Jean Monnet

For other people named Jean Monnet, see Jean Monnet (disambiguation).
Jean Monnet
President of the High Authority of the European Coal and Steel Community
In office
10 August 1952  3 June 1955
Preceded by None
Succeeded by René Mayer
Deputy Secretary-General of the League of Nations
In office
Personal details
Born Jean Omer Marie Gabriel Monnet
(1888-11-09)9 November 1888
Cognac, Charente
Died 16 March 1979(1979-03-16) (aged 90)
Houjarray, Bazoches-sur-Guyonne
Resting place Panthéon, Paris, France
48°50′46″N 2°20′45″E / 48.84611°N 2.34583°E / 48.84611; 2.34583Coordinates: 48°50′46″N 2°20′45″E / 48.84611°N 2.34583°E / 48.84611; 2.34583
Citizenship French
Political party Independent
Spouse(s) Silvia de Bondini (m. 1934–79); his death
Religion Catholic Church

Jean Omer Marie Gabriel Monnet (French: [ʒɑ̃ mɔnɛ]; 9 November 1888 – 16 March 1979) was a French political economist and diplomat. An influential supporter of European unity, he is considered as one of the founding fathers of the European Union. Jean Monnet has been called “The Father of Europe” by those who see his innovative and pioneering efforts in the 1950s as the key to establishing the European Coal and Steel Community, the predecessor of today’s European Union.[1] Never elected to public office, Monnet worked behind the scenes of American and European governments as a well-connected pragmatic internationalist.[2] He was named patron of the 1980–1981 academic year at the College of Europe, in honour of his accomplishments.

Early years

Monnet was born in Cognac, a commune in the department of Charente in France, into a family of cognac merchants. At the age of sixteen, he abandoned his university entrance examinations part way through and moved to the United Kingdom, where he spent several years in London with Mr. Chaplin, an agent of his father's company. Subsequently, he traveled widely – to Scandinavia, Russia, Egypt, Canada, and the United States – for the family business.

World War I

Monnet firmly believed that the only path to an Allied victory lay in combining the war efforts of Britain and France, and he reflected on a concept that would coordinate war resources. In 1914, young Monnet was allowed to meet French Premier René Viviani on this issue and he managed to convince the French government to agree with him, in principle. However, during the first two years of the war, Monnet did not have much success pressing for a better organization of the allied economic cooperation. It was not until two years later that stronger combines like the Wheat Executive (end of 1916) and the Allied Maritime Transport Council (end of 1917) were set into motion, adding to the overall war effort.

Inter-war years

At the Paris Peace Conference, Monnet was an assistant to the French minister of commerce and industry, Etienne Clémentel, who proposed a "new economic order" based on European cooperation. The scheme was officially rejected by the Allies in April 1919.[3]

Due to his contributions to the war effort, Monnet, at the age of thirty-one, was named Deputy Secretary General of the League of Nations by French premier Georges Clemenceau and British statesman Arthur Balfour, upon the League's creation in 1919.

Soon disillusioned with the League because of its laborious and unanimous decision-making processes, Monnet resigned in 1923 and devoted himself to managing the family business, which was experiencing difficulties. In 1925, Monnet moved to America to accept a partnership in Blair & Co., a New York bank which merged with Bank of America in 1929, forming Bancamerica-Blair Corporation which was owned by Transamerica Corporation. He returned to international politics and, as an international financier, proved to be instrumental to the economic recovery of several Central and Eastern European nations. He helped stabilise the Polish złoty in 1927 and the Romanian leu in 1928. In November 1932, the Chinese Minister of Finance invited Jean Monnet to act as chairman of an East-West non-political committee in China for the development of the Chinese economy where he lived until 1936. During his time in China, Monnet's task of partnering Chinese capital with foreign companies led to the formal inauguration of the Chinese Development Finance Corporation (CDFC) as well as the reorganization of the Chinese railroads.[4]

