[Last update: 2 April 2009]
The Saar Question
Part I: 1949 - 1950
From 1945, the French government seeks to isolate the Saar territory from Germany and take control of its industry and economy. The border to Germany is closed, the "Saar-Mark" replaced by the Franc and the Saar is given its own nationality (which is not recognized internationally). In 1947, the Saar gets its own, pro-French government headed by Johannes Hoffmann but remains under the control of high commissioner Grandval sent by the French government.
To give the Saar wider international recognition, the French government wishes the Saar to become a member of the Council of Europe. On 17 august 1949, during the first session of the consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Georges Bidault, links the admission of Western Germany to the admission of the Saar.
Three weeks later, the Assembly asks the Committee of Ministers to examine the possible admission of Germany and the Saar and on 31 October 1949, the President of the Saar government sends a request for admission to the Council of Europe.
The debate on the admission of new members (Western Germany, Saar and Austria) takes place on the second session of the Committee of Ministers, on 04 November 1949. M. Rasmussen, Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, mentions Resolution (49) 24 in his letter to the President of the Consultative Assembly, Paul-Henri Spaak, who informs the Standing Committee of the Assembly's approval of the admission of the Saar as an associate Member.
After a debate chaired by Robert Schuman, the Committee of Ministers decides, at its third Session of 30 March 1950, to invite the German Federal Republic and the Saar to become associate Members of the Council of Europe. The next day, the Committee decides, after a debate, to send invitations to the governments of the German Federal Republic and the Saar.
In a letter [fr] to the Secretary General, Johannes Hoffmann informs of the acceptance of associated membership proclaimed [fr] by the Saar Parliament on 02 May 1950. At last, the Secretary General informs [fr] the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, representatives in the Committee of Ministers of the deposit of the instrument of accession of the Saar on 13 May 1950.
The admission process is accompanied by a debate regarding the position of associate members, resulting in the adoption of Resolution (50) 36.
Part II: 1952 - 1953
The ambiguity of the Saar Status becomes an obstacle to Franco-German reconciliation and the process of European integration. Moreover, the governments of France and the Saar obstruct the development of democracy in the Saar, banning the Democratic Party of the Saar and refusing to license the Christian-Democrat and Social-Democrat parties. The CDU and the DPS send telegrams to the Council in protest of these violations.
On 29 February 1952 Germany files a complaint to the Council of Europe. However, the memorandum "Violation of Human Rights and political Freedoms in the Saar" is withdrawn by the Committee of Ministers during a meeting in Paris from 18 to 20 March 1952 as Franco-German negotiations are announced.
On 23 July 1952 French foreign Minister Robert Schuman makes a proposition that will be a central preoccupation of the Assembly for the next two years. He proposes to "Europeanize" the Saar and make it the capital of the E.C.S.C.
With negotiations repeatedly failing and resuming, the question of the violations of political rights in the Saar remains unresolved. The German representatives present a request for inclusion in of that question in the Assembly's agenda, but it is declared inadmissible by a majority of the Standing Committee of the Assembly on 15 September 1952.
Two days later two motions for a resolution, presented in the Consultative Assembly, concerning the electoral system in the Saar and the freedom of public opinion in the Saar, are rejected. But on the same day, M. van der Goes van Naters (from the Dutch Labour Party) and other members of the Consultative Assembly file a request for inclusion in the session agenda of the question on "The future Position of the Saar", which is adopted.
Taking a close interest in the Saar question, van der Goes van Naters submits a programme of work to the Committee on General Affairs on 24 September 1952. He also prepares a Report on the future position of the Saar, which is dispatched to the members of the Committee on General Affairs on 26 August 1953, and to all Representatives on 07 September 1953. An initial discussion of the Report takes place in the Committee during the September session of the Assembly, when French and Saar amendments are submitted.
On 17 September 1953 the Committee on General Affairs establishes an interim report on the future position of the Saar. A week later, M. van der Goes van Naters exposes his plan during the Assembly debate. The basic position of the Assembly is then laid down in Recommendation 57, adopted on 25 September 1953, which recommends the convocation of an International Conference. This conference is to deliberate on the basis of the results of the bilateral negotiations, and on such proposals as might be made by the Consultative Assembly. This recommendation is welcomed by the parliament of the Saar on 1 October 1953.
