How it all started

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. 

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