Former Laureates

Robert Schuman

Robert Schuman

1959

Professor Karl Jaspers and the French politician Robert Schuman shared the Erasmus Prize in 1959 in the field of Philosophy and Politics. The common denominator was their vision for the future Europe.

Robert Schuman will be remembered as the founder of what was to become the EEC and the EU by his initiative in forming the ‘Coal and Steel Community’, the first European body with supranational decision-making powers. He waged an unceasing and visionary struggle for a new and united Europe. Schuman’s proposal, the Schuman plan, as it is called, launched on 9 May 1950 and developed by Jean Monnet, involved the bringing together of French and German steel production under a supranational committee which other European lands could also join.

Robert Schuman, born in 1886, was a German citizen until 1919; he then took French citizenship. He studied law in Germany but became a member of the French parliament in 1919. In 1940, when he was Undersecretary of State for refugee affairs, he became involved in the resistance, and was imprisoned by the Germans. After the war he occupied a number of ministerial posts, and was Prime Minister in 1947-48. From 1958 until his death in 1963 he was member, chairman and honorary chairman of the European Parliament, an institution whose foundations he himself had laid.

Karl Jaspers and Robert Schuman allocated their Erasmus Prize together to a Seminarium Erasmianum. This was held at Noordwijk in 1962, in collaboration with the Europe Institute of the University of Leiden. The aim of the seminar was a searching discussion, between two generations of scholars, of Europe’s contribution to a developing world. Several dozen participants from Europe and beyond came together to discuss European culture.