Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Foundation of the EU - Supra-national not Inter-national

In this post,  I will try to briefly highlight the foundation of the EU and in particular the tension between the "Supra- national" EU and British preference for "Inter-national" co-operation (i.e. an "Intergovernmental" approach).  Once again, I have gleaned this primarily from “The Great Deception” written by Christopher Booker and Dr Richard North –  available to download as a PDF here.

An "intergovernmental" organisation is based on self-governing nation states co-operating willingly - the participating nations states remain independent and autonomous.   By contrast, a "supranational" organisation sits above nation-states - powers and decision making are transferred from participating state to the "supranational" organisation.

Post-war International Co-operation

In the aftermath of World War Two, Britain was at the forefront of international co-operation that led to the founding of many "inter-governmental" institutions, including: 
  • United Nations - the successor to the League of Nations, but this time with participation of the USA;
  • World Bank & International Monetary Fund (IMF) - to avoid another financial crash that led to the Depression; 
  • General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) - to lower tariffs world-wide and avoid the protectionism that prolonged the Depression and also to promote free trade.  GATT was superseded in 1995 by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), another "intergovernmental" organisation to promote free trade around the globe. 

Britain's Intergovernmental Approach to Europe

Contrary to views commonly held today, Britain also played a leading role in the European arena in the post-war world, pursuing an “Intergovernmental” co-operation and “Free Trade” agenda:
  • The “Council of Europe”, an intergovernmental organisation proposed by Churchill (1946) and brought into existence by the 1949 Treaty of London.  This organisation was by-passed by Monnet in setting-up the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951.  Nevertheless, Britain signed an agreement of ‘association’ with the European Coal and Steel Community in 1954, with a commitment to friendly co-operation.
  • Britain led the creation of the Western European Union (WEU) an "Intergovernmental" organisation and military alliance to provide mutual defence.
  • The Organisation of European Economic Co-operation (OEEC) was formed in 1948 to administer the distribution of Marshall Aid.  At the insistence of Britain, Sweden and Switzerland  this was a strictly ‘Intergovernmental’ organisation, controlled by a ‘Council of Ministers’ making decisions on the basis of unanimity. 
  • Britain & Ludwig Erhard (German Minister of Economics and "Father of the German economic miracle") proposed using the OEEC as the infrastructure for a Free Trade Area Common Market 
  • When this proposal for a Free Trade Area Common Market was rejected, Britain led the creation of the "Intergovernmental" European Free Trade Area (EFTA) – established by the Stockholm Convention in Jan 1960 it comprised 7 countries: Britain, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Austria & Portugal.
  • Britain promoted intergovernmental co-operation in a wide range of fields.  For example, in civil aviation (where it was a world leader) : Eurocontrol was agreed in 1960 and provided a Europe-wide system of air navigation safety; the Supersonic Transport Aircraft Committee was established which eventually led to the building of Concorde.

Monnet's Supranational Europe

Britain's "Intergovernmental" approach to Europe was an anathema to Monnet, characterised by his verdict on the OEEC "the OEEC’s nothing: it’s only a watered-down British approach to Europe – talk, consultation, action only by unanimity".  At the end of the 1940’s Jean Monnet renewed efforts to establish a “Supranational” United States of Europe based on the model described by Salter - in diametric opposition to Britain's approach.

A hallmark of Monnet's approach was to use a "beneficial crisis" and then advance his ideas via a public advocate.  In spring 1950, French demands regarding West Germany's coal & steel industries were the "beneficial crisis" and Robert Schuman, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs was his advocate.  On 9 May 1950, Schuman made a declaration (prepared by Jean Monnet) proposing integration of the French and German coal and steel industries: 
"Through the consolidation of basic production and the institution of a new High Authority, whose decisions will bind France, Germany and the other countries that join, this proposal represents the first concrete step towards a European federation ...."
The European Coal & Steel Community (ECSC) was founded by the Treaty of Paris in 1951 when The Six members states (France, West Germany, Italy and the 3 Benelux states) handed over control of their steel and coal industries to this new “supranational” organisation.   “Qualified Majority Voting” was used in the Council of Ministers.  Jean Monnet became the first President of the “High Authority”.

Monnet then proposed a ‘Supranational’ European Defence Community (EDC), with a European Army run by a European minister of Defence and Council of Ministers, a common budget and common arms procurement policy.  Rene Pleven (French Prime Minister) was the public advocate, but the initiative met with sustained opposition and eventually failed.  Consequently, Britain led in the creation of the "Intergovernmental" WEU to provide mutual defence.  It is worth noting that from 2000, the WEU’s capabilities were transferred to the EU and the WEU was wound up in 2011 - there have since been fresh moves within the EU to create a Single European Army.

In response to the rejection of the EDC, there was a change of tactics: the language was changed with phrases such as “European Government” and “Federal” being avoided; as exemplified by the Francois Duchene quote at the start of this blog.  Political integration was to now proceed under the guise of economic integration.

Monnet resigned as President of the High Authority and began work on "economic" integration. Paul-Henri Spaak (Belgian Foreign Minister) composed The “Benelux Memorandum” (based on a draft by Monnet) which called for a Common Market including integration of transport, energy, nuclear energy and social legislation.  Tellingly, the phrase “United States of Europe” in the original draft was removed to give more emphasis to the idea of an “economic community”.

Spaak rejected Britain & Ludwig Erhard's suggestion of a Free Trade Area using the existing OEEC governance, as it  ‘offered no prospect of a European political union’.  Instead, the Common Market was implemented as a Customs Union with a common external tariff wall erected against non-members – i.e. focussing on integration within the European Economic Community rather than an expansion of free trade. 

The Common Market treaty was signed in 1957 in Rome.  Although commonly believed to be a purely economic agreement, the Treaty pre-amble includes the declaration to ‘lay the foundations of an ever-closer union among the peoples of Europe’

Subsequent treaties have continued the transfer of powers from the member states to the “Supranational” EU.  Executive power is held by the European Commission, the equivalent to Salter’s “Secretariat”, a body of civil servants who owe loyalty to the EU, not member states.  Most decisions are via Qualified Majority Voting, i.e. national vetoes have been mostly eliminated.   Just as Salter & Monnet envisaged. 


There is a historic difference between the "Supra-national" nature of the EU and Britain's preference for "Inter-national" co-operation, which helps explain why the UK has never felt comfortable inside the EU and why the UK is often seen as the “awkward” member. 

It should also be understood that the EU is something of an anomaly as the only recognised Supranational Union in the world.  By contrast,  the "intergovernmental" organisations created after WW2 are still the dominant global institutions, i.e. UN, NATO (which has been the cornerstone of Europe's defence & security for almost 70 years), IMF & World Bank (which still underpin the world's financial systems) and GATT / WTO, which has been the major force enabling Global trade.  Crucially, the WTO along with a plethora of other "intergovernmental" institutions (e.g. UNECE, ILO, Codex Alimentarus etc) is driving the emerging Global Single Market which has effectively made the EU redundant as a law-maker for the Single Market.

Fundamentally, the choice for Britain in the Referendum is the same as it has been for the last 65 years: 

  • Should Britain "Trade and Co-operate" with nations across the Globe  as a self-governing nation-state ? (i.e. an "Inter-governmental" approach)
  • Should Britain commit to a "Supra-national" EU, where the EU sits above the member states (as a form of Government of Europe) and where the EU represents the member states around the world ?

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