The Consul at Strasbourg ( Andrews ) to the Department of State

secret   priority

No. 208

Subject: The Accomplishments and the Present and Future Role of the Council of Europe

A review of the 1950 sessions of the Consultative Assembly, from August 7 to August 28 and from November 18 to November 24, reveals that the Council of Europe has made real progress and gives a fairly clear idea of what we may expect of this organization next year.

The Role of the Consultative Assembly as a Serious and Influential Form of Parliamentary Opinion

One of the constant criticisms of the Council of Europe, voiced not only in Europe but also in the United States, has been that it is only a “debating society”, with no real powers of action, no will to action, [Page 788] and little serious purpose.1 Assuming first that the Assembly is only a debating society, one must admit that it has clearly demonstrated its right to existence in the sessions of this year by the seriousness and high quality of the debates held both in August and November, in which such important matters have been discussed as the imminent menace of Soviet Russia, European defense, European federation, the Schuman Plan, Franco-German rapprochement, the part to be played by Germany in a Europe united in spirit if not politically, a Convention of Human Rights, the European refugee problem, a European Code of Social Security, full employment, and conventions on culture and education. These debates have been carried out in a spirit of frankness and without undue bitterness by the representatives of fifteen countries which are divergent historically, ethnically, linguistically and politically, and whether they agree or disagree, the Delegates, for the most part, keep in mind the essential goal, which is friendship and cooperation among the Western European countries. This in itself is an accomplishment of merit, whether or not the Council of Europe has made much progress toward the organic union of Europe. It is unreasonable to demand, as a large sector of not only European but also of American opinion seems to demand, that a United States of Europe be created over night and in fact it is most doubtful if such a complete federation will be brought about for many years to come, if ever. Statements made on November 22 in the Assembly by Monsieur Edouard Bonnefous2 on this subject are worth noting; they are quoted in translation as they appear in Secretariat Document AS (2) CR 24—Summary Report: “The countries which had adopted a federal statute, whether Switzerland or the United States, had not succeeded at the first attempt, nor had they achieved a firm union with rapid strides. These historic precedents must not be forgotten. In the case of the United States, how many difficulties had to be overcome, by men who spoke the same language and cherished the same ideals, before complete collaboration was achieved! Switzerland, the perfect example of a successful federation, had taken more than five and a half centuries to establish its union—and had only succeeded after many struggles. Can people expect that this unhappy Europe, torn [Page 789] by age-old conflicts, would not have to struggle before attaining true unity?”

The American critics of the “do-nothing” Council of Europe should bear in mind that if it should ever come down to the actual decision, the people and the Congress of the United States would be most reluctant to surrender any bit of sovereignty by entering into any actual federation of states, with a common parliament and a federal cabinet.

The Assembly as an Initiator of Important International Projects and as an Incentive to Government Action

But the Assembly is something more than a debating society: it is a responsible forum of European parliamentary opinion which has demonstrated that it can and does influence Governments. It is quite possible, although I have no means of judging this, that the passage by the Assembly on August 11th of the Churchill motion for the creation of a European army served as an impetus to the original decision in September of some of the governments comprising the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to establish an Atlantic Army. In any case, Count Carlo Sforza, Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, made this statement to the Consultative Assembly on November 18: “It is no exaggeration to say that your debate and resolutions (i.e., in August) contributed very forceably to the reaction of the European will for collective defense against all aggression. You were, therefore, the instigators of the discussions now taking place in the councils of the Atlantic Pact and the various European capitals.” On November 24 Mr. Federspiel, Danish Conservative Delegate, said that in his opinion the members of the Assembly might pride themselves that the August 11 recommendation had led to subsequent action by the governments of the Atlantic countries.

It was admitted in the following words (translation) by Monsieur Robert Schuman in his speech before the Assembly on November 24 that the Assembly had been the originator of the Pleven Plan for the establishment of a European Army: “…3 you who by the vote you took here have testified to the support of the basic ideas of our plan, nay more, who are its originators. This plan is essentially the one which you recommended and is the subject of a motion just laid before you by your Committee on General Affairs.”