In 1935, when Monnet was still in Shanghai, he became a business partner of George Murnane (a former colleague of Monnet at Transamerica ) in Monnet, Murnane & Co. Murnane was connected to the Wallenberg family in Sweden, the Bosch family in Germany, the Solvays and Boëls in Belgium, and John Foster Dulles, André Meyer, and the Rockefeller family in the United States.[5] He was considered among the most connected persons of his time.[6]

World War II

In December 1939, Monnet was sent to London to oversee the collectivization of the British and French war industries. His influence inspired Charles de Gaulle and Winston Churchill to agree on an Anglo-French union, in an attempt to rival the alliance between Germany and Italy.[7]

In August 1940, he was sent to the United States by the British Government, as a member of the British Supply Council, to negotiate the purchase of war supplies. Soon after his arrival in Washington, D.C., he became an advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Convinced that America could serve as "the great arsenal of democracy", he persuaded the President to launch a massive arms production program, both as an economic stimulus and to supply the Allies with military resources. In 1941, Roosevelt, with Churchill's agreement, launched the Victory Program, which represented the involvement of the United States in the war effort. After the war, John Maynard Keynes, a British economist, claimed that through his coordinating, Monnet had probably shortened World War II by a year.

In 1943, Monnet became a member of the National Liberation Committee, the French government of De Gaulle in exile in Algiers, designated Commissaire à l'Armement.[8] During a meeting on 5 August of that year, 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...

The Monnet Plan

Main article: Monnet Plan
French conclude agreement on lend-lease and reverse lend-lease. Jean Monnet, representative of the French Provisional Government signs agreements. Left to right: Henri Bonnet, French Ambassador, Joseph C. Grew, Undersecretary of State and Jean Monnet.

Following World War II, France was in severe need of reconstruction and completely dependent on coal from Germany's main remaining coal-mining areas, the Ruhr and the Saar. (The German coal fields in Upper Silesia had been handed over to Polish administration by the Allies in 1945, see Oder-Neisse line.)

In 1945, Monnet proposed the Monnet Plan, also known as the "Theory of l'Engrenage" (not to be confused with the Schuman plan). It included taking control of the remaining German coal-producing areas and redirecting the production away from the German industry and into the French, thus permanently weakening Germany and raising the French economy considerably above its pre-war levels. The plan was adopted by Charles de Gaulle in early 1946.[9]

Later that year, Monnet successfully negotiated the Blum–Byrnes agreement with the United States, which cleared France from a $2.8 billion debt (mostly World War I loans) and provided the country with an additional low-interest loan of $650 million. In return, France opened its cinemas to American movies.[10]

In 1947 France removed the Saar from Germany, with U.S. support, and turned it into the Saar Protectorate, which was politically independent and under complete French economic control. The area returned to German political administration in 1957 (economic reunification would take many years longer), but France retained the right to mine from its coal mines until 1981. (See: The Europeanisation of the Saarland)

The Ruhr Agreement was imposed on the Germans as a condition for permitting them to establish the Federal Republic of Germany.[11] The IAR controlled production levels, pricing, and the sales markets, thus ensuring that France received a considerable portion of the Ruhr coal production at low prices.

When tensions between France and Germany rose over the control of the then vital coal and steel industries, 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, 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.[12]

When Germany agreed to join the European Coal and Steel Community according to the Schuman Plan in 1951, the ongoing dismantling of German industry was halted and some of the restrictions on German industrial output were lifted.[13] West Germany joined the ECSC, alongside Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, while Britain refused, on grounds of national sovereignty.

In 1952, Jean Monnet became the first president of the High Authority and with the opening of the common market for coal under the ECSC in 1953, the last civilian production limitations placed on German industry were lifted, and the role of the IAR was taken over by the ECSC.[14]

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.

On 6 December 1963, Monnet was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, with Special Distinction, by United States President Lyndon Johnson. In 1972, Queen Elizabeth II made him an honorary Companion of Honour.

