â€œIt is no longer a time for vain words, but for a bold, constructive act. France has acted, and the consequences of her action may be immense. We hope they will. She has acted essentially in the cause of peace. For peace to have a chance, there must first be a Europe. Nearly five years to the day after the unconditional surrender of Germany, France is now taking the first decisive step towards the construction of Europe and is associating Germany in this venture. It is something, which must completely change things in Europe and permit other joint actions, which were hitherto impossible. Out of all this will come forth Europe, a solid and united Europe â€¦â€ .
This was the preface to a declaration made by Robert Schuman, French Foreign Minister (1948-55), as Europe lay in ruins in the aftermath of the Second World War. Rebuilding Europe required a new philosophy of international relations, one based on real equality between States and the will to take concrete action together, a radically new way of building friendship, and co-operation between European nations and peoples. This foresight of Schuman put into practice a concept for securing a lasting peace for the nations of Europe and thus began the process of integration that has continued for over fifty years.
Schuman and other courageous visionaries put Western Europe on a new course following an evolutionary path of economic co-operation and political integration that has structured the European Union, as we know it today. This being a Union cultivated in an environment of global change, and opposed with the challenge of incorporating a â€˜rich tapestryâ€™ of diverse religious beliefs, cultural disparities, and the barrier of language. A generation of mobility in the labour market and the long-term effects of World War II influencing the migration of labour from the Middle East and Northern Africa into Western Europe have led to a growth of the â€˜multi-culturalâ€™ society.