The second discussion in the Committee takes place in Paris in November, when German amendments are submitted. The economic paragraphs of the Draft-Resolution are referred to a special Sub-Committee. This Sub-Committee meets in Brussels in December, reaching agreement on the paragraphs referred to it.
Part III: 1954
The negotiations between France and Germany having resumed, the Committee of Ministers adopts a resolution encouraging both parties to find a solution and, on 06 February 1954, issues the "Proposals defining the European Statute of the Saar".
The Standing Committee decides on 11 February 1954 not to directly transmit the proposals defining the European Statute of the Saar to governments until the question of unlicensed parties in the Saar has been included. A month later, the subcommittee in charge of that question submits its draft resolution.
On 09 March 1954, the governments of France and Germany agree to adopt the proposals put forward by the Committee on Generals Affairs as the basis of future bilateral negotiations, even before the proposals have been considered by the Assembly.
While a Franco-German agreement is being negotiated, following a debate on the future position of the Saar, the Assembly adopts on 26 May 1954 Resolution 46 (based on the motion presented by M. de Menthon), deferring further consideration of the problem until the second part of the Sixth Ordinary Session, in September.
The same day, during the 14th session of the Committee of Ministers, the representatives of France and Germany vow to solve the Saar question as quickly as possible and thank the Assembly for its contributions.
And so they do: On 23 October 1954, the governments of France and Germany finally reach an understanding, agreeing to give the Saar a European statute, on which a referendum is to be held by the Saar population. Until then, the Saar is to be administrated by a commissioner of the WEU.
Part IV: 1954 – 1957
When the Assembly meets on 11 December 1954, it considers the Franco-German agreement settled and adopts Resolution 68, based on the Committee of General Affairs' Draft resolution, presented the previous month.
In view of the provision in Article II of the Saar statute, whereby the annual report of the European Commissioner is to be transmitted to the W.E.U. Assembly rather than to the consultative Assembly for consideration, the Consultative Assembly adopts Reference to Committee No. 68, "instructing the Committee on General Affairs to follow closely the implementation of the Saar Statute until the Assembly of Western European Union takes up its functions".
For the mean time, the Committee of Ministers redefines the representation of the Saar in the Council of Europe in Resolution (55) 14, adopted on 05 July 1955.
In the referendum of 23 October 1955 over two thirds of the Saar population votes against the Europeanization-statute, thereby expressing their will to rejoin the German Federal Republic.
A year later, on 27 October 1956, the German Chancellor and the French Prime Minister sign the Luxemburg Staatsvertrag, whereby France accepts the integration of the Saar into West Germany.
The Governments of France and Germany make a Declaration on the settlement of the Saar question at the 19th Session of the Committee of Ministers, held in Paris on 15 December 1956.
On 01 January 1957 the Saar is politically integrated into the Federal Republic of Germany. A few days later the President of the Assembly takes a look back at the settlement of the Saar question and pays tribute to the people who have enabled this successful solution to be attained.
Freymond, Jacques: Le conflit sarrois 1945-1955. (Études de cas de conflits internationaux ; 1). Bruxelles: Institut de sociologie Solvay, 1959.
Heinen, Armin: Saarjahre. Politik und Wirtschaft im Saarland 1945 – 1955. (Historische Mitteilungen: Beiheft; 19). Stuttgart: Steiner, 1996.
Schmidt, Robert H.: Saarpolitik 1945 – 1957. 3 Bde. 1959. 1960. 1962. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot.
Van der Goes Van Naters: L'Histoire de la Sarre en documents (European Yearbook: vol.II, pp.139-150). The Hague: Nijhoff, 1956.
Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin / German Historical Museum, Berlin
Lebendiges Museum Online / Living Museum Online
Saarland / Saar
Die Geschichte des Saarlandes von 1835 bis 1959 – Übersicht / The history of the Saar from 1835 to 1959 – Summary
Saarland (1947-1956) / Saar (1947-1956)
Documents on the Internet
Rechtsgeschichte-live / History of law-life
Vertrag zwischen der Bundesrepublik Deutschland und der Französischen Republik zur Regelung der Saarfrage vom 27. Oktober 1956 / Treaty between the Federal Republic of Germany and the French Republic to settle the question of the Saar, 27 October 1956