A purely fictional interview with someone whose ideas live on. And who had the courage to make them come true.
Who knows this man?
Honestly — who knows who this nicely smiling man is? Exactly, Jean Monnet. And as he is a star in doing and not only dreaming I have met him, despite him being dead. Impossible? You see, it’s working.
Mr Monnet, you are so to say one of the founding fathers of Europe. How does this feel?
You know, Europe has always been there. But our countries didn’t really like each other. No big surprise, as it was the year 1950, briefly after the war. Hence with the attempt to find common ground in Europe I thought about how to achieve different things at once: Get Germany and France back to talk to each other, do something good for the steel and mining industries, control Germany a bit. It simply seemed a good idea to me to found the European communities.
How did you convince the states to come together? This meant that everyone had to give up a piece of sovereignty.
Yes, exactly. And for the very first time. We hadn’t done anything like this before, otherwise we wouldn’t probably have fought a war (chuckling).
Actually it wasn’t really me who convinced them, it was our Minister of the Economy, Robert Schuman. It was clear that it was positive for our steel markets to work together in a common European market. We abolished the tariffs between our countries and agreed on common external tariffs. A customs union! The High Authority dealt with this, prior before we had the European Commission. And a customs union was what the other four countries (meaning Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) had been wanting since long. With Germany. What was new was the supranational structure, adding a layer which wasn’t only national any more.
How did you get to this idea? This was risky, wasn’t it?
We gave it a lot of thoughts, eh! And in the end the structure didn’t look all so different than that of a state: Something like a government, formed of High Authority and Council of Ministers, a Parliament to represent the people and a Court. But it was clear to me: If we want to seriously cooperate we need this structure as a layer on top of our states. Otherwise we will never overcome our own national interests.
How was the echo in the public? Was everyone excited?
No, not at all! Everyone was rather sceptic and didn’t want. No one could imagine what working together in a new structure really meant. This is why it was so important to just get started and demonstrate that the European unification helps the people!
What did the European Community for Coal and Steal do for the people?
Well, at that time Europe was to a totally different degree influenced by the coal and steel business. We had a common industrial policy and could at least react to the crises that came. We were able to invest a lot more in Research and Development than we could have done as single states. When coal became less and less competitive we were able to compensate the workers and still pay them wages. We did this for 1,7 Mio people. We paid 220.000 flats in the regions that were hit the most.
Thus would you say your dream is a success?
At least the idea let to us working together closely in many areas. With time, more and more cooperation came, just because it made sense. Whether it is a success — everyone has to decide for himself.
Thank you very much.