By DOUGLAS HYDE SLOWLY and painfully, under the savage blows dealt by Communism, the countries which were once united in Christendom are again coming together.
With the situation daily becoming more grave in Asia, a number of significant steps have this week been taken towards the more effective defence of the West.
(1) First big step in the direction of unity was taken at Strasbourg at the week-end when the Assembly of the Council of Europe began clearing the way for West Germany to be recognised as a full member of the European family.
(2) Those responsible for negotiating the implementation of the Schuman Plan, which can strengthen Europe's economy and iron out centuries-old differences between France and Germany, now hope to have draft treaties ready for submission. to their Governments by October.
(3) Giving "teeth" to the defence of the West —since the fight has already been made by the Communists in to a n armed one—the French Government on Monday announced its intention to undertake a three-year £2,000 million rearmament programme
To Strasbourg were sent 125 members of the parliaments of fifteen different countries; an eighteen-man delegation authorised to demand immediate federation of Europe went for the first time from West Germany.
And so, over the new House of Europe in which the Assembly is meeting. the German flag went up on French soil for the first time since the war.
The desire for unity in the face of aggression early found expression when the thirteen Foreign Ministers, meeting on the eve of the Assembly, decided that representatives of both the German Republic and the Saar should be invited to cooperate in their work on appropriate occasions.
Both governments, as associate members, have hitherto been permitted only to sit in the Consultative Assembly. Their officials will also now be permitted to join in the activities of the organisations Working Parties.
Hopes of the opponents of the Schuman plan that the scheme for integrating Europe's steel and coal industries would be overshadowed by events in Korea were dashed when it was reported in Paris on Sunday that the six countries now discussing it had in the last few days reached political agreement on
outstanding political problems. Russian pressure upon all those concerned has, indeed, tended only to emphasise the need to pool resources and to eliminate sources of friction between them.
Thus, as significant as the French rearmament programme itself is the memoraddum in which it was announced.
In it the French Government urged the creation of a financial and economic pool. which would mean the fusing of the operations of the armaments industries of all the 12 States who have signed the Atlantic Pact.
The memorandum asked for a unified command of all Western forces.
The costly arms programme will only be made possible by means of considerable American aid, for it is part of the dilemma of the democracies that in equipping themselves to meet Communism's military threat they may easily impoverish themselves to a point where the growth of Communism within the State is stimulated by resulting economic difficulties.
The British Government has indicated its intention of using ten per cent. of this country's national income on defence and the French will now be diverting a similar or even larger percentage.