European integration 1945 till 1957

Essay 2010 6 Pages

Politics - International Politics - Topic: European Union


In the wake of the Second World War (WWII) most of the European countries, particularly Germany, found themselves in a state physical and economic devastation. WWII left more than 40 million dead and a strong urgency for some form of European cooperation (Gowland and Cornwall, 2000, p.13). Hence, the following paper sets out to examine the relative significance of international, political and economic factors in promoting moves towards European integration in the period from 1945 till 1957. McCormick (2008, p.45) identifies three original priorities in promoting European integration: prevention of new conflicts, post-war economic recovery and security against the threats posed by the cold war. However, the differences between the various European countries regarding their motivation for the integration played a crucial role, as did the US, which showed an increasing interest in a united Europe, and most notably an integrated Germany.

Despite these differences, the main priority after the WWII was to create such conditions that the Europeans would never go to war with each other again (McCormick, 2008, p.50). Support for an integrated Europe was widespread and not only among elites but also among the wider masses (Dinan, 2004, p.23).

For most countries, the core problem was Germany. In the light of the recent Nazi rise, Europe was very wary of a possible military resurgence in Germany. It was argued, that Germany had to be contained and its power diverted to a more constructive direction (Heater, 1992, p.148).

Germany (now in the form of West Germany) constituted a potential threat not only for the Europe and consequently for the wider world but most notably for France. Hence, as identified by Urwin (1995, p.44) stability and peace within Western Europe depended ultimately on a rapprochement between France and West Germany. This, in fact, was already recognised by Churchill in the immediate aftermath of WWII (Zurcher, 1958, p.6).

In addition, the Western European countries realised that changes that were taking place at the international level demanded new thinking (McCormick, 2008, p.47). The emergence of the Cold War, which was not only a nuclear stalemate for the US and Soviet Union but also a war between democracy and communism, contributed to the growth of the European movement. It stressed the need for the European countries to join together in order to assert their position in an increasingly bipolar world (Dinan, 2004, p.13-18). Hence, there was a threat from within the Europe as well as from the outside that later contributed to a European integration. However, the political and ideological factors varied in their significance for different participants.

In addition, the economic arguments for a European integration were also compelling (Wegs and Ladrech, 2006, p.121). Not only was Europe economically weak it had also lost its previous dominance in international terms, which became most apparent in 1956 with the advent of the Suez Crisis (McCormick, 2008, p.46-49). There was a belief among many elites that, the practises from the interwar period, such as the economic nationalism, should be abandoned



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Liverpool John Moores University
European integration Marshall Plan Shuman Plan 1945 - 1957



Title: European integration 1945 till 1957