60 Years after the Treaties of Rome: A French Point of View
So here we are! While not all countries are represented we did manage to get a total of 28 countries who will share in the celebrations of the past 60 years of Europe. On the 25th of March 1957, the date of the signing of the Treaties of Rome, just 6 countries stipulated the establishment of the European Economic Community, which in 1992 became European Union. France was one of those 6 determined countries. Lead by the ideas of Jean Monnet, voiced by Robert Schuman, the French accepted this great European idea.
Seen as an instrument of peace and stability, this idea of Europe was put at the service of European countries to enable an easier and speedier reconstruction of the continent. Successive French leaders considered Europe among other things (but perhaps most of all) as a springboard towards greater power and influence on the European stage. Love for the French fatherland, protection of national values and French influence characterised the French actions throughout the process of European integration. As recalled by General De Gaulle in 1954: touching French sovereignty was not part of the “European contract”. France has maintained this same attitude to date.
The great French Founding Fathers, who loved Europe as much as they loved France itself, were succeeded by an inspired lineage. Many French presidents (in the first instance Valéry Giscard d’Estaing) continued to work for the European cause. D’Estaing (like Jacques Delores), inherited the ideals of the Founding Fathers, allowing for a vision of a European Union of a more political character: a union of European peoples, united but respectful of diversity of each culture and religion.
In 2005, on the occasion of the treaty referendum to establish the European Constitution, the French vote expressed clearly that leaders and politics can only do so much, they are powerless without popular consent. The treaty was rejected by the majority of French people. The French could not have been clearer in their view of the Union on this occasion. This motif has been often repeated by the French since: while the European Union is necessary, more Europe would be “too much”. Why too much? Because the French just as other European peoples resist the idea of being incorporated into a supranational Europe, where there would be no distinction between a French and Italian person, where the distinction and sovereignty of each country would be absorbed by an “All-European” model.
If the French accept the current model of Europe today, it is owing to the fact that they feel valued in their identity and socio-economic order. More importantly, the French accept Europe, because they share the principle values underlying 1957: solidarity, freedom, peace and fraternity among peoples. All these values are mostly of Christian origin and represent how the French see Europe. Leaving out specific religious implications they feel attached to its moral foundations that constitute the basis of today’s Europe. Although reflecting on and claiming such values does not always translate into action – as shown by the current refugee crisis – it continues to be true that the French feel that they constitute part of this European reality.
On 25th March 2017 in Rome, the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome will be celebrated. It is a reminder of how young Europe in reality is! Various events, and conventions as well as the March for Europe which mark the occasion, will be memorable moments in themselves. Besides the need for a European political re-launch, it will become an opportunity for recalling those Christian values shared by all European peoples. These values will be, in my view, the foundation for a new launch of Europe, since they are the only ones that embody not fear but unity.
By Marie Trélat. Marie is a French student of Political Science, specialising in the European Union and Eastern and Central European related topics. Marie currently lives in Rome and attends the LUISS Guido Carli University through the Erasmus Mundus Project. She is a member of the Rome branch of JEF (Young European Federalists) and works in the area of International Relations for JEF. She also worked for the French branch of Vatican Radio for a period of 5 months.