On 9 May 1950, French foreign minister Robert Schuman held a press conference in the ornate Salon de l'Horloge of the Foreign Ministry, or Quai d'Orsay. In a brief statement, he proposed that the nations of Europe pool their coal and steel resources – the sinews of war – in order to make conflict between them “not simply unthinkable, but materially impossible.” Under the supervision of a nonpartisan High Authority, the production of coal and steel in Western Europe need no longer be viewed through the lens of national rivalry and relative military advantage. Instead, the modernization and expansion of this crucial industrial sector would provide a foundation for a broad economic and political settlement between once-warring nations.1

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The Schuman Plan was a noble initiative and a dramatically successful one: It led to the creation of the European Coal...

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