by the Reich, and found himself imprisoned and deported to the Palatinate region by the Germans but managed to escape in 1942.
Schuman was a Deputy of the French Christian Democratic political party the Popular Republican Movement (MRP) after 1945 and Minister of Finances in 1946 before being appointed as President of the Council of Ministers in 1947. He then became Minister of Foreign Affairs (1948-1952) and made the most of his affinities with the German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and the Italian Prime Minister Alcide de Gasperi to launch, encouraged by Jean Monnet, the French Planning Commissioner at the time, the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). This was the historic "Schuman declaration" of 9 May 1950, the symbolic date of the birth of what would become the European Union. The first treaty between Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France was signed on 18 April 1951.
After several further Ministerial terms of office, relentlessly pursuing his action in favour of the unification of the ‘Old Continent', Robert Schuman presided over the European Parliamentary Assembly between 1958 and 1960 and at the end of his term he was given the title of ‘Founding Father of Europe'. A beatification procedure has been opened by the Roman Catholic Church in his favour.