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General background to the ECSC
The ECSC Treaty creates a framework of production and distribution
arrangements for coal and steel and sets up an autonomous institutional system
to manage it. Although its remit is limited to the two branches of industry,
the ECSC has had a crucial impact on major economic and political developments
in Europe for almost fifty years.
Faced at the start of its existence with a big decline in demand for
coal and steel in the post-war period which could have plunged Western Europe
into a dangerous economic recession, the ECSC functioned smoothly by striking
the right balance between production and distribution of resources.
Subsequently, when the coal and steel industry went into deep crisis in the
1970s and 1980s, the ECSC was able to marshal an organised response which made
it possible to carry out the necessary industrial restructuring and conversion
while placing particular emphasis on the protection of workers' rights, in
keeping with the European social model.
However, it is first and foremost in political terms that the ECSC's
impact as an innovative project can be measured. The ECSC launched an original
process based on a belief in a common destiny and a long-term vision.
Dispassionate, structured cooperation between partners thus won out over
ill-tempered and sometimes violent confrontation between enemies. The ECSC was
a precursor of the original form of organisation which characterises today's
European Union, consisting of an autonomous regulatory system run by
independent institutions vested with the power and authority needed to make the
system work. Within that framework, the ECSC has made a significant
contribution to the peace, stability, prosperity and solidarity which we enjoy
in the European Union today.
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