Jean Monnet

French political economist regarded by as a chief architect of European unity (1888-1979)

Jean Omer Marie Gabriel Monnet (9 November 188816 March 1979) is regarded by many as a chief architect of the institutions which would form the European Union. Never elected to public office, Monnet worked behind the scenes of American and European governments as a well-connected pragmatic internationalist.

Continue, continue, there is no future for the people of Europe other than in union.


  • France is the nation of the rights of man. … I am sure that none of you commits the insult of thinking that the government, the army, or the administration could wish for and organize torture.
    • Speech on the war in French Algeria before French National Assembly (1957), cited in Torture: The Role of Ideology in the French–Algerian War (1989) by Rita Maran, p. 44

Jean Monnet 1888-1979

Quotes in the biographical profile at The History of the European Union by the Jean Monnet Association
  • There will be no peace in Europe if the States rebuild themselves on the basis of national sovereignty, with its implications of prestige politics and economic protection…. The countries of Europe are not strong enough individually to be able to guarantee prosperity and social development for their peoples. The States of Europe must therefore form a federation or a European entity that would make them into a common economic unit.
    • Speech to the French National Liberation Committee (5 August 1943)
  • 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.
    • Speech by Robert Schuman (9 May 1950), written by Monnet
  • Continue, continue, there is no future for the people of Europe other than in union.
  • Make men work together show them that beyond their differences and geographical boundaries there lies a common interest.

Quotes about Monnet

  • Did it have to come to this? The paradox is that when Europe was less united, it was in many ways more independent. The leaders who ruled in the early stages of integration had all been formed in a world before the global hegemony of the United States, when the major European states were themselves imperial powers, whose foreign policies were self-determined. These were people who had lived through the disasters of the Second World War, but were not crushed by them. This was true not just of a figure like De Gaulle, but of Adenauer and Mollet, of Eden and Heath, all of whom were quite prepared to ignore or defy America if their ambitions demanded it. Monnet, who did not accept their national assumptions, and never clashed with the US, still shared their sense of a future in which Europeans could settle their own affairs, in another fashion. Down into the 1970s, something of this spirit lived on even in Giscard and Schmidt, as Carter discovered. But with the neo-liberal turn of the 1980s, and the arrival in power in the 1990s of a postwar generation, it faded. The new economic doctrines cast doubt on the state as a political agent, and the new leaders had never known anything except the Pax Americana. The traditional springs of autonomy were gone.
    • Perry Anderson, "Depicting Europe", London Review of Books (20 September 2007)
  • That is why despite its imperfections, the European Union can be, and indeed is, a powerful inspiration for many around the world. Because the challenges faced from one region to the other may differ in scale but they do not differ in nature. We all share the same planet. Poverty, organised crime, terrorism, climate change: these are problems that do not respect national borders. We share the same aspirations and universal values: these are progressively taking root in a growing number of countries all over the world. We share “l’irréductible humain, the irreducible uniqueness of the human being. Beyond our nation, beyond our continent, we are all part of one mankind. Jean Monnet, ends his Memoirs with these words: “Les nations souveraines du passé ne sont plus le cadre où peuvent se résoudre les problèmes du présent. Et la communauté elle-même n’est qu’un étape vers les formes d’organisation du monde de demain.” (“The sovereign nations of the past can no longer solve the problems of the present. And the [European] Community itself is only a stage on the way to the organised world of the future.”) This federalist and cosmopolitan vision is one of the most important contributions that the European Union can bring to a global order in the making.
  • [A]fter eighty-nine years of his life, Monnet remains, as he has been throughout, impregnably optimistic but not Utopian. He does not believe in miracles, and although he believes that crucial moments of opportunity must never be lost, he gives more importance to patience and direction than to speed and the construction of false timetables. His modesty and manner is underpinned by an unshakeable intellectual self-confidence. ... He is undoubtedly a great man, who has lived a remarkable life.
    • Roy Jenkins, 'Foreword' (August 1977), Jean Monnett, Memoirs (1978), pp. 12–13
  • But symbolic gestures alone cannot cement peace. This is where the European Union’s “secret weapon” comes into play: an unrivalled way of binding our interests so tightly that war becomes materially impossible. Through constant negotiations, on ever more topics, between ever more countries. It’s the golden rule of Jean Monnet: “Mieux vaut se disputer autour d’une table que sur un champ de bataille.” (“Better fight around a table than on a battle-field.”) If I had to explain it to Alfred Nobel, I would say: not just a peace congress, a perpetual peace congress! Admittedly, some aspects can be puzzling, and not only to outsiders. Ministers from landlocked countries passionately discussing fish-quota. Europarlementarians from Scandinavia debating the price of olive oil. The Union has perfected the art of compromise. No drama of victory or defeat, but ensuring all countries emerge victorious from talks. For this, boring politics is only a small price to pay. Ladies and Gentlemen, It worked. Peace is now self-evident. War has become inconceivable. Yet ‘inconceivable’ does not mean ‘impossible’. And that is why we are gathered here today. Europe must keep its promise of peace.
  • Even more important was the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which was formed by France, West Germany, Italy, and the Low Countries in 1951. The plan was the brainchild of the former French prime minister Robert Schuman, who also served as foreign minister from 1948–53. He and his collaborators designed a supranational authority with control of a common market in mining and steel production in all the member countries, which meant mainly in France and Germany. The ECSC was intended as an alternative to a long-term French occupation of parts of Germany to harness its industrial potential. Instead, Schuman believed, all of western Europe could benefit from cooperation between France and Germany, both in Cold War terms, by increasing and regulating strategic production, and in terms of economic development. Jean Monnet, the Frenchman who was the first head of ECSC, also made sure that it had a social purpose, through subsidies for miners and workers, and that its institutions pointed toward wider European integration in other fields as well.
    • Odd Arne Westad, The Cold War: A Global History (2017)
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