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Young & Kent: International Relations since 1945 2e

Jean Omer Marie Gabriel Monnet

Jean Omer Marie Gabriel Monnet (1888-1979) was born on 9 November 1888 in Cognac, France, into a  family of cognac merchants. At the age of sixteen, he abandoned his formal education and moved to London where he learned business and English. In 1906, his father sent him abroad to work for the family business. In 1914, Monnet was excused from military duty for health reasons but he contributed to the war effort in other remarkable ways. Monnet believed that the only path that would lead to an Allied victory lay in the fusion of France and England’s war efforts and he proposed a plan that would coordinate war resources, which the French government approved. At the age of thirty-one, Monnet was named Deputy Secretary General of the League of Nations upon its creation in 1919. Disillusioned with the League, he resigned in 1923 in order to devote himself to managing his family business, which was experiencing difficulties. As an international financier in the interwar period Monnet proved instrumental in the economic recovery of Poland and Rumania. In 1940 he became one of President Roosevelt’s most trusted advisers. He persuaded the President to launch a massive arms production programme to supply the Allies with military material. Appointed Planning Commissioner by de Gaulle, Monnet oversaw the revitalisation of the French economy. In 1950 Monnet proposed the integration of the French and German coal and steel industries under joint control, which would be open to the other countries of Europe. Shortly thereafter, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxemburg, and the Netherlands responded favourably, to what became known as the Schuman Plan, and the European Coal and Steel Community was born, which laid the foundations of the European Community. In 1955, in order to revive European integration following the failure of the European Defence Community (EDC), Monnet founded the Action Committee for a United States of Europe. This committee became a driving force behind all initiatives in favour of European union, including the creation of the Common Market and the European Monetary System. At the European Council in Luxemburg on 2 April 1976, the heads of State and government proclaimed Jean Monnet an ‘Honorary Citizen of Europe’. Monnet died on 16 March 1979 at the age of 90.