The Conference on European Union was organized by the French Foreign Ministry under auspices of the League of Nations (LoN). The agenda was to impulse and start concrete actions and deadlines for a Federal Union of Europe. It meet in Brussels (Belgium) in June of 1931.
The proposal for a FUE
A report from the Commission d’étude pour l’Union européenne (CEUE) was the basis for the discussion. The Federal Union of Europe (FUE) would be a regional body of the LoN. Its membership would be open to all European nations that are part of the LoN. The FUE functions under the basis of a system of arbitration, disarmament, and collective security. The purpose of the FUE is to promote and encourage trade and economical development and a customs union. The organization would be an European Conference of member states, a Political Commission and a Secretariat. All decisions to be binding must have unanimous approval or consensus in the European Conference. The Political Commission, would integrated by one delegate from each member country. It can approve general guidelines to be presented to the Conference and optional decisions. A Political Commission coordinates foreign relations and defense based on the resolutions of the LoN. A Political Commission must propose the annual budget to the European Conference for its approval or amendment. A Secretariat would be in charge of the administrative work of the European and Political Commission.
The many problems outlined by the delegations where:
- Weakling of the LoN as an international forum;
- It would limit the national sovereignty on important issues of foreign relations, defense and national economy
- Rejection of the proposed institutions. The problem centered on having a federal or unitarian solution. To some delegates the proposed FUE was too federal or centralized
- Priority of economic issues over political ones
- It could lead to a possible revision of European frontiers
- Problems of relationship with European states that are not members of the LoN
Discussion and failure
However the failure of the Conference was mainly the consequence of various reasons that already existed in European affairs after World War I. Basically old mistrusts and rivalries has a result of post Versailles diplomacy.
This can be best exemplified in the Franco-German revanchist and mutual distrust. Germany pushed to end restrictions or a resolution of the future FUE that ends them. It also called for a revision of the status of Saar, Ruhr, Danzig and a possible reunification with East Prussia. France vetoed this and also issued a formal declaration that the status of Saar. Ruhr and Danzig could only be determined by the LoN, and the FUE must abstain of even considering its discussion. While accepting a reunification of East Prussia, it recommended that any German army be dissolved or put under direct command of the FUE.
There was no support from UK, that was more interest in building the ICF. Fascist Italy was very skeptical and suspicious of any mechanism that could and might curtail its expansionist policies in the Balkans.
Balkan rivalries, basically between Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria and Romania, along internal political turmoil in Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania (in all these countries between monarchist, liberals and agrarians) and Greece (monarchist versus republicans) seemed all to familiar to many with the failed attempt to divide Turkey after World War I. Apprehensions from Austria-Hungary, already suspicious of any revision of post war settlements and alarmed of possible revanchist from its eastern neighbors. Various Central European conflicts, mainly of Poland, with the FSR and no clear support for a mutual defense pact to stop communism.
The most visible failure was in the last day when the German Foreign Affair Minister stated that the proposals of France in respect to Germany where unacceptable and contradictory to the purpose of creating an organization of equal partners. Germany would not accept nothing less then equal treatment and full sovereignty of its affairs and defense. France's Prime Minister replied in anger, that Germany must win the trust of Europeans and the only guarantee of it was the Versailles system.
After the Conference
The end of the Conference left an air of uncertainty in many. The soured Franco-German relations had stopped any attempt of European unification. It was only during the government of La Rocque and the IV Republic that a Franco-German détente would surge.
Some nations would create regional blocs in Europe to safeguard their independence, neutrality or foster integration, like the Nordic Association (1934), Benelux Economic Union (1936), and Iberian Republican Federation (1940s).
People's Assembly of Europe (rival meeting)
The FSR organized a People's Assembly of Europe, as a rival venue of the Conference on European Union. This People's Assembly of Europe meet in Amsterdam (Netherlands) and was attended by delegates from the communist and radical left-wing parties and their affiliated organization. Under the guidance of the Comintern, it discussed, drafted and approved the Declaration of the Working People of Europe. This document called for the formation of a Union of European Socialist Republics, end of European colonialism and immediate independence of the colonies and disarmament. It established a People's Bureau for a Workers' Europe with the tasks of creating a network, distribute propaganda and campaign for UESR.