Birthday: November 9, 1888
Died At Age: 90
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Also Known As: Jean Omer Marie Gabriel Monnet
Born in: Cognac, France
Famous as: Diplomat, Entrepreneur, Politician
Spouse/Ex-: Silvia de Bondini
Died on: March 16, 1979
place of death: Houjarray
Founder/Co-Founder: European Economic Community
Who was Jean Monnet?
Jean Monnet was a French economist who revolutionized the face of Europe by the introduction of the European Union. His contribution in economic recovery of a number of European nations as an international financier is commendable. Working as a French representative on the Inter-Allied Maritime Commission during World War I, his participation in the Paris Peace Conference as well as the League of Nations in his 20s is a clear reflection of his capability. Having partnered with some of the top business names in the world, he became one of the well connected personalities of the world. He worked as a back end to American and European government with a practical and connected outlook on internationalism and in the process became an active member of various committees such as the Franco-British Economic Coordination Committee and the National Liberation Committee. His intelligence, ambition coupled with the ability to foresee is well reflected in his “Victory Program” that helped reorganize the United States and Britain optimally for the World War II. He marked the beginning of the economic planning in the Western Europe at the larger scale post World War II. As a President of the High Authority of the European Coal and Steel Community, he went on to become the “Father of Europe”. He has been honored by various awards and recognition for his contributions to the European community.
Childhood & Early Life
Jean Monnet was born on 9 November, 1888 in Cognac, France in a family of merchants.
He obtained his education from local schools and colleges but left it half way at the age of sixteen when he was at the university level and moved to United Kingdom to live with his father’s official acquaintance, Mr. Chaplin.
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He represented France on the Maritime Commission during World War I and was also present for the introductory meetings for the Versailles Conference as an assistant to Etienne Clémentel (the French minister of commerce and industry) wherein proposal for European cooperation via the “new economic order” was made.
At the age of 31, the French premier, Georges Clemenceau appointed him as the Deputy Secretary General and financial advisor for the League of Nations at its conception in 1919.
Due to his father’s demise, he had to give up his position in the League of Nations and return to look after the family business. Monnet played a crucial role in reorganizing and managing the family business and taking it to new heights.
Monnet moved to America in 1925 where he became a partner in a New York bank, Blair &Co., which later became Bancamerica-Blair Corporation post a merger with Bank of America in 1929.
Further down the line, he worked as a freelance economist and financial advisor to foreign governments when he taught China about the management of the railroads and Australia about the banking systems and American investment banks about capital restructuring.
Monnet became the chairman of the Franco-British Economic Coordination Committee in London in 1939 wherein he influenced Charles de Gaulle and Winston Churchill into an Anglo-French union; following which he was made a diplomat by the Winston Churchill government.
In 1940 the fear of war was increasing and the US government needed advice when Monnet was a government official again. He was sent as a member of the British Supply Council for a well planned and optimum purchase of warplanes for the United States.
His views on revamping the French economy through modernization were widely acclaimed for and considering the economic renewal, Monnet was made the Planning Commissioner in France in 1945 till 1955.
As an advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, he analyzed the US’s under preparation for war and helped develop a plan for US to optimize its resources so as to ensure victory in the war.
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Monnet was headquartered in Washington D.C during most of the war period but it was the “Victory Program” formed right in time under Roosevelt-Churchill agreement in 1941 that helped America in sustaining its economic and military position through the war period of 1942-45.
As a member of the National Liberation Committee, Monnet brought forth on 5 August, 1943, the need for a federation of European states to ensure social and economic growth.
Monnet came up with another plan called the Monnet Plan in 1945 that proposed taking over the few remaining coal producing areas (after Second World War) from Germany into France in order to weaken Germany and revitalize the French economy. The plan was considered favorable for adoption by President Gaulle in 1946.
For the economic rebuilding, the year 1949 saw another major recommendation coming from Monnet in the form of unifying the coal and steel industries of Germany and France to avoid any future rivalry. The idea was highly appreciated by the then foreign minister and the Robert Schuman and the European Coal and Steel Community was created in 1952 under the Schuman Plan (1949).
The European Coal and Steel Community comprised of Paris, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany who agreed to share their coal and steel reserves with each other.
Monnet served as the first president of the High Authority of the European Coal and Steel Community from 1952 to 1955.
He founded the Action Committee for the United States of Europe in 1955 so as to boost European reconstruction post the disappointment of the European Defense Community (EDC). He presided over the same in the year 1956.
The Action Committee worked at channelizing the collective efforts of the political parties and European trade unions for the foundation for the European Union or the European Economic Community (EEC) or popularly called the Common Market that was formed through the Treaty of Rome (1958)
For his commendable service for the European community, Monnet was awarded the first Robert Schuman Prize by the University of Bonn in 1966.
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He was named as the patron of the year 1980–1981 at the College of Europe.
He was awarded the Prix Wateler de la Paix in 1951 and was honored with the Karlspreis by the city of Aachen.
The President of the United States Lyndon Johnson conferred upon Monnet the Presidential Medal of Freedom, with Special Distinction on 6 December 1963.
He was made an honorary Companion of Honour by Queen Elizabeth II in 1972.
Personal Life & Legacy
Monnet got married to an Italian, Silvia Giannini, a painter by profession who was 22 years younger to him.
Silvia Giannini was already married to one of Monnet’s employee, Francisco Giannini but could not divorce her husband as per European rules. In order to materialize her second marriage, she met Monnet in Moscow in 1934 where her Soviet citizenship was applied for after which she divorced her husband and married Monnet.
Silvia had a daughter with her first husband, Anna and another one Marianne with Monnet in 1941 after which the family shifted to France in 1945.
Post Gainnini’s death in 1974, Monnet married Silvia canonically in the cathedral of Lourdes.
Jean Monnet passed away at the age of 90 on 16 March, 1979 while working in his memoirs in his home in Houjarray, Bazoches-sur-Guyonne.
His remains were shifted to the Pantheon of Paris as per the command of President Francois Mitterand in 1988.
Various European universities have honored Jean Monnet by naming their blocks after him such as the Monnet Centre of Excellence at King's College London, the Jean Monnet Centre at the University of Birmingham, the Jean Monnet European Centre of Excellence at the University of Essex, the University of Ireland named its lecture theatre after him, the Jean Monnet Centre at Newcastle University and the Jean Monnet Centre for European Studies at the University of Wales and many more.
The Jean Monnet Building which has the Directorate- General for Translation in Luxembourg is named after Monnet by The European Commission.
The Jean Monnet Programme under the Directorate-General for Education and Culture which works on the university level for promoting information on European integration is run by the European Union in Monnet’s memory and honor.
The Jean Monnet House in Houjarray, Yvelines, which is 80 kilometers outside of Paris is marked as the place of prime legacy for Europeans because of the number of memories attached to it such as formulation of the CECE(European Coal and Steel Community) and European Community proposal.
The Jean Monnet house was later taken by The Parliament to be handed over to the Jean Monnet Association in 2000 for its upkeep and maintenance. It now organizes approx 250 conferences on European history every year.