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Why is EU burying the 70-year old Democracy Charter?

Thursday, 08 July 2021
This is an opinion article by an external contributor. The views belong to the writer.
Credit: EU

What do you call an institution that refuses to publish the constitutional basis about how its democracy should work? Antidemocratic? Europe’s Magna Carta was signed and sealed by the Founding Fathers – foreign ministers with plenipotentiary power. It is perhaps the most important document of modern times. Yet the European Commission still refuses to publish the key, founding document.

Why is the Commission withholding its key, founding document? It should have been published 70 years ago.

In December 2019 the European Commission declared that a public Conference on the Future of Europe was a priority. A vice president was assigned to the task.

On 9 March 2021 the Commission’s Ursula von der Leyen, European Parliament’s David Sassoli and European Council’s Antonio Costa jointly agreed the guidelines of the Conference.

We will seize the opportunity to underpin the democratic legitimacy and functioning of the European project,’ the three presidents declared in a joint statement. No more Democratic Deficit!

Then for the first time in its history, representatives of EU’s three institutions pledged to publish the documents that reveal how Europeans got their peace and democracy. At a press conference on 19 April 2021, Guy Verhofstadt of the Parliament, Dubrovka Šuica of the European Commission and Ana Paula Zacarias, Portuguese Secretary of State representing the Council launched a multi-lingual platform so that citizens could debate the Future of Europe.

They were pledged to give citizens access to the foundational document on European democracy and Rule of Law that changed the face of Europe. On 19 June, the inaugural plenary session of the conference was opened and closed. Without these documents!

French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman emphasized the crucial importance of this Charter of the Community, (Pour l’Europe, p146). It is also known as the Declaration of Interdependence. Six Founder States signed it and the Treaty of Paris on the Coal and Steel Community on 18 April 1951.

While the Treaty of Paris describes the institutions, the Charter describes how democracy should develop among states and peoples. It shows how and why Europeans did not fight another war amongst themselves after WW2. In the normal course of two thousand years Europeans would have fought a couple of wars in this last three-quarters of a century. The public has a right to know how the Rule of Law replaced endless carnage.

The institutions also pledged to publish – for the first time – the full text of the Schuman Declaration of 9 May 1950. In it Schuman declares the governmental proposal is the real birth of a strong and fair Europe.

The Commission often misleadingly calls the French Government Proposal the Schuman Declaration.

Extract from the unpublished first page of the Schuman Declaration

“It is no longer a question of vain words but of a bold act, a constructive act. France has acted and the consequences of its action can be immense. We hope they will be. France has acted primarily for peace and to give peace a real chance.

For this it is necessary that Europe should exist. Five years, almost to the day, after the unconditional surrender of Germany, France is accomplishing the first decisive act for European construction and is associating Germany with this. Conditions in Europe are going to be entirely changed because of it. This transformation will facilitate other action which has been impossible until this day.

Europe will be born from this, a Europe which is solidly united and constructed around a strong framework. It will be a Europe where the standard of living will rise by grouping together production and expanding markets, thus encouraging the lowering of prices.”

The Allies defeated Hitler’s Nazism but in the Cold War, Stalin’s Communist Soviet Union divided the Continent. The Founding Fathers of Europe wanted a secure European democracy, a defender of human rights, not the Soviet autocracy. The Red Army occupied half of Europe. Europe should not be run by the military or political, economic or ideological cartels.

The documents, signed and sealed 70 years ago and still unpublished, show how Europeans should develop their democracy.

The Commission often misleadingly calls the French Government Proposal the Schuman Declaration. The Proposal is the legal instrument of the French government, which invited other countries of Europe to join together to form a European Community of Coal and Steel. Its anti-cartel power made clear they would go to war no more.

The Declaration is the speech of Robert Schuman, the French Foreign Minister, to the world’s press that includes this proposal but also describes exactly how momentous and unprecedented this move is in European history. The shock announcement of the birth of a strong, unified and active Europe made headlines around the world.

Following this Declaration, six countries sent their best experts in law, government and economics to design a treaty to implement the Proposal. That massive work, changing the destiny of Europe forever, was completed in a remarkably short period of less than a year.

On 18 April 1951, six foreign ministers with plenipotentiary power of their governments signed not one but two documents.

The first was the Treaty of Paris that encapsulated the legal provisions of the European Community and described the five institutions that would manage it, democratically, economically, socially and legally.

The second document is of even more lasting importance. Schuman called it the Charter of the Community, reflecting the eternal principles of human freedom of the British Magna Carta. It has been called the Declaration of Inter-Dependence, reflecting the founding American Declaration of Independence that defined separation from British tyrannical (non-democratic) rule and taxation without representation.

Extract from the Charter of the Community

“In signing the treaty founding the European Community for Coal and Steel Community, a community of 160 million Europeans, the contracting parties give proof of their determination to call into life the first supranational institution, and consequently create the true foundation for an organized Europe.

This Europe is open to all European countries that are able to choose freely for themselves. We sincerely hope that other countries will join us in our common endeavour.

In full awareness of the need to reveal the significance of this first step by sustained action in other sectors, we have the hope and the will in the same spirit that presided in the elaboration of this Treaty, to bring the current projects now in preparation to a successful conclusion. The work will be pursued in conjunction with the existing European bodies.

These initiatives, each with their particular objective, should rapidly take their place within the framework of a European Political Community, the concept of which is being elaborated in the Council of Europe. This should result in the coordination and simplification of the European institutions as a whole.

All these efforts will be guided by the growing conviction that the countries of free Europe are inter-dependent and that they share a common destiny. We will strengthen this sentiment by combining our energies and our determination, and bringing our work into harmony through frequent consultations and building ever-increasing trust through our contacts.”

The European Community Charter describes the principles by which democratic nations should join together in a Community. It also describes which nations are unfit to join a democratic grouping. The Founding Fathers had in mind the fraudulent ‘People’s Democracies’ of the Soviet bloc that did not allow freedom of assembly and thought, or the freedom of religion. They also wished to exclude, until changes were made, Spain and Portugal then under dictatorships.

The first page of the Schuman Declaration and the four pages of the Charter of the Community have never been published by the European Commission as if they were state secrets and still have to be hidden in some archive.

In fact, the Charter of the Community is already out in the public domain. At my request, the French Foreign Ministry sent me a copy of the document in html by email.

These historical documents should be made easily and immediately available to the public, the press, academics and politicians on the websites of the Commission and the Conference on the Future of Europe. The representatives of the three institutions, Council, Commission and Parliament, agreed to provide a full analysis of how the Founding Fathers’ concepts of European democracy compares with the system we have today.

Is that why the institutions have not published Europe’s Charter of Democracy?

By David Heilbron-Price