European Coal and Steel Community Treaty Expires, July 2002

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Publication Date 24/07/2002
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The Treaty which founded the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) expired on 23 July 2002, fifty years after it came into force.

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At a ceremony in Brussels the flag of the ECSC, which shows six white stars on a blue (steel) background above six white stars on a black (coal) background, was lowered by Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission and given to Enrico Gibillieri, President of the ECSC consultative committee, the only ECSC institution still in existence. Speaking at the ceremony, Romano Prodi said:

'The aim of the Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community is simple and full of hope, as the preamble says, to 'give direction to a destiny henceforward shared'. When observers look back now, they sometimes mistakenly believe that the Coal and Steel Community was a technical project of limited scope. In fact, the first European Community was a great political and institutional innovation.

The ECSC Treaty was signed by Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands in Paris on 18 April 1951 as a follow up to the Schuman Declaration of 1950. The Declaration took the name of Robert Schuman, the then French Foreign Minister, who along with Jean Monnet, Alcide de Gasperi and Konrad Adenauer defined the blueprint of the ECSC. The basic idea was that by pooling sovereignty in the areas of coal and steel war between these countries would become materially impossible since these resources formed a key part of military efforts.

The ECSC provided the cornerstone on which the European Community was established with the Treaty of Rome in 1957 and subsequently the European Union in 1992. It helped to promote social progress, industrial competitiveness and the integration of Europe. Its institutional structure, comprising an executive High Authority, a Council of Ministers, a Parliamentary Assembly, a Court of Justice and a special consultative committee, provided a model for the institutions of the later organisations.

The future of the coal and steel sectors following the expiry of the ECSC treaty was discussed at the Amsterdam European Council in 1997. EU leaders agreed that the ECSC net assets and liabilities, a total of €1.6 billion, should be transferred to the overall EU budget but targeted for research activities in both sectors. The legal basis of the changeover lies in a Protocol on the financial consequences of ECSC Treaty expiry and on the establishment and management of a 'Research Fund for Coal and Steel' which was annexed to the Treaty adopted at the Nice European Council in December 2000. The financial Protocol, which was endorsed in February 2002 by EU Member States as an intergovernmental agreement, allocated 72.8 per cent of annual interests on ECSC net assets to steel research, while 26.2 per cent was allocated to coal research. In addition, EU energy ministers approved on 7 June 2002 a Council Regulation on State aids to the coal industry aiming to make coal respond to energy and sustainable development needs in the 21st Century.

As a notable part of Europe's history over the last fifty years drew to an end on 23 July 2002 Romano Prodi seized on the opportunity to look to the future of the European Union. Prodi told those gathered for the commemoration of the ECSC treaty that it should teach them three lessons: 'the method has proved sound beyond dispute; we must not be afraid of raising our sights; and the Convention must draw on this success. He emphasised that the Convention held the key to the future of the Union in a similar way to that of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1952.

Related Links
Commentary and Analysis
CVCE: The expiry of the ECSC Treaty in 2002

BBC News, 23/07/2002: Europe bids farewell to historic treaty

European Commission: Expiry of the ECSC Treaty
European Commisssion: Press Release, 19/06/2002: Fifty years at the service of peace and prosperity: the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) treaty expires
European Commission: A destiny henceforward shared - Commemoration of the ECSC Treaty [Speech, 23 July 2022]
UK Parliament: Select Committee on European Legislation: Draft Resolution concerning the expiry of the European Coal and Steel Community Treaty

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