Certain suggestions of the Assembly have resulted in action and others show promise of adoption by the Committee of Ministers. As stated by Mr. Robert Boothby, British Conservative, on November 22, the Assembly had asked for a convention of Human Rights, and on [Page 790] November 4 a Convention of Human Rights had been signed by the Foreign Ministers;4 it had asked for the admission of Western Germany to the Assembly, and a German Delegation had been sent to Strasbourg; it had asked for the creation of a European army, “and at New York the decision was taken the other day to bring such an army into being”;5 and the Assembly had passed a resolution about full employment, and the Committee of Ministers had requested the governments concerned to supply the information required to implement it by February 1, 1951. I may add that in Rome the Committee of Ministers approved the principle underlying the Assembly’s recommendation relating to a Code of European Social Security (reference the Consulate’s despatch of September 6, 1950 and No. 73, August 24, 1950, with which Document AS (2) 81 was transmitted6) and that in discussing the Assembly’s recommendations for the establishment of a European Refugee Office, the Committee also recognized the extreme urgency of the problem and the need for the Council of Europe to take immediate cognizance of it and to consider what steps were necessary to deal with it.

As a possible means of influencing the various governments, the Motion for the presentation of Assembly Recommendations and Resolutions by Assembly delegates before their national parliaments (Document AS (2) 78 forwarded with despatch No. 70, August 21, 19506) seems to offer distinct possibilities, although Lord Layton7 in a speech before the Assembly on November 23 said that the debates in the various parliaments had not been so good as they should have been. Layton remarked, however, that the technique was all right and that the Delegates to the Assembly must go on with this method of submitting resolutions and recommendations to their Parliaments.

Decision that the Council of Europe Must Proceed Along Functional Bather than Federalist Lines

Before the convening of the November session it was feared by a large number of observers that the federalists in the Assembly might [Page 791] succeed in forcing regional federation (for example, a federation among France, Germany, and Italy, with the idea of having the Benelux countries join in later). It was evident that such a development would have only a harmful result, since it would mean the break-up of the Council of Europe and, more important, a dividing of Western Europe into two antagonistic camps: France, Germany and Italy as the nucleus, joined by various other countries, on the one side, and Great Britain, Ireland, Iceland and the Scandinavian countries, with the addition perhaps of one or two more countries, on the other side. That this did not come about was due in general to the realization by most of the delegates that there could be no true unified Western Europe without Great Britain and the Scandinavian countries, and in particular to the stand taken in the debates by all the French Delegates, with the exception of the extreme federalists among the Socialists, such as André Philip and Gérard Jaquet, as well as to the moderate and conciliatory attitude of the British delegation, including the Laborites. Even the strong federalists, Paul Reynaud and Georges Bidault,8 although expressing their sympathies for the cause of federation, seemed to realize that the Council of Europe would be wrecked if Great Britain and the Scandinavian countries should be forced out.

The proceedings from November 18 to November 24 clearly proved that the federalists had lost much ground and that in future the functional approach would govern the activities of the Council of Europe. Those delegates who were at heart federalists took refuge in the fact that at Rome the Committee of Ministers had expressed general agreement with the Recommendations of the Assembly for the institution of Specialized Authorities within the framework of the Council of Europe (reference Document AS (2) 121 and also the Embassy’s despatch No. 591, September 6, 19509) and for the adoption of an additional protocol to the Statute of the Council providing that by special conventions concluded between the Member States or between some of them, powers not provided for by the Statute of the Council might be conferred upon special committees of the Committee of Ministers and on special committees of the Consultative Assembly (Document AS (2) 123). The favorable attitude toward these specialized authorities on the part of the Assembly’s federalists may be seen from the debate on the Report of the General Affairs Committee, [Page 792] a despatch on which is being sent to the Department by the Embassy in Paris.

The classic example of a Specialized Authority is the Schuman Plan. While the Schuman Plan did not originate in the Consultative Assembly, the proposal of the Assembly’s Economic Committee dated December 16, 1949, for the creation of European Companies (Appendices Q and R to Part II, Document AS (50) 5 submitted with the Consulate’s despatch No. 41, August 3, 195010) is similar to the Schuman Plan and may have constituted an incentive to Schuman and Monnet. (See page 16 of Part I, Document AS (50) 5 and Appendix S to Part II, Document AS (50) 5.) As reported in the Consulate’s telegram No. 95, November 24th,10 the Assembly adopted without revision the amendment to the Motion for Specialized Authorities proposed by the British Federalist, Ronald MacKay,11 in favor of producing something concrete on Specialized Authorities by setting up two committees which would present at the next Assembly Session texts for the establishment of European authorities for Agriculture and Transportation. The importance of the establishment of Specialized Authorities not only for Agriculture and Transportation but also in other fields was stressed by Monsieur Paul-Henri Spaak, President of the Consultative Assembly, both in his speech on the last day of the November meeting and in his press conference on the following day. He urged that these matters be pushed and thoroughly studied in order that recommendations might be ready for presentation at the Assembly at its next session in the spring. Since Spaak’s counsels are usually heeded with care, we may expect that in the future the activities of the Assembly will be largely concerned with the creation of specialized authorities in lieu of federation and regional federation. Monsieur Spaak also urged, in his speech before the Assembly on November 24th and in his press conference on the 25th, that serious attention be paid to the proposal of Mr. Ronald MacKay for the creation of a European authority endowed with “limited functions but real powers” in the form of a parliament of two houses comprising the Committee of Ministers and the Assembly (reference Document AS (2) 148, transmitted with the Consulate’s despatch No. 188, November 2212). In his press conference the President [Page 793] of the Assembly explained that under the MacKay proposal the Council of Europe would not have to worry about its competence, because that competence would result from laws passed by the two houses.

