Belgium, Germany, France, Italy,
Luxembourg and the Netherlands signed the treaty establishing the
ECSC in Paris on 18 April 1951. It was the practical follow-up to
by French Foreign Minister Robert Schumann on 9 May 1950 that proposed
placing Franco-German production of coal and steel under a common
High Authority within the framework of an organisation open to participation
by other European countries. This first European Community set out
to put an end to a century of national rivalries by a peaceful reconstruction
based on shared interests. It was also an institutional test bed
from which several years later developed the more ambitious Treaty
of Rome establishing the Common Market.
Over the next five decades, the ECSC played a major economic role
which extended far beyond these two industries. Coal and steel were
important elements in rebuilding Europe immediately after the war
and through the 1950s and 1960s, but the subsequent major decline
in demand for both could have plunged Western Europe into a dangerous
economic recession. The ECSC functioned smoothly in striking the
right balance by improving productivity and by developing products
to support new industries. An essential characteristic of the ECSC
was the considerable means dedicated to research.
Subsequently, the ECSC helped to develop an organised
response when the coal and steel industries went into deep crisis
in the 1970s and 1980s. This made it possible to carry out the necessary
industrial restructuring and conversion while placing particular
emphasis on the protection of workers’ rights, in keeping
with the European social model.
A key component of the ERA
The 23 July 2002 marked a definitive step in EU history as the 50-year-old
treaty expired. After that date, all remaining available ECSC funds
– some €1.6 billion – would normally have reverted
to the Member States. However, the innovative spirit that helped
develop the ECSC research programme as a very strong element of
the European Research Area led to the Council agreeing to continue
common funding of RTD in these two sectors. Under the management
of the European Commission, that decision will provide some €45
million a year which will cover activities not included in the Sixth
Framework Programme. The funding will be split into 27.2% for coal-related
research and 72.8% for steel-related research.
Coal offers an indispensable source of energy
in the context of the overall European strategy for the security
of its energy supply. But, even if research has enabled considerable
progress, the challenge still remains to make it cleaner and to
reduce emissions of CO2 that contribute to the greenhouse effect.
The production of steel is closely linked to
coal and shares the challenges. However, it has now established
itself as a flexible, high-technology material adding value to a
wide range of applications. The Commission will manage future research
in both areas with even greater emphasis on the environmental objectives.
(back to text)