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Below is the text of a paper I delivered to the ‘Europa Forum’ of the Chinese Mission to the European Union on 20 February. Readers will be surprised to read the title, ‘Is Today’s European Union a Monnet-type Community?’


I will attempt to answer the question posed. To do so one needs to understand the philosophy of Jean Monnet and the Founding Fathers. To understand the EU, one must understand Monnet’s thinking. I am privileged to have worked with his principal collaborator, Max Kohnstamm, for over 20 years: some of you have met him. At 94 his sharpness of mind and memory are still there.

Structure of presentation

· Monnet the man

· His philosophy

· His methodology

· Creation of Europe

· Why a Monnet-type Community needed

· Is today’s EU a Monnet-type Community?

Monnet: man and life

Jean Monnet is still only really known among European cognoscenti, although he was one of most remarkable men of the 20th century. His career is astonishing:

1888 He was born in Cognac and worked in the family cognac business, including travelling outside Europe as early as 1906.

1914 He persuaded French Prime Minister Viviani that joint Franco-British acquisition and management of naval and military resources was essential: to compete with each other on the open market made no sense. He was then sent to London by the French government to help Franco-British cooperation.

1919 He became Deputy Secretary-General of the League of Nations.

1921 He resigned and returned to rescue the family’s cognac business.

1926 He became a private international banker in Eastern Europe, San Fransisco (where made and lost a fortune) and New York, including living and working in Shanghai.

1939 He worked in Paris again to coordinate inter-allied purchasing.

1940 He persuaded Winston Churchill to propose the union of Britain and France but it came too late as the Vicky government took over.

He lived and worked in Washington with access to President Roosevelt. According to George Marshall, Monnet’s work on arms procurement and cooperation shortened the war by one year

1943 He went to Algiers with Charles De Gaulle and the French resistance.

1946 After the war, he headed ‘Le Plan’ for the modernization of France, and began to work on the organization of Europe.

1950 He devised the Schuman Plan which led to the European Coal & Steel Community.

1952 Monnet became President of the High Authority (the Commission): Max Kohnstamm became its Secretary.

1955 He formed the very influential Action Committee for a United States of Europe. He worked to achieve the Treaty of Rome and European integration.

1979 Monnet died.

Monnet has always been an optimist but not utopian. He did not believe in miracles, but crucial moments of opportunity must not be lost. Patience and direction are to be preferred to speed & false timetables. He had a modesty of manner but an unshakeable intellectual self-confidence. To him, “There are two kinds of people: those who want to be someone and those who want to do something

Monnet’s philosophy

Monnet is remembered for his contribution to European integration as a ‘Founding Father’, but his philosophy and methodology are of wider relevance. There was no room for abstractions in his vision, because all his political action was centred on the human being and his liberty, development, responsibilities and dignity. The axiom, “Thought cannot be divorced from action ” epitomizes Monnet.

Friendship creates community, not the other way round. One must be led by hope and not fear. He vehemently opposed any attempt to dominate, dignity presupposing equality between people and between nations. Peace based on inequality will not succeed.

It is important to understand that Monnet saw the European Community, “not as an end in itself, but only a stage on the way to the organized world of tomorrow.” The world, Monnet concluded, had to be organized in a form other than according to 19th

century power philosophy. The goal of European integration is to eradicate this spirit of superiority and domination, not to create a new kind of Great Power.

Monnet sought the “common management of common problems”. In creating Europe, a balance with the US is established and a partnership which facilitates agreement between East and West. This becomes the beginning of the organization of peace: the alternative is the continuation of domination.

Monnet was seeking a revolution of international relations for both Europe and the world. This duality is central to his thinking of Europe, both as a political union and a ferment of change in world.

There are two pillars in Monnet’s thinking – human beings (without whom nothing can be achieved) and institutions (to ensure accumulation of collective experience. “Nothing is possible without men; nothing is lasting without institutions.”

‘Solidarity’ – ie unity of interests – is central to long term relationships. Monnet was in favour of free competition and market integration, but did not believe that the market could do everything on its own. He believed in organization and the need for a community of law based on equality before the law and solidarity. As Max Kohnstamm says, “Where law ends, hell begins.”

Monnet’s methodology

How did Monnet achieve his objectives? His first essential was to identify the common interest. This he did by drawing up a very short summary of the goals to be achieved, the resources available and the constraints to be observed – what he called a “balance sheet”. This was the way he persuaded President Roosevelt in 1940 that the US could produce many more aircraft, ships and tanks than estimated by his experts. And that’s how he shortened war. These balance sheets could take several months to work out.

