740.5/1–1952: Telegram

The Ambassador in Belgium (Murphy) to the Department of State 1


994. After lunch today for 6 American correspondents Van Zeeland had invited to Brussels to receive explanation Belg position Eur def community Van Zeeland asked me to meet with Belg deputy De Staercke and himself for discussion same subj.

FonMin referred to Secy’s conversation with Silvercruys2 which was reported to Brussels as an offer to assist Belg if possible in arriving at a solution of problem and asked that Secy be requested to give Belg support now. Krovthe said has carefully reviewed position and De Staercke is attending mtg of experts next Tuesday3 armed with new instructions which represent the maximum distance Belg can go. They include additional “concessions” regarding the common budget which Van Zeeland and De Staercke both assert will go far to meet Fr and German position, but they did not give me text.

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They said that up to present Belg had made 4/5 of all concessions during the conversations which began early in 1950 and which after one initial mtg of ministers were carried on at the technical level throughout the year until Strasbourg and Paris at end of year. Belg suggestions for interim ministerial mtgs were always evaded with the result that text by time of Paris mtg was heavily interlarded with reservations and did not represent substantial agreement. He referred to Monnet and Hirsch forcing the pace apparently in hope of achieving Eur unity by the back door and loading down the Eur army proposal with top heavy polit superstructure borrowed from Schuman Plan which in Belg opinion is not necessary for creation Eur army. Van Zeeland said he had noted several times in conversations with Schuman that their ideas were very close together but after Schuman consulted Monnet, Hirsch and Alphand he changed position.

Van Zeeland declared that as matters now stood some members govt and parliament were lukewarm in favor of Eur army giving it lip service only and that it wld not take much talk to effect that larger powers pressuring smaller to make issue most unpopular in Belg. Brit abstention alone discouraged many and there is abundant suspicion long term motives both French and Germans. He has been sounding out key members of House and Senate and finds great reserve and much opposition. There is, he said, increasing sentiment that Swiss are in happy position and perhaps Belg cld copy them.

Present govt instructions to deputy go as far as legal position permits and “if Belg next Tuesday is faced with a take-it-or-leave-it attitude Belg will leave it” and in doing so govt is certain of parliamentary and public support.

I told Van Zeeland that it was difficult for us to understand why constitutional question seemed to be so much easier for the Fr and Itals and Germans than for the Belgs who cld also perhaps find other grounds for reserve and I went all over other points such as Franco-German rapprochement as the key to Eur peace. He replied that Belg constitution had not been amended since 1881 and did not provide the escape clauses now available in the more modern texts of the 3 larger powers. In this case, for Belg to accept Pleven formula, it wld take Belg 2 years to complete procedures required for constitutional amendment including general election. We cld be assured that govt incapable of acceptance even if it wished that formula and it did not wish it. As for Franco-German rapprochement Van Zeeland said he is all for it but in Belg opinion it does not hinge on acceptance a particular formula. He doubted wisdom attempting achieve Eur unification by a back-door process. If nations ready for Eur federation or some form of unity there shld be a direct and honest approach and not an attempt to get there by loading a top heavy political superstructure on a proposal to put a Eur army at Gen Eisenhower’s disposal.

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Van Zeeland pleads that Secy now use his influence to persuade Fr, Germans and Itals to make reasonable effort to agree Belg proposals which if accepted he asserts will achieve the desired results of creating Eur army and that more quickly than other formula. I inquired whether this represented a Benelux position and he said he cld only speak for Belg but that he doubted that Neths or Lux wld go further.

I would like to add opinion that Van Zeeland assessment parliamentary attitude corresponds with what I have been able to learn from other sources since my return.

Paris 42894 recd after conversation with Van Zeeland which attended by De Staercke who gave every indication full approval Van Zeeland statements. De Staercke said Tuesday next is momentous day5 and how hoped Secy cld support Belg position.

  1. Repeated to Paris, London, and Bonn.
  2. For the report on the conversations under reference here, see telegram 1023, Jan. 11, to Brussels, p. 582.
  3. Presumably, the reference here is to the scheduled meeting of the Steering Committee of the Paris Conference for a European Defense Community on Tuesday, Jan. 22; regarding that meeting, see footnote 5, below.
  4. Not printed. In it Ambassador Bruce reported having been informed by De Staercke, the Belgian representative to the EDC Conference, that it was clear to him that concessions by the French, West German, and Italian Delegations at the Conference would allow the Netherlands to participate in the proposed EDC but might not be acceptable to the Belgian Government. De Staercke hoped that the United States would do what it could to convince the Belgian Government of the importance of Belgian participation in the EDC. (740.5/1–1952)
  5. Telegram 4369, Jan. 22, from Paris, reported on the meeting that day of the Steering Committee of the EDC Conference. After a weekend of consultations with the new Belgian Government of Prime Minister Van Houtte, De Staercke made a “very constructive statement” on the distribution of powers between the proposed Council and High Authority of the proposed EDC and on the common financing during 1953. Alphand expressed gratitude to De Staercke for his considerable contribution and expressed belief that solutions could be found for the problems (740.5/1–2252). Earlier, in telegram 4364, Jan. 22, from Paris, Bruce reported that the Steering Committee had that day decided that the six Foreign Ministers should meet again on Jan. 26 to settle all the outstanding problems (740.5/1–2252).