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Robert Schuman


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(b. 29 June 1886, d. 4 Sept. 1963).

Prime Minister of France 1947–8 Born in Luxembourg of a wealthy Lorraine family (Alsace-Lorraine), he studied law in Strasbourg and the German city of Bonn. After World War I he entered French politics as a parliamentary Deputy for Metz and was chairman of the parliamentary finance commission for seventeen years. In September 1940 he was arrested and transported to Germany, but escaped in 1942 to join the Résistance movement. A devout Catholic, he co-founded the Christian Democrat MRP in 1944. A member of the Constituent Assemblies of 1945–6, he was a Deputy in the National Assembly 1946–62. Schuman was Minister of Finance in 1946 and 1947, before becoming Prime Minister in 1947, when he had to govern France in the face of Communist unrest.

Schuman is best remembered as Foreign Minister (1948–52), when his visionary policies sparked off reconciliation between France and Germany. Recognizing that France had limited resources to control a hostile West Germany, he proposed to Adenauer the pooling of economic resources as a way to build cooperation and friendship between the two countries. What became known as the Schuman Plan initiated a process that led to the creation of the ECSC in 1952. Schuman served as the first President of the European Parliament (1958–60). Schuman was bitterly opposed by some contemporary politicians, most notably de Gaulle. Nevertheless, he is judged to have been one of the most influential politicians of the Fourth Republic. With Monnet, he is remembered as the founding father of European integration. The day of the release of the Schuman Plan (9 May 1950) is remembered annually as ‘Europe Day’ throughout the EU.

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