KYIV – Since World War II’s end, France has consistently risen to the challenge of restructuring Europe in times of crisis. In doing so, France became the catalyst not only for building European unity, but also for creating the prosperity that marked Europe’s post-war decades – a prosperity now under threat because of the global financial and economic crisis. If we are to see a stronger Europe emerge from today’s challenges, visionary French leadership is needed again.
The first moment when decisive French leadership began to unify Europe came when Robert Schuman and Konrad Adenauer created the European Coal and Steel Community. By rooting the then West Germany in the political, economic, and social fabric of the West, that step heralded the start of Germany’s rebirth and economic miracle.
The second time that France consolidated Europe’s internal architecture came in 1983, during the debates over the stationing of American cruise and Pershing missiles in Germany to counter the deployment of SS20 missiles by the Soviet Union. France’s resolve to stand with Germany helped prevent Germany from drifting into a dangerous neutrality that would have shaken the European community to its core.
The third moment came after the Berlin Wall fell, and it was feared that an enlarged Germany might destabilize Europe. After initially trying to delay reunification, France embraced it, in exchange for Germany’s reaffirming its commitment to European unity and Franco-German leadership of the European community. As a result, Germany bound itself to the idea of “ever closer union” even more definitively by pledging to join the common European currency, the euro.