Private life

Memory plaque set up by the Jean Monnet Council after his death

In August 1929, during a dinner party in Paris, the 41-year-old Monnet met 22-year-old Italian painter Silvia Giannini (born in Bondini in 1907), who had recently married Francisco Giannini, an employee of Monnet when he was a representative in Italy. In April 1931, Silvia gave birth to a daughter, Anna, whose legal father was Giannini.

Since divorce wasn't allowed in most European countries, Silvia and Jean Monnet met in Moscow. In 1934, he returned from China via the Trans-Siberian railway, she from Switzerland.[9] He arranged for Silvia to obtain Soviet citizenship; she immediately divorced her husband and married Jean Monnet.

The idea for the Moscow marriage came from Dr. Ludwik Rajchman, whom Monnet had met during his time at the League of Nations (Rajchman was connected to the Soviet Ambassador to China, Bogomolov). It seems that the American and French ambassadors in Moscow, William Bullitt and Charles Aiphand, also played a role.

The custody of Anna was a problem; in 1935 Silvia took refuge with Anna in the Soviet consulate in Shanghai, where they were living at the time, because Francisco Giannini was trying to obtain custody of the child. The legal battle was decided in favour of Silvia in 1937 in New York, but the ruling wasn't recognized by some other countries. In 1941 Monnet and Silvia had another daughter, Marianne. The Monnet family returned to France in 1945 and after the death of Francisco Giannini in 1974, the couple married canonically in the cathedral of Lourdes.

5 years later, in 1979, Jean Monnet died at the age of 90 in his home in Houjarray, Bazoches-sur-Guyonne, where he was writing his memoirs.


Jean Monnet Building Luxembourg

In 1988, by order of the president François Mitterrand, Jean Monnet's remains were transferred to the Panthéon of Paris.

Saint-Etienne in eastern France is the site of Jean Monnet University (Université Jean Monnet de Saint-Etienne), situated on two campuses.

Several other European universities honour Monnet and his accomplishments: the University of Limerick, Ireland, has a lecture theatre named after him, and British educational institutions which honour Monnet include the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence at King's College London, the East Midlands Euro-Centre at Loughborough University, the European Research Institute at the University of Bath,[15] the Jean Monnet Centre at the University of Birmingham,[16] the Jean Monnet European Centre of Excellence at Cambridge,[17] the Jean Monnet European Centre of Excellence at the University of Essex,[18] the Centre for European Union Studies at the University of Hull,[19] the Kent Centre for Europe at the University of Kent,[20] the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence,[21] a partnership between the University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Salford, the Jean Monnet Centre at Newcastle University,[22] the Jean Monnet Centre for European Studies at the University of Wales[23] and the Jean Monnet High School in Bucharest, Romania.[24]

The European Commission named the Jean Monnet Building in Luxembourg after him, which houses the Directorate-General for Translation.[25]

In April 2011, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Paris, a new documentary, "Jean Monnet: Father of Europe" was produced.[26] The documentary includes interviews with colleagues of Monnet such as Georges Berthoin, Max Kohnstamm and Jacques-René Rabier, as well as former member of the European Court of Justice David A.O. Edward of the United Kingdom.

The European Union itself maintains his memory with the Jean Monnet Programme[27] of the Directorate-General for Education and Culture, which promotes knowledge on European integration on a worldwide scale, especially at the university level.

Marie-France Garaud, a Gaullist advisor to French President Georges Pompidou and later Prime Minister Jacques Chirac, accused him of the destruction of the nations's sovereignty and reproached him his wish of a federal Europe. She considers he was part of an American expectancy to build Europe in order to weaken France's power, and claimed in the talkshow Ce soir (ou jamais!): "He was an American agent. We even know how much he was paid, as it's now declassified".

