Jean Monnet was born in Cognac, France into a rich family of cognac merchants in 1888. He moved to London, England and chose to deal with his father’s commercial activities at the age of 16 instead of a proper university education. He travelled widely -to Scandinavia, Russia, Egypt, Canada, and the United States- for the family business. He was excused from military duty for health reasons, he decided to be useful in other ways than fighting, namely by solving the looming problem of organizing supplies, which the Allies had great difficulties. The French government agreed upon the implementation of Monnet’s plan in 1914 and Monnet began to work in the private office of French Prime Minister René Viviani on this issue. Due to his success in the war efforts, Monnet at the age of 31 was named as the Deputy Secretary General of the League of Nations upon its creation in 1919 by French premier Georges Clemenceau and British statesman Arthur Balfour. Disappointed from the bureaucratic procedures of the League of Nations, Monnet resigned from his job in 1923 and began to work as an international financier. He proved to be instrumental in the economic recovery of several Central and Eastern European nations, helping to stabilize the Polish zloty in 1927 and the Romanian leu in 1928. In 1929, his experience in international finance led him to found and co-manage the Bancamerica-Blair, a bank in San Francisco. From 1934 to 1936, at the invitation of Chiang Kai-shek, Monnet lived in China, managing the reorganization of the Chinese railway network. In December 1939, Jean Monnet was sent to London to oversee the collectivization of France and England’s war production capacities. Monnet’s influence inspired Charles de Gaulle and Winston Churchill to accept an unsuccessful plan for the union of France and the United Kingdom against their common rivals the Nazi Germany and the fascist Italy.
In August 1940, Jean Monnet was sent to the United States by the British Government as a member of the British Supply Council, in order to negotiate the purchase of war supplies. Soon after his arrival in USA, he became an advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt. Convinced that USA could serve as “the great arsenal of democracy” he persuaded the president to launch a massive arms production program to supply the Allies with military material. Shortly thereafter in 1941, Roosevelt launched the Victory Program, which represented the entry of the United States into the war effort. After the war famous British economist John Maynard Keynes said that through his coordinating Monnet had probably shortened WW II by one year. In 1943, Monnet became a member of the National Liberation Committee, General De Gaulle’s French government in exile in Algeria. During a meeting on 5 August 1943, Monnet declared to the Committee: “There will be no peace in Europe, if the states are reconstituted on the basis of national sovereignty... The countries of Europe are too small to guarantee their peoples the necessary prosperity and social development. The European states must constitute themselves into a federation”. After the WW II, Monnet prepared a plan (Monnet Plan also known as the theory of l’engrenage) to pool the coal and steel production of the two countries (France and Germany) under the direction of a quasi-federal High Authority. The plan was promoted by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman and formed the basis of future attempts of European integration. In April 1951 the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was set up and Monnet became its president. 6 members: Western Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg. “Recognizing that Europe can be built only through practical achievements which first create de facto solidarity, and through the establishment of common bases for economic development” (Memoirs, p.357).
Monnet saw the control of Ruhr region (rich for its coal and steel resources) as the key point for the disagreements between France and Germany. His plan was to force two countries to share these resources in order to prevent aggressive industrialization of Germany and balance it with a French industrialization. On 9 May 1950, with the agreement of Chancellor Konrad Adenauer of West Germany, French Minister of Foreign Affairs Robert Schuman made a declaration. This declaration, prepared by Monnet for Schuman, proposed the integration of the French and German coal and steel industries under joint control, a so-called High Authority, and open to the other countries of Europe. Monnet believed that by Europeanizing the question of German rearmament, one could start thinking about creating a functioning European Federation against the growing communism (USSR) threat. On 24 October 1950, Monnet drafted a declaration proposing the establishment of an European Army to be attached to the new political institutions of Europe. This included a complete integration of human and material components under a single political and military European authority; the creation of the post of European Minister of Defense, and a European Defense Council; finally, the plan also including drafting a European defense budget.
Monnet firmly believed that any European political arrangement that fell short of transferring national sovereignty to common (European) institutions would open the way to the renaissance of militaristic nationalism in Germany. European Defense Community Treaty was signed in 1952 (but yet to be ratified by national parliaments). On 24 August 1954, the French national assembly votes against the ratification of the EDC treaty (319 against, 264 in favor). Leftist wings in Europe directed European governments to focus on social welfare instead of European army and armament. In 1955, Monnet founded the Action Committee for the United States of Europe in order to revive European construction following the failure of the EDC. It brought European political parties and trade unions together to become a driving force behind the initiatives which laid the foundation for the European Union as it eventually emerged: first the European Economic Community (EEC) (1958) (known commonly as the “Common Market”), which was established by the Treaty of Rome of 1957; later the European Community (1967) with its corresponding bodies, the European Commission and the European Council of Ministers, British membership in the Community (1973), the European Council (1974), the European Monetary System (1979), and the European Parliament (1979). This process reflected Monnet’s belief in a gradualist approach for constructing European unity.
After retiring to his home in Houjarray, Monnet wrote his memoirs. He died in 1979 at the age of 90. In 1988, by order of the French president François Mitterrand, Jean Monnet's remains were transferred to the Panthéon of Paris. According to his biographer François Duchêne, Monnet was “the first statesman of interdependence”. But it must be remembered that he was an enthusiastic Gaullist too. Monnet was an elite figure coming up from a rich family of cognac merchants (European Union of capital OR the people). His famous saying about European integration was; “Nous ne coalisons pas des Etats, nous unissons des hommes (We don’t unify the states, we unify people)”. Monnet’s political positioning is rather controversial (considering his Gaullist stance and “arsenal of democracy” definition for USA); European federalism for European peace or for a stronger France against an under surveillanced Germany? It is highly questionable whether he was a dreamer or realistic (European federalism is still controversial). Monnet was a devout Roman Catholic. He totally rejected the idea that Europe should consist of sovereign nations. He believed in the Catholic vision that Europe should become a federal super state. He has many epithets such as; “Europe’s founding father”, “pioneer”, “statesman”, “Saint” etc.
The emergence of European integration theories introduced into IR a new paradigm which challenged the dominant Realist view of the sovereign states as the only significant actor in IR. This new paradigm -neo-functionalism- together with the federalist ideology became the driving intellectual force behind European integration. This intellectual power backed up by Jean Monnet’s incremental type of federalism (gradual integration) and practical solutions laid the foundation of ESCS and EEC. Monnet’s method was Gaullist and France-oriented but he was incremental type of federalist. “In a note written for the Committee of National Liberation in Algeria on August 5, 1943, I had said: There is no real peace in Europe, if the states are reconstituted on a basis of national sovereignty. (...) They must have larger markets. Their prosperity is impossible, unless the States of Europe form themselves in a European Federation”. “The solution of the European problem is all important to the life of France”.
As an overall assessment, Monnet’s outlook was transactional leadership which means the art of tying up compromises between political forces in the normal operation of a settled system. He also possessed the qualities of a transforming leadership which requires an altogether rarer capacity to change the terms in which the political debate is carried on.
- Fransen, Frederic J., “The Supranational Politics of Jean Monnet”, (2001), Greenwood Publishing Group (retrieved on 27.03.2009 from http://books.google.com.tr/)
- Mazower, Mark, “Dark Continent: Europe’s Twentieth Century”, (1998), London: Penguin Books
- Duchêne, François, “Jean Monnet: The First Statesman of Interdependence”, (1994), W.W. Norton & Co Inc
- Monnet, Jean, “Memoirs”, (1978), London: Collins
- Brinkley, Douglas, “Jean Monnet: The Path to European Unity”, (1991), New York: St. Martin’s PR