Schuman issued his declaration at a time when Franco-German relations had reached an impasse. Paris and Bonn disagreed in particular about the status of the Saarland, which was politically autonomous, but had close economic ties to France. The French project sought to anchor the newly formed Federal Republic of Germany in a European structure in order to steer its development and guarantee peace in Europe.

By placing Germany on an equal footing with France, the Schuman plan aimed to improve relations between the two countries, by focusing on their shared interests, and bring about reconciliation between the two former ‘arch enemies’. In geographical terms, the ECSC was built around what might be termed ‘the Lorraine industrial basin’.