On the evening after the liberation of Paris, Aug. 26, 1944, General De Gaulle summoned me to his office in the Rue St. Dominique. When I entered the room, he got up and said, "Look at this map." He pointed to the center of Europe and said, "One day soon, the avant-gardes of the Russians and Americans will meet at this spot. Either they will fight, or they will divide the world into two zones of influence. In both cases, Europe will disappear if we don't achieve our own reconciliation."
De Gaulle's vision was a Europe of states; he did not believe in the idea of supranationality. He had the conviction that there could only be a Europe by mutual agreement of its members and at the initiative of one state.
He had supposed the leader would be England, but since England did not play that role, it was France. Churchill thought the role of the United Kingdom was to be an intermediary between the U.S. and Europe. He saw Britain as insular and separate from Europe. When the Treaty of Rome was concluded, I was at a meeting with Churchill. He applauded the Treaty but never spoke of England's joining it.
De Gaulle's obsession after the war was to re-establish the role of France. He saw no contradiction between French independence and European construction. On the contrary, he played a balancing act, with the aim of reconquering equality for France. He felt that there could be no independence for continental Europe unless France showed the way.
He believed it would take an independent France to propose and lead the building of Europe. And France did lead. One mustn't forget that not only did France take the initiative to propose the Coal and Steel Community in 1950, but that it was France that proposed the Messina conference, which gave birth to the Common Market. And one cannot forget De Gaulle's invitation to Chancellor Adenauer to come to France, to pass in review a detachment of the French army, to be his guest at Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises and, later, the General's decision to go to Germany, to speak in German at the officers' training school.
All that paved the way for the Franco-German Treaty of 1963. So all the important steps were taken at the initiative of France. No one can contest that. That said, initiative is one thing and hegemony is another. At each step along the way, our partners had the right to say no-and in many cases they did say no, or began by saying no.
Maurice Schumann, a close associate of Charles de Gaulle, was Foreign Minister of France from 1969 to 1973
Next Alan Bullock