(1955) ‘On 1 -2 June 1955, the foreign ministers of the six European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) powers (Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany) met in Messina, Sicily. This was described by those in attendance and later commentators as the moment when European integration was relaunched after the failure of the *European Defence Community (EDC). In fact, whether Messina represented a relaunch is a matter of debate as some suggest that it was less of a relaunch and more of a redirection in process of European unity away from the unsuccessful military sphere and back to the economic. The main task of the Messina conference was to discuss two proposals for future cooperation. First was the Beyen plan, a Benelux proposal for a European customs unions which was a response to the limited advances in European trade liberalisation. Second was the suggestion promoted by Jean Money to make energy the focus of unity through the creation of an atomic energy community. From July 1955 a committee was convened, under the chairmanship of Belgian foreign minister Paul-Henri Spaak, to investigate these proposals and in May 1956 it produced a report which became the basis of the Treaty of Rome. Britain did not attend the Messina but famously sent a representative to the Spaak committee. Symbolically, this was a Board of Trade official rather than a minster, a move which truck one of the worst diplomatic notes in British-European relations either before or since. The death of the EDC had created an atmosphere of incredulity in London towards the Messina proposals, which for a brief but damaging period turned into active hostility in November/December 1955. The resilience of the six powers, together with American pressure, forced the British to rethink their policy and in 1956 they announced their own ‘Plan G’, a doomed proposal to complement the EEC with a European free trade area’.
Treaty of Rome:
(1957) ‘On 25 March 1957 the six European Coal and Steel Community states (ECSC) signed two treaties in Rome. The first established the European Economic Community (EEC) and the second the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). The EEC became the dominant institution (hence the singular usage as ‘the treaty of Rome’), building on the model of the ECSC to form a common market which became the foundation of the present-day European Union (see European Integration). Britain did not join the EEC but concurrently sought to complement it with an all-European free trade area (FTA) reflected Britain’s recognition of the importance of cooperation with Europe but also its reluctance to accept the supranational elements and dirigiste economics of the EEC. Traditional ties with the Commonwealth and agriculture protection, both significant political issue for Macmillan’s Conservative government, limited Britain’s room for manoeuvre in the FTA negotiations and this, alongside French intransigence and the early strength of the EEC, led to the failure of the FTA proposal (see European Free Trade Association) and, in turn, to Britain first application for membership of the EEC in 1961’.