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Treaty establishing the European Defence Community
Ratification statuses in signatory states:
TypeMilitary pact
ContextCold war, European integration
Drafted24 October 1950
Signed27 May 1952
ConditionRatification by all member states
Expiry50 years after entry into effect
  •  Belgium
  •  France
  •  West Germany
  •  Italy
  •  Luxembourg
  •  Netherlands
DepositaryGovernment of France
Full text
fr:Traité instituant la Communauté européenne de défense at Wikisource

The Treaty establishing the European Defence Community, also known as the Treaty of Paris,[1] is an unratified treaty signed on 27 May 1952 by the six 'inner' countries of European integration: the Benelux countries, France, Italy, and West Germany. The treaty would have created a European Defence Community (EDC), with a unified defence force acting as an autonomous European pillar within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The ratification process was completed in the Benelux countries and West Germany, but stranded after the treaty was rejected in the French National Assembly. Instead, the London and Paris Conferences provided for West Germany's accession to NATO and the Western European Union (WEU), the latter of which was a transformed version of the pre-existing Western Union. The historian Odd Arne Westad calls the plan[which?] "far too complex to work in practice".[2]

The treaty was initiated by the Pleven plan, proposed in 1950 by then French Prime Minister René Pleven in response to the American call for the rearmament of West Germany. The formation of a pan-European defence architecture, as an alternative to West Germany's proposed accession to NATO, was meant to harness the German military potential in case of conflict with the Soviet bloc. Just as the Schuman Plan was designed to end the risk of Germany having the economic power on its own to make war again, the Pleven Plan and EDC were meant to prevent the military possibility of Germany's making war again.

Planned organisation

The European Defence Community would have entailed a pan-European military, divided into national components, and had a common budget, common arms, centralized military procurement, and institutions.

Diagram showing the functioning of the institutions provided for by the Treaty establishing the European Defence Community (EDC), the placing of the European Defence Forces at the disposal of the Community, and the link between the EDC and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO, with reference to this organisation's Supreme Allied Commander Europe and Council):

The main contributions to the proposed 43-division force:[3]

*West Germany would have had an air force, but a clause in the EDC treaty would have forbidden it to build war-planes, atomic weapons, guided missiles and battleships.


In this military, the French, Italian, Belgian, Dutch, and Luxembourgish components would report to their national governments, whereas the West German component would report to the EDC. This was due to the fear of a return of German militarism, so it was desired that the West German government would not have control over its military. However, in the event of its rejection, it was agreed to let the West German government control its own military in any case (something which the treaty would not have provided).

Defence arm of a European Political Community

Further information: European Political Community (1952)

A 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). A draft EPC treaty, as drawn up by the ECSC assembly (now the European Parliament), would have seen a directly elected assembly ("the Peoples’ Chamber"), 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.[4][5]

Following the collapse of the EPC, European leaders met in the Messina Conference in 1955 and established the Spaak Committee which would pave the way for the creation of the European Economic Community (EEC).



During the late 1940s, the divisions created by the Cold War were becoming evident. The United States looked with suspicion at the growing power of the USSR and European states felt vulnerable, fearing a possible Soviet occupation. In this climate of mistrust and suspicion, the United States considered the rearmament of West Germany as a possible solution to enhance the security of Europe and of the whole Western bloc.[6]

In August 1950, Winston Churchill proposed the creation of a common European army, including German soldiers, in front of the Council of Europe:

“We should make a gesture of practical and constructive guidance by declaring ourselves in favour of the immediate creation of a European Army under a unified command, and in which we should all bear a worthy and honourable part.”

— Winston Churchill, speech at the Council of Europe 1950[7]

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe subsequently adopted the resolution put forward by the United Kingdom and officially endorsed the idea:

“The Assembly, in order to express its devotion to the maintenance of peace and its resolve to sustain the action of the Security Council of the United Nations in defence of peaceful peoples against aggression, calls for the immediate creation of a unified European Army subject to proper European democratic control and acting in full co-operation with the United States and Canada.”

