Jean Monnet

Jean Omer Marie Gabriel Monnet (November 9, 1888March 16, 1979) is regarded by many as the architect of European Unity. Never elected to public office, Monnet worked behind the scenes of American and European governments as a well-connected pragmatic internationalist.


Early years

Monnet was born in Cognac, France, into a family of cognac merchants. At the age of sixteen, he abandoned his university-entrance examinations part way through and moved to London where he spent two years studying business and English. Subsequently, he travelled widely — Scandinavia, Russia, Egypt, Canada, the United States — for the family business.

World War I

In 1914, Monnet was excused from military duty for health reasons but he set to making himself useful in other ways, namely by tackling the looming problem of organizing supplies, which the Allies were unable to resolve and which could have compromised the outcome of the conflict. Monnet believed that the only path that would lead to an Allied victory lay in the merging of France and England's war efforts and he proposed a plan that would co-ordinate war resources. The French government agreed upon its implementation.

Due to his success in the war efforts, Monnet, at the age of thirty-one, was named Deputy Secretary General of the League of Nations upon its creation in 1919 by French premier Clemenceau and British statesman Balfour.

Soon disillusioned with the League because of its laborious unanimous decision-making processes, Monnet resigned in 1923 in order to devote himself to managing the family business, which was experiencing difficulties. Later, as an international financier, he proved to be instrumental in the economic recovery of several Central and Eastern European nations, helping to stabilise 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, assisting with the reorganization of the Chinese railway network.

World War II

In December, 1939, Jean Monnet was sent to London to oversee the collectivization of the two countries' war production capacities. When the French government fell in June 1940, Monnet's influence inspired de Gaulle and Churchill to accept a plan for a union of France and the United Kingdom to enable the two countries to stand up to Nazism.

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 Washington, he became an advisor to President Roosevelt. Convinced that America 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, with Churchill's agreement, launched the Victory Program, which represented the entry of the United States into the war effort. After the war, the British economist John Maynard Keynes was to say that through his co-ordinating Monnet had probably shortened World War II by one year.

In 1943, Monnet became a member of the National Liberation Committee, the French government in exile in Algiers. 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..."

European Coal and Steel Community

Following liberation, Monnet proposed a "global plan for modernization and economic development" to the French government. Appointed Planning Commissioner by de Gaulle, he oversaw the revitalization of the French economy. It was from this position that, in 1949, Monnet realized that the friction between Germany and France for control of the Ruhr, the important coal and steel region, was rising to dangerous levels, presaging a possible return to hostilities as had happened after the First World War. Monnet and his associates conceived the idea of a European Community. On 9 May 1950, with the agreement of Chancellor Konrad Adenauer of West Germany, French Minister of Foreign Affairs Robert Schuman made a declaration in the name of the French government. This declaration, prepared by Monnet for Schuman, proposed 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. Schuman declared:

"Through the consolidation of basic production and the institution of a new High Authority, whose decisions will bind France, Germany and the other countries that join, this proposal represents the first concrete step towards a European federation, imperative for the preservation of peace." [1] (

Shortly thereafter, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands responded favorably, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was born. Britain was invited to participate, but it refused on grounds of national sovereignty. In 1952, Jean Monnet became the first president of the High Authority. In 1953 Monnet was awarded the Karlspreis by the city of Aachen in recognition of his achievements.

Common Market

In 1955, Monnet founded the Action Committee for the United States of Europe in order to revive European construction following the failure of the European Defense Community (EDC). It brought political parties and European 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 ninety-one. His ashes were interred in the Panthéon of Paris.


  • "There is no future for the people of Europe other than in union." — Jean Monnet
  • "[Monnet was] someone with a pragmatic view of Europe's need to escape its historical parochialism." — Dean Acheson

See also


  • Jean Monnet: The First Statesman of Interdependence by Francois Duchene (1994); ISBN 0393034976

External links

es:Jean Monnet fr:Jean Monnet it:Jean Monnet nl:Jean Monnet pl:Jean Monnet pt:Jean Monnet


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