Monnet always insisted that exercises were about finding common solutions to common problems – as we say today, win-wins and not zero sum games. Once a balance sheet is drawn up, the resultant overall view, jointly developed, changes the context of the problem, which is needed in order to solve it. Any action also requires imagination and deliberation, as well understanding others. It needs constant application to see the chance when it appears. One must be patient and know how to wait – as any cognac producer knows – timing is everything.

It must overcome the selfishness of men and nations and their insufficient understanding of the problem, as usually they look at it solely as it affects their short term interests.

Creation of ‘Europe’

The concrete foundation of European integration was the 1950 Schuman Declaration:this was Monnet’s inspiration. It was a proposal by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman, endorsed by his government. Its main thrust was:

· The need to eliminate the age-old opposition of France and Germany.

· A proposal by the French government that Franco-German coal and steel production be placed under a common authority, within the framework of an organization open to other European countries.

· The pooling of coal and steel production will immediately provide for the setting up of the common foundations for economic development as the first step in the federation of Europe.

· This solidarity in production will make plain that any war between France and Germany is not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible.

· The setting up of this powerful productive unit, open to all countries willing to take part, will lay the true foundation for their economic unification.

· This production will be offered to the world without distinction or exception, with the aim of contributing to raising living standards and to promoting peaceful achievements.

You can see that, although the practical proposal was economic, it was made within a security context: European integration, despite what Eurosceptics argue, was always a political project – to be achieved step by step through economic means.

The European Coal & Steel Communuity (ECSC) Treaty followed in 1952 between France, Germany, Italy & Benelux. There followed the European Economic Community (EEC) & European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC) Treaties in 1957. Unfortunately not the European Defence Treaty which was signed by the Six in 1952 but rejected by the French Parliament in 1954, although it was a French idea. Then came the Single European Act (1985) and the Treaties of Maastricht 1990), Amsterdam (1996), Nice (2000) and…Lisbon (2005). And, of course, the EU Six became nine, 10, 12, 15, 25 & 27. Today’s Union inevitably substantially different from the 1950s.

The US role in European integration is interesting. Without American government support at the outset, there would be no European Union today. The failure to persuade the UK to join the Community from the outset was a disappointment to both Europeans and Americans. The Marshall Plan (devised and overseen by US Secretary of State George Marshall) was vital for European economic recovery. A brilliant feature of it was that European countries had to buy from each other, and not from the US, if the product was available. The US of course wanted a strong Europe during the Cold War, but even after 1989, Washington on the whole preferred to deal with a united Europe. The low point in American support occurred during the first term of President George W Bush. EU Member State governments were divided over the invasion of Iraq and Washington exploited these differences, apparently dividing Europe into ‘old’ and ‘new’. Interestingly, although governments were divided, the invasion was unpopular throughout the Union, including in the UK.

Why a Monnet-type Community is still needed

Today’s world differs greatly from the world of the Founding Fathers. Major differences include:

· The extent of globalization.

· The privatization of the power to destroy.

· The growth of terrorism and international crime.

· The lack of energy security.

· The growth of China, India and other Asian countries.

· The problem of climate change.

· The lack of world order.

· The return of balance of power thinking.

However, the principles which guided Monnet are equally valid today.

Thus, Monnet in a note to himself in Algiers in 1943 wrote:

“The ultimate goal is an organization of the world that will permit the maximum development of its resources, their equitable distribution to the whole of mankind so as to create a state of prosperity and peace in the entire world, while allowing for the maximum development of the individual.”

This, you see, is as valid today as it was 65 years ago.

Let’s emphasize some of these principles:

· The eradication of the spirit of superiority and domination.

· Solidarity between members.

· Equality.

· The rule of law.

· The common management of common problems.

· The ‘civilianization’ of international relations through partnership, ie turning the impersonal traditions of relations between states into relations between people.

· The creation of the appropriate institutions.

Is Today’s European Union a Monnet-type Community?

We’ve seen why it is needed. But is it still a Monnet-type Community? In my view, sadly, ‘No’. Why not? It is very difficult to diagnose, there being no single reason. Thus, the EU is a great success having brought peace, stability and prosperity to Europe: with a single market, the euro and freedom to move from one end of the Union to the other. But this is not understood by its citizens. In the immediate post-war era, public opinion was far less important. Communication was limited. The ECSC and EEC were established behind closed doors and nobody objected.

