The first Council of ministers of what was going to become the EU was held in 1952. It was served by a small Secretariat. A selection of documents on the early days of the Secretariat is published here as a foretaste of the wealth of resources made available by our colleagues in the archives.
The documents, mainly in French like all records from those early days of EU integration, highlight the organisational challenges and institutional issues faced by the small Secretariat. Below are short descriptions and links.
Interested in how the Secretariat evolved since then? Our online bibliography on the EU Council includes articles and books on the role, structure and functioning of this branch of the European civil service.
- Nomination provisoire de Christian Calmes comme 1er Sécretaire (extrait du procés verbal de la 1ère session du Conseil de Ministres qui s’est tenue à Luxembourg du 8 au 10 septembre 1952) and Projet de décision sur l’organisation du Secrétariat.
The first session of the Council appointed Luxembourg diplomat C. Calmes as Secretary. The minutes record that “Le Secrétaire expose ses vues sur l’organisation du Sécretariat. Le Conseil estime que les effectifs du personnel doivent au début se limiter au volume strictement nécéssaire”. A few weeks later a note and a draft decision on how to organise the Secretariat were drafted. The note sees the Secretariat as “un corps administratif avisé […] neuf mais non inexperimenté”, to support Council in ensuring “une harmonisation constante entre l’action de la Communauté et celles des Etats membres”. On staff, a balanced national representation for higher grades was felt as a pre-requisite to develop “un véritable ésprit international” and “une conscience commune”.
- Attributions du SG (note)
The first list of tasks for the then 6-member Secretariat, with the provision of “personnel de renforcement” if needed, from the High Authority.
- 1ère note de service (4 novembre 1952)
This document opens a window on working methods in a small secretariat in Europe in 1952, with a focus on filing and indexing. Note that “le courrier est remis a Monsieur le Sécretaire qui en fait l’afféctation”.
- 1er état prévisionnel des dépenses administratives du Conseil de Ministres pour la période du 8 septembre 1952 au 30 juin 1953 (Luxembourg, le 17 décembre 1952)
The first administrative budget tries to forecast expenditure in an institution still in the making, with a staff of 11. Note the remarks to the effect that “un effectif double en personnel comprendra nécéssairement le double en mobilier” and “il faudra prévoir encore 3 machines à écrire éléctriques, deux appareils d’enregistrement et accessoires, une installation de traduction simultanée”.
- 1ère note du Sécrétariat au Conseil (Luxembourg, 29 novembre 1952)
Notes from the Secretariat on the agenda of the second session of the Council, on delicate issues of competition policy. The Secretariat’s role as a facilitator of negotiation already emerges in the way a letter from the High Authority to the Presidency is summarised by the Secretariat. On a more practical matter, note the communication methods in case of urgency: “la demande de la Haute Autorité à été communiquée télégraphiquement aux Gouvernments”.
- Echange entre le Secrétaire du Conseil, le Secrétaire de la Haute Autorité et le Secrétaire de l’Assemblée commune sur l’harmonisation des états prévisionnels (27 novembre 1952)
Early attempts at interinstitutional cooperation on administrative matters. Note that none of the three Secretaries was called, then, a Secretary General.
Germany was to chair the first session of the Council. This is the French translation of an original letter by Walter Hallstein, then a high official in the Foreign Ministry of Germany, to embassies in the 5 other Member States, asking ambassadors to forward to the ministers of the host countries the draft agenda proposed by Chancellor Adenauer and report back their reactions. Note the reference in point 2 to discussions on a European political authority and to the relationship with the UK, with Adenauer and Schuman agreeing on the need for a political dimension in the proceedings of the Council.
It is interesting to compare the early establishment plan of the Institutions as they appear from this 1954 document. Note for example that the Council Secretariat had policy divisions dealing with, respectively General-, Economic-, Customs, trade and transport Affairs, and a Jurisconsulte. The Service Administratif directly reporting to the Secretary had sections dealing with Translation, Archives and mail (including printing), Finances, and an Internal and Conferences Section itself comprising separate Bureaus for Typing and for Supplies.
Note the already more complex organisation of the High Authority and of the Assembly. The High Authority included a Press and information Service under the Personnel and Budget division, whereas press and information fell in the legal area at the Council Secretariat. In the 1954 establishment plan The Assembly had a Service études et documentation.
Planning ceremonial arrangements of the entirely new Institutions required some effort. Note the passing reference, on page 3, to the “caractère fédéral” of the Council.