1973 was quite the turbulent year, but you wouldn’t guess that from my diary entries which have rarely made mention of what was going on in England and around the world.
By itself January 1st 1973 was quite an historic date for Britain. Together with the Republic of Ireland and Denmark, it joined the European Economic Community – or EEC.
The EEC is an extension of Winston Churchill’s 1946 call for a “United States of Europe”. World War II had placed a huge economic burden on the participating countries. In 1950 the French Foreign Minister suggested the creation of a community which would integrate all the coal and steel industries of Europe. This made for a peaceful notion. Coal and steel were the two elements necessary to make weapons of war, and no-one wanted Germany’s dominant production in both to again threaten any peace. The Minister’s suggestion was taken forward, eventually becoming 1951’s Treaty of Paris and signed by France, Italy, West Germany and the Benelux countries.
The Treaty of Paris created the European Coal & Steel Community (ECSC) which in turn gave birth to the institutions we now know as the European Commission and the European Parliament.
After the failure of attempts to create similar political and defence communities a decision was made to organise a European Intergovernmental Conference to try and thrash out some kind of common ground between the nations. It felt necessary, especially as any previously-enjoyed European “great power’ was diminishing and it was increasingly obvious that the USA and the USSR were the world’s new superpowers… dangerously so given their vast ideological differences.
Focusing on a need for both economic and energy unity, the conference led to the Treaties of Rome, signed in 1957. These agreements gave rise to the formation of the EEC and Euratom (European Atomic Energy Community).
The two new communities joined the ECSC in common assembly, even though – at the time – they were all distinctly separate from one another.
In 1965 – and despite intense political bickering between France and the UK – an agreement was reached to merge all three communities under one umbrella, the “European Communities” – now generally referred to as “the EEC” – but still only having the ECSC’s six countries as the primary members.
It took much negotiation – and a change in the French Presidency(Charles DeGaulle giving way to Georges Pompidou) – before the UK was allowed into the EEC (the arguments surrounded our friendship with the USA), but they eventually took their place on January 1st 1973 as part of what is generally known as “the first enlargement”
All of this meant little to a 15-year-old geek with an ELP fixation of course. I do remember Prime Minister Ted Heath bickering with DeGaulle and getting nowhere, and then having to spend ages with Pompidou before the French President ‘gave in’.
I suspect it fueled some anti-French sentiment, sentiment which still exists to this day despite the country now having a smoking hoTT first lady in Carla Bruni-Sarkozy
Coming tomorrow… Britain fights over fish!
[continued in Part II…]