Born in 1886 in Luxembourg, the country of origin of his mother, Schuman was a man from a border region. His father, a German national, came from a village in Lorraine which was annexed to the German Reich in 1871, after the Franco-Prussian War. Schuman spent his entire childhood in Luxembourg, and studied in Bonn, Munich, Berlin and Strasbourg. He then opened a law firm in Metz, where he obtained French nationality after the First World War.

Schuman’s background thus made him particularly sensitive to the divisions between European countries. A staunch advocate of the European project as a means of strengthening peace and cooperation, from 1949 onwards Schuman called for the Council of Europe to have its headquarters in Strasbourg, the city which symbolised Franco-German reconciliation.