The Euratom treaty is essential for the survival of Europe and for peace in the world. That is what the founding fathers said. Why do European leaders not consider it so? There were two treaties signed at Rome on 25 March 1957. The Euratom Treaty was considered by many to be the most important of the the two because in dealt with the security of all European citizens.
Today the Economic Community Treaty has been embedded in the Lisbon Treaty as if it was the foundational centre of the integration process. It isn’t. Only people who think the market is the centre of the world dream that it is. They are wrong. That is one of the major weaknesses of the Lisbon Treaty.
Before anyone can trade or think about a market, the person has to survive. Life is more important. Survival and living in peace must be Europe’s priority. We must never forget it. The founding Fathers gave us a system that ‘makes war not only unthinkable but materially impossible‘ as the Schuman Declaration says. If it were not for Europe’s first Community would would have already been involved in bloody fatricidal war again and again since 1945.
How did Euratom come about? What is it for?
In August 1949 , the Soviet Union exploded its first atomic bomb, much to the surprise of western politicians who did not suspect that its research was so far advanced. America had thus lost its monopoly of atomic weapons. The chief of the Manhattan Project, General Groves, had thought in 1945 that it would take USSR 20 years to develop an A-bomb. However a number of spies were at work in passing on atomic secrets to the Communists. By 1949, the CIA anticipated that it would take another three years. Britain became the third nuclear bomb power in 1952.
On 30 September 1949, just a month after the Soviet explosion, Robert Schuman, Foreign Minister of France, gave a major speech in Canada. He spoke of the atomic bomb and of the Communist war in China as raising questions about the forces of nature and of the ‘genius’ of politicians to deal not only with coarse diplomacy but the brutal problems themselves.
‘Man will have to master nature and dam up the unchained energies. Moreover we have the means to do it. We need to regulate and control the new inventions as we did fifty years ago in the era of dynamite.’
A few months later Schuman showed the way. On 9 May 1950 he announced the creation of the European Community and the first phase to place coal and steel under common supranational democratic control. Up to the First World War, much of the explosives used in war were derived gunpowder mixtures of saltpeter. During WWI, that changed dramatically. Most of the new explosives were derived from coal tar products or from synthetic chemical products. They included picric acid and various phenol based chemicals. By the Second World War the range of new chemical explosives and the range of new products from coal and coal tars was enormous and included plastics, artificial rubbers, synthetic petrol, and oils vital for the pursuit of war. TNT, trinitrotoluene, for example, is created from products of coal tar or petroleum.
The supranational High Authority of the first European Community opened a new political pathway with a new European structure. The five democratic institutions assured that war would become ‘not only unthinkable but materially impossible.’ The institutional goal for this was completed in 1953 and Europe has enjoyed the longest period of peace in more than two thousand years. This has also enabled its peoples to live in unprecedented prosperity.
A European Community for atomic energy was a high priority for next phase of European unification. However, the Korean War intervened in late 1950. It diverted preoccupations into a European Defence Community, which Schuman considered should fall rather towards the end of the process. When the French National Assembly voted not to debate the ratification of the EDC (which had already been ratified by the parliaments of the other five States} the move for unification that would deal with non proliferation lost momentum until 1955.
In that year Schuman again entered the French government of Edgar Faure as Minister of Justice. On 13 April 1955 the French Government renounced the construction of French atomic armaments. A few weeks later, ministers of the six founder countries of the European Community met at the Italian town of Messina to discuss further development of the democratic organisation of Europe. The Messina conference in June decided to study the launching of four Communities with priority given to Euratom. This European Community for Atomic Energy provided the means for the most complete non-proliferation of armaments ever conceived, while guarding atomic secrets from misappropriation and assuring the peaceful development of new energy systems. It was the means, as Schuman had said in his 1949 speech, ‘to create a climate so that when sections of humanity are provoked into action by passions or poverty, they can calm themselves and accept to live in concord within a system of governance adapted to their own specific aspirations.’
The Euratom Treaty was signed in Rome on 25 March 1957, together with that of the third Community, the Economic Community, that the Germans insisted on. The purpose of the Euratom Treaty is clearly set out in its Preamble, first article: the peaceful development of atomic energy and ‘works of peace’. The Euratom treaty also provided for a European University.
Some of the clauses of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, which was being negotiated at the same time, are identical in their definitions. This is to facilitate the proper control of nuclear fuel, ‘fissile material’.
Where the Euratom Treaty differs radically from the IAEA is in its system of control. It declares in Article 86 ‘special fissile material is the property of the Community.’ Thus all nuclear material can be submitted to full democratic control, according to the joint wish of democratic governments. This is something that no other treaty in the world has the power to do!
