How was possible the European Integration in the context of the Cold War?

The most central historical condition that set the stage for all the efforts to integrate Western Europe militarily, institutionally and politically was of course the Cold War. The anti-Hitler coalition of the USA and the USSR fell apart soon after Second World War was over. The ideologies and the economic and strategic interests of the two superpowers proved to be too conflicting. “The economic and political collapse in western Europe could have made it easy prey for Stalin.”1 The situation in 1946-47 seemed so tense that the United States felt that the development of a strong European economy was one of their most urgent priorities.

The United States had a very strong power and many interests spread through all the world, they wanted to promote this interests. The fact of having Western European countries controlled was also a mean of controlling Soviet and comunist influence. In Western European coutries there was a widespread fear that communism would take control.

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“For the most part, the Usa and Western Europe had shared assesment of the threat the soviet union represented. The Americans needed Europeans and the WesternEuropeans needed the americans.”2

That is why from 1945 onwards the United States did all what was possible to recover economically and millitary Western European countries from war. In the context of the cold war they needed to have a strong support to confront the Ussr.

“This economic and military reconfiguration of Western Europe as a part of anti-Soviet alliance required some sort of union of those countries”3

They started with economic assistance, they decided to use American money and military power to stop communism of growing further. The United States had all the things Europe needed, food, fuel, raw materials,machiney, etc. The Americans knew Western Europeans could not afford to buy these goods. So in 1947 they offered to give them what they needed. This was the basis of the Marshal Plan..

“The Marshal Plan also had political motive. The communists parties of Italy and France were strong, and the Usa decided to use pressure and money to keep communists out of cabinets in those countries”4

For the next five years a flood of American food, machinery and raw materials poured across the atlantic ocean. “By the start of the 1950�s Western Europeans were back on its feet again”5

As I said before the economic and military recovey of Western Europe required some sort of union of those countries but also what the United States needed was to stengthen West Germany so that they could confront the soviets. As a result ” From Marshal Aid onwards, the Usa begun to see economic recovery of Germany and later its military contribution to Western Defence as vital to the European, and by extension, world balance.”6

West Germany was going to be recovered and drawn into internationl politics by the Usa but this was not well seen by France, the French saw them selves as victims of German agression and their desire was a strong France and a weak and partioned Germany. With them, as well as with most other Europeans the idea of an Economically strong Germany aroused feelings of fear and even horror. Britain also opposed to West Germany recovey and they still had political and economic interests outside Europe. That is why they did not like the idea of integration between West European countries. Norway, Sweden and Denmark were very closed linked with Britain, it was unconceibable for them to have a different policy from Britain so they were against integration too.

Finally there were some “local” factors that lead into European integration. Europeans coutries such as France realized that they were no longer superpowers. In cold war context the only superpowers were the Usa and the Soviet Union. West Europeans realized that they would have more sway if they united. That`s why France change its policy towards integration, they saw in the integration a posiblity to acheive economic and political power. In 1951 the treaty of the European Coal and Steal Community was signed in Paris. This treaty was regarded as the first step towards acheiving a united Europe. Belgium, The Federeal Republic of Germany, Italy, Luxemburg and the Netherlands accepted the French proposal and signed the treaty. Britain did not signed the treaty because British government still thought they could do on their own, they considered self efficient.

In 1957 a common market between those six countries was set up. The oficial name of this common market was the European Economic Comunity. In 1967 this organization was called European Community (EU). Britain finally became a member in 1972. This change of attitude was mainly because of three reasons. Fist of all the commonwealth was very weakened and Britain saw an opportunity in integration to strengthen their economy. Secondly their close relation with Washinton was ending, the United States was now looking foward to having relation with West Europe as a whole. And the third reason that made Britain change its position towards integration was that they were not so self efficient as they thought. Countries such as Japan or Germany were developing at a higher rate than British country. The desition of Britain of forming part of the European Community was followed by Denmark and Ireland.

But the internal conditions that lead into European Integration could not have been possible out of the context of the Cold War. Firstly there was a negative integrator that was the Soviet Union. This made Western European countries fought together towards their common enemy. They considered that being united communism was no longer a threat. During the Cold War, the Soviet threat provided cohesion for the Western alliance. This was important for creating an environment in which European states could find their common interest in collective actions such as the creation of the European Economic Community. Secondly there was a positive integrator which was the United States that also fought against the USSR and pusshed very strongly in favour of the integration. And finally in the context of the cold war, with most of Central and Eastern Europe behind the “iron courtain”(under the domminance of the Soviet Union), the European integration could begun between relatively small number of state-nations with comaparble economic level and with important older elements of common history.

“In the middle of 1980�s the countries of Western Europe were more united than most people would have dreamed possible forty years later.”7


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