The Jean Monnet House

The Jean Monnet House is located in Houjarray, Yvelines, 80 kilometers (50 miles) outside of Paris. This old farm became Jean Monnet’s property in 1945, upon his return to France. It is even here that Jean Monnet and his advisors, in the last days of April 1950, drew up the historic declaration that Robert Schuman used to address Europe on 9 May 1950, proposing the creation of the CECA (European Coal and Steel Community) as well as creating the basis of the European Community. In his office, Robert Schuman, Walter Hallstein, Paul-Henri Spaak, Konrad Adenauer, René Pleven, Helmut Schmidt, and many others exchanged their views with Jean Monnet on our common future. On Sundays, he had friends passing by come to his house; among them were Dwight Eisenhower, George Ball, and Edward Heath. He liked fireside conversations with famous journalists such as Walter Lippman, Hubert Beuve-Méry, or his neighbor Pierre Viansson-Ponté. This house was also where Jean Monnet died on 16 March 1979. In 1982, even though the house had deteriorated because of a lack of upkeep, the European Parliament considered Monnet’s home to be a symbolic place loaded with memories, thus being common heritage for Europeans. The Parliament acquired it and entrusted its reconstitution, management, and organization to the Jean Monnet Association. Since 2000, a multimedia conference room has welcomed bigger groups of visitors. The Jean Monnet Association team organizes about 250 conferences on European history and current events each year.[28]

See also



  1. Jean Monnet:Father of Europe
  2. Times obituary
  3. MacMillan, Margaret. "Paris 1919". Random House, 2002, p. 183
  4. "Le Cercle member: Jean Monnet". Retrieved 3 May 2015.
  5. ""Europe's founder" Jean Monnet" (PDF). Retrieved 3 May 2015.
  6. 2003, Charles D. Ellis, James R. Vertin, 'Wall Street People: True Stories of the Great Barons of Finance', Volume 2, p. 28-30 (biography of Andre Meyer)
  7. Monnet, Jean (1 January 1976), Memoires, Paris: Arthème Fayard, pp. 20–21, ISBN 2-213-00402-1
  8. "Le Comité français de la libération nationale". Digithèque MJP. Retrieved 2015-06-09.
  9. 1 2 "Mr Jean Monnet", The Times, 16 November 1979
  10. Irwin M. Wall (1991). The United States and the Making of Postwar France, 1945–1954. Cambridge U.P. p. 55.
  11. Amos Yoder, "The Ruhr Authority and the German Problem", The Review of Politics, Vol. 17, No. 3 (July 1955), pp. 345–358
  12. Declaration of 9 May 1950 EUROPA – The official website of the European Union
  13. "The British foreign ministers' 1949 letter to Schuman". Retrieved 7 October 2013.
  14. "Information bulletin Frankfurt, Germany: Office of the US High Commissioner for Germany Office of Public Affairs, Public Relations Division, APO 757, US Army, January 1952 ''"Plans for terminating international authority for the Ruhr"'' , pp. 61–62". Retrieved 7 October 2013.
  15. European Research Institute Archived 14 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  16. "Jean Monnet Centre". Retrieved 7 October 2013.
  17. Jean Monnet European Centre of Excellence
  18. Ariadni. "Jean Monnet European Centre of Excellence". Retrieved 7 October 2013.
  19. "Centre for European Union Studies". 30 July 2013. Retrieved 7 October 2013.
  20. Kent Centre for Europe Archived 5 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  21. Welcome Events Details of our events (2 October 2013). "Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence". Retrieved 7 October 2013.
  22. Jean Monnet Centre Archived 26 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  23. Jean Monnet Centre for European Studies Archived 13 February 2005 at the Wayback Machine.
  24. Jean Monnet High School, Bucharest, Romania
  25. "EU – DG Translation – Get in touch with us". 15 February 2012. Retrieved 7 October 2013.
  26. "Jean Monnet: Father of Europe". Retrieved 7 October 2013.
  27. Jean Monnet Programme
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