— Resolution of the Council of Europe 1950[7]

In September 1950, Dean Acheson, under a cable submitted by High Commissioner John J. McCloy, proposed a new plan to the European states; the American plan, called package, sought to enhance NATO's defense structure, creating 12 West German divisions. However, after the destruction that Germany had caused during World War II, European countries, in particular France, were not ready to see the reconstruction of the German military.[8] Finding themselves in the midst of the two superpowers, they looked at this situation as a possibility to enhance the process of integrating Europe, trying to obviate the loss of military influence caused by the new bipolar order and thus supported a common army.[9]

Launch of the Pleven Plan

René Pleven

On 24 October 1950, France's Prime Minister René Pleven proposed a new plan, which took his name although it was drafted mainly by Jean Monnet, that aimed to create a supranational European army. With this project, France tried to satisfy America's demands, avoiding, at the same time, the creation of German divisions, and thus the rearmament of Germany.[10][11]

“Confident as it is that Europe’s destiny lies in peace and convinced that all the peoples of Europe need a sense of collective security, the French Government proposes […] the creation, for the purposes of common defence, of a European army tied to the political institutions of a united Europe.”

— René Pleven, speech at the French Parliament 1950[12]

The EDC was to include West Germany, France, Italy, and the Benelux countries. The United States would be excluded. It was a competitor to NATO (in which the US played the dominant role), with France playing the dominant role. Just as the Schuman Plan was designed to end the risk of Germany having the economic power to make war again, the Pleven Plan and EDC were meant to prevent the same possibility. Britain approved of the plan in principle, but agreed to join only if the supranational element was decreased.[13]

According to the Pleven Plan, the European Army was supposed to be composed of military units from the member states, and directed by a council of the member states’ ministers. Although with some doubts and hesitation, the United States and the six members of the ECSC approved the Pleven Plan in principle.


The initial approval of the Pleven Plan led the way to the Paris Conference, launched in February 1951, where it was negotiated the structure of the supranational army.

France feared the loss of national sovereignty in security and defense, and thus a truly supranational European Army could not be tolerated by Paris.[14] However, because of the strong American interest in a West German army, a draft agreement for a modified Pleven Plan, renamed the European Defense Community (EDC), was ready in May 1952, with French support.


Among compromises and differences, on 27 May 1952 the six foreign ministers signed the Treaty of Paris establishing the European Defence Community (EDC).[15]


All signatories except France and Italy ratified the treaty. The Italian parliament aborted its ratification process due to France's failed ratification.[16][17]

National ratification processes[citation needed]
Signatory Institution Vote Ref.
Date 👍🏻 👎🏻 ✊🏻
 Belgium Senate 12 March 1954 125 40 2 [18]
Chamber of Representatives 26 November 1953 148 49 3 [19]
 France National Assembly 30 August 1954 264 319 31 [20]
Senate Aborted ?
 West Germany Federal Diet 19 March 1953 224 165 ? [21]
Federal Council 15 May 1953 ? ? ? [22]
 Italy Senate Aborted ?
Chamber of Deputies Aborted ?
 Luxembourg Chamber of Deputies 7 April 1954 47 3 1 [23]
 Netherlands House of Representatives 23 July 1953 75 11 0 [3]
Senate 20 January 1954 36 4 10 [24]

French rejection

The EDC went for ratification in the French National Assembly on 30 August 1954, and failed by a vote of 319 against 264.

By the time of the vote, concerns about a future conflict faded with the death of Joseph Stalin and the end of the Korean War. Concomitant to these fears were a severe disjuncture between the original Pleven Plan of 1950 and the one defeated in 1954. Divergences included military integration at the division rather than battalion level and a change in the command structure putting NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) in charge of EDC operational capabilities. The reasons that led to the failed ratification of the Treaty were twofold, concerning major changes in the international scene, as well as domestic problems of the French Fourth Republic.[25] There were Gaullist fears that the EDC threatened France's national sovereignty, constitutional concerns about the indivisibility of the French Republic, and fears about West Germany's remilitarization. French Communists opposed a plan tying France to the capitalist United States and setting it in opposition to the Communist bloc. Other legislators worried about the absence of the United Kingdom.

The Prime Minister, Pierre Mendès-France, tried to placate the treaty's detractors by attempting to ratify additional protocols with the other signatory states. These included the sole integration of covering forces, or in other words, those deployed within West Germany, as well as the implementation of greater national autonomy in regard to budgetary and other administrative questions. Despite the central role for France, the EDC plan collapsed when it failed to obtain ratification in the French Parliament.


The treaty never went into effect. Instead, after the failed ratification in the French National Assembly, West Germany was admitted into NATO[26] and the EEC member states tried to create foreign policy cooperation in the De Gaulle-sponsored Fouchet Plan (1959–1962). European foreign policy was finally established during the third attempt with European Political Cooperation (EPC) (1970). This became the predecessor of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).

