Fifty years ago, french foreign minister Robert Schuman proposed the first step towards a European ‘federation’. His 1950 blueprint for a Coal and Steel Community did indeed mark the beginning of European integration. Yet, few seem to recall the early use of the term ‘federation’, now so reviled by Eurosceptics across the continent.
Indeed, after half a century of even closer cooperation, Andrew Shonfield’s 1972 BBC Reith Lecture assessment of Europe as a ‘journey to an unknown destination’ seems apposite. And for that half century the absence of a clearly defined goal was an asset: Europe, in a manner of speaking, could be all things to men, federalists and intergovernmentalists alike. There was little real discussion about the ultimate objective.