All legal measures, directives, have to be founded on consultation with the European Parliament. Furthermore a legal opinion and assent is required from European NGOs in the industrial, labour and consumer sectors on all use of the fissile material in the Community. On the basis of this legal assent, the Commission can make its proposals for European legislation.
However, when Charles de Gaulle took power in 1958, his personalized policy of ‘gloire et grandeur’ opposed all collaboration. He refused to attend disarmament conferences, withdrew French forces from NATO and prepared the explosion of its own atomic bomb. De Gaulle said that his atomic bombs would be sufficient to kill 20 million people within two hours of a declaration of war.
His intentions on taking power were published later by his spokesman, Alain Peyrefitte. His aim was ‘to suffocate supranationality.’ He wanted to boycott all Community collaboration as far as possible and to ‘deactivate the treaties of Rome’ and specifically to ‘chloroform Euratom’. (Peyrefitte: C’était de Gaulle, vol 1 pp66ff). For his nationalistic plans in the form of an A-bomb, de Gaulle said the Euratom treaty was ‘more than ineffective, it was harmful [Plus qu’ inutile, il est nuisible] ’ and ‘dangerous’. He was right. It was dangerous for autocrats with bombs. They are too dangerous as toys for senile old warriors to cause massive destruction on one population with the retaliatory destruction of the host country, all without their say so, knowledge or democratic permission.
De Gaulle therefore refused to permit direct elections to the European Parliament and the other democratic institutions. He preferred to send his nominees to the European institutions to echo his own opinions and block debate. His nationalistic policy led to the mass resignation of ministers in 1962 and the empty chair boycott of European institutions in 1965.
Today the treaty is still chloroformed. It would have allowed other scientists and technicians to exercise the possibility to work on French nuclear projects thus ensuring that all the research was both safe for the European public and subjecting to European democratic control the export of fissile material to dubious customers abroad. For example the export of French high technology nuclear plant to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was later the target of an Israeli air attack as it menaced peace in the Middle East. The clauses of the treaty would, if applied, have encouraged safe exports to such countries only with an extension of an effective and proven European safeguards inspectorate. The external nuclear relations in the Euratom treaty are extremely adaptable to ensure the best democratic and pacific control.
The Euratom Treaty has now been signed and passed by 27 Member States and their parliaments. As ever, it is ready for business. All that remains is for those democratic States to begin to apply it democratically. There are fewer problems inside the EU but great threats to world peace. France has long declared that it will no longer test its atomic bombs. But Iran, where ideological hardliners foment revolution worldwide and aspire to have nuclear bombs, receives 40 per cent of its imports from the EU. Two thirds of Iranian industry relies on German engineering, including technology transfer for nuclear plants. Such EU exports are guaranteed by national credit guarantee systems. They lack the democratic supervision of the NGOs (European non-governmental organisations) in Euratom’s Economic and Social Committee or a democratic Scientific and Technical Committee. No adequate analysis is made in the European Parliament. Elsewhere the European Investment Bank decided to put a billion euros into the Iranian gas pipeline project, all with little or no democratic debate or control.
The way is clear to apply the most powerful non-proliferation treaty in the world. All it needs is the political will to do it.
How Schuman designed European Democracy to work
The Treaty follows the same pattern as a supranational Community as the two other Communities. The Commission, a small group of wise, impartial and experienced, honest brokers (of any nationality), take soundings on current European problems and strategic challenges. This would include the advisability of selling sensitive equipment and giving know-how to aggressive nations or states or their front companies. Open trade is encouraged were peaceful aims are assured. The Commission would then submit what they consider the most impartial solution to deal with these opportunities in the form of a proposal. In this they are assisted by an independent Scientific and Technical Committee. This is sent to the Council of Ministers (representing States who should open up a real national debate, not keep it quiet), the European Parliament (representing the people’s interest) and Consultative Committees (like the Economic and Social Committee) representing organized civil democracy in three sections: industry and commerce; trades unions and employment organisations; and thirdly, consumer and intermediaries dealing with raising standards and lowering prices. These three institutional bodies debate and vote Critical Opinions about how the Proposal can be improved by taking into account interests the Commission has overlooked. After interactions between these three democratic organisations, the Commission publishes in the Official Journal the fairest version it sees as possible. If any individual, organisation or nation State or European institution considers that their interests are being ignored or being unfairly treated, they have the right to take to matter to Court, either the European Court in Luxembourg, or by making a reference to it via a local court or tribunal. Thus any citizen has multiple democratic pathways (individual, local, regional, national, associative, political and European) to defend his/her interests once the system of five institutions is working properly.