Today the European Union and NATO, and formerly also the Western European Union, all carry out some of the functions which was envisaged for the EDC, although none approach the degree of supranational military control that the EDC would have provided for.

Since the end of World War II, sovereign European countries have entered into treaties and thereby co-operated and harmonised policies (or pooled sovereignty) in an increasing number of areas, in the European integration project or the construction of Europe (French: la construction européenne). The following timeline outlines the legal inception of the European Union (EU)—the principal framework for this unification. The EU inherited many of its present responsibilities from the European Communities (EC), which were founded in the 1950s in the spirit of the Schuman Declaration.

  S: signing
  F: entry into force
  T: termination
  E: expiry
    de facto supersession
  Rel. w/ EC/EU framework:
   de facto inside
                  European Union (EU) [Cont.]  
European Communities (EC) (Pillar I)
European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC or Euratom) [Cont.]      
/ / / European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC)  
(Distr. of competences)
    European Economic Community (EEC)    
            Schengen Rules European Community (EC)
'TREVI' Justice and Home Affairs (JHA, pillar II)  
  / North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) [Cont.] Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters (PJCC, pillar II)

Anglo-French alliance
[Defence arm handed to NATO] European Political Co-operation (EPC)   Common Foreign and Security Policy
(CFSP, pillar III)
Western Union (WU) / Western European Union (WEU) [Tasks defined following the WEU's 1984 reactivation handed to the EU]
[Social, cultural tasks handed to CoE] [Cont.]                
      Council of Europe (CoE)
Entente Cordiale
S: 8 April 1904
Dunkirk Treaty[i]
S: 4 March 1947
F: 8 September 1947
E: 8 September 1997
Brussels Treaty[i]
S: 17 March 1948
F: 25 August 1948
T: 30 June 2011
London and Washington treaties[i]
S: 5 May/4 April 1949
F: 3 August/24 August 1949
Paris treaties: ECSC and EDC[ii]
S: 18 April 1951/27 May 1952
F: 23 July 1952/—
E: 23 July 2002/—
Rome treaties: EEC and EAEC
S: 25 March 1957
F: 1 January 1958
WEU-CoE agreement[i]
S: 21 October 1959
F: 1 January 1960
Brussels (Merger) Treaty[iii]
S: 8 April 1965
F: 1 July 1967
Davignon report
S: 27 October 1970
Single European Act (SEA)
S: 17/28 February 1986
F: 1 July 1987
Schengen Treaty and Convention
S: 14 June 1985/19 June 1990
F: 26 March 1995
Maastricht Treaty[iv][v]
S: 7 February 1992
F: 1 November 1993
Amsterdam Treaty
S: 2 October 1997
F: 1 May 1999
Nice Treaty
S: 26 February 2001
F: 1 February 2003
Lisbon Treaty[vi]
S: 13 December 2007
F: 1 December 2009

  1. ^ a b c d e Although not EU treaties per se, these treaties affected the development of the EU defence arm, a main part of the CFSP. The Franco-British alliance established by the Dunkirk Treaty was de facto superseded by WU. The CFSP pillar was bolstered by some of the security structures that had been established within the remit of the 1955 Modified Brussels Treaty (MBT). The Brussels Treaty was terminated in 2011, consequently dissolving the WEU, as the mutual defence clause that the Lisbon Treaty provided for EU was considered to render the WEU superfluous. The EU thus de facto superseded the WEU.
  2. ^ Plans to establish a European Political Community (EPC) were shelved following the French failure to ratify the Treaty establishing the European Defence Community (EDC). The EPC would have combined the ECSC and the EDC.
  3. ^ The European Communities obtained common institutions and a shared legal personality (i.e. ability to e.g. sign treaties in their own right).
  4. ^ The treaties of Maastricht and Rome form the EU's legal basis, and are also referred to as the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), respectively. They are amended by secondary treaties.
  5. ^ Between the EU's founding in 1993 and consolidation in 2009, the union consisted of three pillars, the first of which were the European Communities. The other two pillars consisted of additional areas of cooperation that had been added to the EU's remit.
  6. ^ The consolidation meant that the EU inherited the European Communities' legal personality and that the pillar system was abolished, resulting in the EU framework as such covering all policy areas. Executive/legislative power in each area was instead determined by a distribution of competencies between EU institutions and member states. This distribution, as well as treaty provisions for policy areas in which unanimity is required and qualified majority voting is possible, reflects the depth of EU integration as well as the EU's partly supranational and partly intergovernmental nature.

