European integration and the Cold War were separate but intertwined. Chronologically, the two share the same formative decades – although the basic idea of uniting the separate states of Europe into a single political and economic entity long predates the East–West conflict. Both European unity and the course of the Cold War became, moreover, central preoccupations of Western leaders on both sides of the Atlantic throughout the 1947–89 period. Yet more often than not, European integration and the Cold War have been studied in near total isolation from one another, the subject of separate journals, academic conferences and books, and the primary interest of two distinct groups of specialist scholars who have rarely exchanged ideas. This chapter will hence begin with a brief explanation of why this separation has occurred, before going on to argue that the interaction between the evolution of the Cold War and the gradual development of today’s European Union (EU) was so intimate as to make it vital for historians to break down the barriers between the two fields.
One of the reasons why the two historiographies have diverged is that the most consistently successful forms of European integration have been primarily concerned with economic matters rather than military or political cooperation. Of the two economic and military plans launched within months of each other in 1950, the Schuman Plan – intended to pool the coal and steel industries of France, Germany, Italy, and the Benelux countries – succeeded in bringing the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) into being in 1952.