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European Defence Community (EDC)

The idea that there should be military institutions in Europe other than NATO is not a new one. Though it was ultimately defeated on a procedural motion without a debate in the French National Assembly in 1954, the European Defence Community (EDC), a proposed six-nation integrated European army, was the one of the first post-World War II attempts to create a purely European multinational military capability.

The Treaty on Economic, Social and Cultural Collaboration and Collective Self-Defence was signed at Brussels on 17 March 1948 (the Brussels Treaty), as amended by the Protocol signed at Paris on 23 October 1954, which modified and completed it. The Brussels Treaty was signed by Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Conceived largely as a response to Soviet moves to impose control over the countries of Central Europe, the Treaty represented the first attempt to translate into practical arrangements some of the ideals of the European movement. Its main feature was the commitment to mutual defence should any of the signatories be the victim of an armed attack in Europe. In September 1948, military co-operation was initiated in the framework of the Brussels Treaty Organisation. A plan for common defence was adopted, involving the integration of air defences and a joint command organisation.

By demonstrating their resolve to work together, the Brussels Treaty powers helped to overcome the reluctance of the United States to participate in the nascent European security arrangements. Talks between these powers and the United States and Canada began shortly afterwards, leading to the signature of the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington on 4 April 1949. Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Norway and Portugal were invited and agreed to accede to the Treaty, which formalised the commitment by the United States and Canada to the defence of Europe. Article 5 of the Treaty states that an armed attack against one of the signatories shall be considered an attack against them all and that each party will then take such action as it deems necessary to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

The need to back up the commitments of the Washington Treaty with appropriate political and military structures led to the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). In December 1950, with the appointment of General Eisenhower as the first Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), the Brussels Treaty powers decided to merge their military organisation into NATO, which had become the central element in the West European and North Atlantic security system.

Meanwhile, the desire to integrate the Federal Republic of Germany into the emerging security structures prompted France, in October 1950, to propose the creation of a European Army which would operate within the framework of the Alliance. This proposal led to the signature, in May 1952, of the Treaty setting up a European Defence Community (EDC) in which Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the Federal Republic of Germany were due to participate [excluding the United Kingdom]. However, in August 1954 the French National Assembly refused to ratify the Treaty.

The European Political Community (EPC) was proposed in 1952 as a combination of the existing European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and the proposed European Defence Community (EDC). The European Political Community must not be mistaken with European Political Cooperation (1970-1993). A draft EPC treaty was drawn up by the ECSC assembly (now the European Parliament) would have seen a directly elected assembly, a senate appointed by national parliaments and a supranational executive accountable to the parliament. The European Political Community project failed in 1954 when it became clear that the European Defence Community would not be ratified by the French national assembly, which feared that the project entailed an unacceptable loss of national sovereignty. As a result, the European Political Community idea had to be abandoned.

The failure of the EDC meant that an alternative way had to be found to integrate the Federal Republic of Germany into the Western security system. At a special Conference convened in London in September 1954 and attended by the Brussels Treaty powers, the United States, Canada, the Federal Republic of Germany and Italy, it was decided to invite the latter two countries to join the Brussels Treaty. The conclusions of the conference were formalised by the Paris Agreements, signed in October of that year, which amended the Brussels Treaty, created Western European Union (WEU) as a new international organisation and provided for the Federal Republic of Germany and Italy to join.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2019 18:02:37 ZULU