European reconciliation and cooperation clearly led to peace, stability and prosperity, but these are now taken for granted. And we live in a world of instant, global communication, where news has become entertainment and good news is not usually good entertainment. In the past, Member State leaders led their countries: now they are more likely led by media, NGOs and interest groups. Political society has not kept pace with vast economic, social and cultural changes. Politicians as a class are very unpopular: why therefore should the public approve of what they do in Brussels? Particularly as they take credit for EU successes and blame Brussels for failures

There is now a destructive instead of constructive tension between the Union and the 27 Member States. Activity at EU level is seen as an extension of domestic politics. National political egos prevent cooperation at EU level – essential to face today’s challenges. The paradox is that the public understand that close European cooperation is essential but this is ignored by leaders without serious criticism. It is obvious that the EU must speak with a single voice on foreign policy if she is to be heard.

Western society has become more and more individualistic; the concept of community has weakened. Despite the original pooling of sovereignty, nationalist thinking is coming back and with it trade protectionism within Europe (eg in facing the financial and economic crisis). We are again in a world of shifting alliances. The difference between intergovernmentalism and the ‘Community method’ is not understood by the citizens as it has never been explained to them. ‘Federalism’ has become an ugly world, particularly in the UK where it is deliberately associated with a strong centralised body. And yet, Britain has been a centralised state but is now becoming federalist, with Scotland and Wales as well as Northern Ireland, having their own parliaments. Contrast Germany withits powerful Laender. Monnet always argued that the right of one Member State to veto had to be ended. Unanimity among 27 is a recipe for inaction. Even where unanimity is not required, there is often resistance against outvoting Member States. And, perhaps above all, solidarity, so important and effective with the Original Six has over time been diluted.

Finally, as the 1939-45 war fades into the distance and the benefits of the EU are taken for granted, support for European integration weakens. The 10 new Member States from central Europe also tend to have a different attitude to Brussels, in the light of their experience under the Soviet Union.

What will be the effect of the current financial and economic crisis on European integration. Unfortunately, although we have monetary union among 16 Member States, we do not have economic union, and therefore the EU role is only a coordinating one. It is clear that the Member States are not cooperating sufficiently, and indeed risk weakening the single market by conditions in their ‘stimulus’ packages and, for example, the way they are looking at the automobile industry. This is sad but, human nature being what it is, countries cooperate and integrate more in good than bad economic times, even though such cooperation is needed more when conditions are bad.

There is no doubt that the way we handle the crisis and its outcome will have a major effect, one way or the other, on European integration, but it is too early to say whether it will increase or lessen it.

A reminder of a quotation from the Schuman Declaration of 9 May 1950:

“The contribution which an organized and living Europe can bring to civilization is indispensable to the maintenance of peaceful relations. Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity.”

Alas, the spirit of the Schuman Declaration has been forgotten.

I would like to close on:

Mutuality: Confucius and Monnet

Professor Zhou Hong of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and I wrote jointly a chapter in the book: China-EU: a common future. We examined whether Confucius and Monnet shared any commonality of thought, despite their living in very different worlds at very different times.

We found that both Confucius and Monnet believed in ‘mutuality’: Confucius within a hierarchical society where people, though different in their positions and roles, share equal responsibility in maintaining peace and harmony; Monnet extended the concept of ‘mutuality’ to building institutions guaranteeing solidarity and peace – which is only achievable through equality. Equality was central to Monnet’s thinking and remains the key to better international relations.

The US and Europe must genuinely work with other countries as equals. This requires a fundamental change of attitude. This concept of mutuality seem, together with solidarity, to have lost their way in the European integration process. Somehow they must be restored – both to return to a Monnet-type Community and to build a partnership between China and Europe. But by a Monnet-type Community, I do not mean the Community of the 1950s and 1960s but one retaining the fundamental Monnet principles but adapting to societal changes and needs.


We need more, not less, Monnet-type thinking in Europe today. Indeed, his approach to international relations should be heeded by everyone. Equality. Solidarity. Collaboration not confrontation. Seeking common solutions to common problems. A generation of far-sighted leaders decided after the Second World War on the need for institutionalised cooperation. Let’s hope that these will be the guiding principles that govern Sino-European cooperation.


Jean Monnet: The First Statesman of Interdependence by F Duchene (paperback – 13 Mar 1996).

The EU Information Handbook, 2008 by Amcham EU.

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