See also


  1. ^ Pastor-Castro, Rogelia (2006). "The Quai d'Orsay and the European Defence Community Crisis of 1954". History. 91 (3): 386–400. doi:10.1111/j.1468-229X.2006.00371.x. JSTOR 24427965.
  2. ^ Westad, Odd Arne (2017). The Cold War: A World History. London: Allen Lane. p. 213. ISBN 978-0-241-01131-7.
  3. ^ a b [bare URL image file]
  4. ^ Richard T. Griffiths Europe's first constitution: the European Political Community, 1952–1954 in Stephen Martin, editor. The Construction of Europe: Essays in Honour of Emile Noël 19 (1994)
  5. ^ European Political Community
  6. ^ Ruane, Kevin (2000). The Rise and Fall of the European Defence Community: Anglo-American Relations and the Crisis of European Defense, 1950–55. pp. 1, 2.
  7. ^ a b "Address given by Winston Churchill to the Council of Europe (Strasbourg, 11 August 1950)". 14 May 2013. Retrieved 3 July 2021.
  8. ^ Ruane, Kevin (2000). The Rise and Fall of the European Defence Community: Anglo-American Relations and the Crisis of European Defense, 1950–55. p. 4.
  9. ^ "Background for the European Defence Community". Political Science Quarterly. 68.
  10. ^ Ruane, Kevin (2000). The Rise and Fall of the European Defence Community: Anglo-American Relations and the Crisis of European Defense, 1950–55. pp. 4, 5.
  11. ^ Pierre Guillen, "France and the Defence of Western Europe: From the Brussels Pact (March 1948) to the Pleven Plan (October 1950)." in The Western Security Community: Common Problems and Conflicting Interests during the Foundation Phase of the North Atlantic Alliance, ed. Norbert Wigershaus and Roland G. Foerster (1993), pp. 125–48.
  12. ^ "Statement by René Pleven on the establishment of a European army (24 October 1950)" (PDF). Journal officiel de la République française. Débats Parlementaires. Assemblée nationale. 10.1950. Paris: Imprimerie nationale. "Déclaration du Gouverneur français René Pleven le 24 octobre 1950", p. 7118-7119. 24 October 1950. Retrieved 4 July 2021.
  13. ^ Alex May, Britain and Europe since 1945 (1999) pp. 18–34.
  14. ^ Keukeleire, Stephan (2009). European Security and Defense Policy: From Taboo to a Spearhead of EU Foreign Policy. pp. 52–53.
  15. ^ Ruane, Kevin (2000). The Rise and Fall of the European Defence Community: Anglo-American Relations and the Crisis of European Defense, 1950-55. p. 15.
  16. ^ "Shaping of a Common Security and Defence Policy". European External Action Service. 8 July 2016. Retrieved 4 November 2017.
  17. ^ "Questions and Answers: the Future of European Defence". European External Action Service. 7 June 2017. Retrieved 4 November 2017.
  18. ^ [1] p. 1223
  19. ^ [2] p. 14
  20. ^ "The European Army: Defeat in Paris." The Times (London), 31 Aug. 1954, p. 1.
  21. ^ Schukraft-Wadle, Corina: Die Anfänge deutscher Europapolitik in den 1950er und 1960er Jahren. Weichenstellungen unter Konrad Adenauer und Bewahrung des Status quo unter seinen Nachfolgern Ludwig Erhard und Kurt Georg Kiesinger, in: Gisela Müller-Brandeck-Bocquet (ed.): Deutsche Europapolitik. Von Merkel bis Adenauer, Wiesbaden 2021, p. 1-58, here p. 18.
  22. ^ Schukraft-Wadle, Corina: Die Anfänge deutscher Europapolitik in den 1950er und 1960er Jahren. Weichenstellungen unter Konrad Adenauer und Bewahrung des Status quo unter seinen Nachfolgern Ludwig Erhard und Kurt Georg Kiesinger, in: Gisela Müller-Brandeck-Bocquet (ed.): Deutsche Europapolitik. Von Merkel bis Adenauer, Wiesbaden 2021, p. 1-58, here p. 18.
  23. ^ The European Defence Community: Problems of Ratification by John W. Young.
  24. ^
  25. ^ "The European Defense Community in the French National Assembly: A Roll Call Analysis". Comparative Politics. 2.
  26. ^ Josef Joffe, "Europe's American Pacifier," Foreign Policy (1984) 54#1 pp. 64–82 in JSTOR

Further reading