Although in his Assembly speech and in his press conference Spaak clearly indicated that he had become reconciled to the substitution of Specialized Authorities as the Council’s goal in place of federation, at least for the time being, it is pertinent to note that when asked by a press correspondent whether he thought that the meeting just ended had constituted an overwhelming victory for the functionalists over the federalists, Spaak remarked that he had been very much impressed with the fact that the amendment to a resolution of the General Affairs Committee providing for a political authority to deal with security and foreign policy had been defeated by a vote of only 57 to 39, with 12 abstentions, which showed how strong federalist sentiment still was in the Assembly.

In connection with the question of the federation of Europe, reference is made to the Department’s Secret circular telegram No. 18, October 5, 1950,13 and the telegraphic replies from the Embassies at Paris, Brussels and London numbered 2002, 562 and 2213,14 respectively, concerning certain opinion in Washington to the effect that nationalism in Western Europe was dead and that the only hope for a strong Europe lay in federation which, as shown by polls, was favored by the overwhelming majority of the peoples of Europe. As I recall, in the telegram to the Department from the Embassy in London it was stated that the August debates in the Consultative Assembly did not give evidence of any such overwhelming majority in favor of federation. I should like to add to London’s observation that the debates in the Assembly in November most certainly demonstrated that Europe is not now ripe for federation.

The Consultative Assembly as an Anti-Communist Organization

The Consultative Assembly consists only of delegates who are non-Communist, and, judging from their utterances, most of them are strongly anti-Communist. This was amply illustrated by the speeches that were heard last week in the Assembly, particularly in the debate on European defense held on November 24. The Assembly is unique in [Page 794] that it is the only large international forum in Europe devoted to the cause of anti-Communism. Largely because it is such an organization, it is believed that the Council of Europe should be given every encouragement by us consistent with the limitations imposed by United States interests and policy.

George D. Andrews
  1. In telegram 279 to the Secretary of State on November 8, 1950, the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany (McCloy) reported that Herbert Blankenhorn, Chief Secretary to Chancellor Adenauer and the Federal Republic of Germany’s representative on the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, had characterized the recent meeting of the Committee in Rome as “awful,” lacking “any sense of reality,” and seeming “more like a 19th century diplomatic ceremonial than present day meeting of statesmen to decide on vital European problems.” (740.00/11–850)
  2. Edouard Bonnefous, President of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the French National Assembly and Delegate to the Consultative Assembly, Council of Europe.
  3. Omission indicated in the source text.
  4. Reference is to the “Convention For the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms” agreed to by the representatives of the member nations of the Council of Europe on November 4, 1950. The Convention is published in full in Documents on International Affairs, 1949–1950, pp. 363–377.
  5. Reference is presumably to the series of meetings of the NATO Foreign Ministers and the NATO Defense Ministers in New York in September 1950. For further documentation, see pp. 1 ff. and the section on the Foreign Ministers meetings, pp. 795 ff.
  6. Not printed.
  7. Not printed.
  8. Walter Thomas (Lord) Layton, British Economist, Vice President, Consultative Assembly, Council of Europe.
  9. Georges Bidault, French statesman; Premier, 1946, 1949–1950; Popular Republican (MRP) Delegate to the Consultative Assembly, Council of Europe.
  10. Not printed.
  11. Not printed.
  12. Not printed.
  13. Ronald MacKay, Member of British Parliament; Labour Delegate to the Consultative Assembly, Council of Europe.
  14. Not printed.
  15. Ante, p. 674.
  16. For telegrams 2002 and 2213, see pp. 676 and 678, respectively. Telegram 562 is not printed, but see footnote 2, p. 675.