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European Hamiltonians

European Hamiltonians

Mini Teaser: François Duchêne, Jean Monnet: The First Statesman of Interdependence (New York: W.

by Author(s): Max Beloff

François Duchêne, Jean Monnet: The First Statesman of Interdependence (New York: W.W. Norton, 1994).

No one can seriously doubt the existence of a crisis in the affairs of the European Union. As the implications of the treaties on which it is based, including the Maastricht timetable for economic and monetary union, become ever more widely appreciated, and as the ordinary citizen in most member countries begins to participate in the debate over the future of the Union and its institutions (a debate hitherto largely confined to the United Kingdom), the glow of the European ideal begins to fade and the demand for precise definitions as to what it is all for becomes louder. We are all Euroskeptics now.

The only country seemingly unaware of this change in public attitudes is the United States of America. Washington continues to act on the assumption that a "United States of Europe" is the continent's inevitable destiny, and American ambassadors continue to proclaim in London, and no doubt elsewhere, that nothing must be allowed to frustrate this "manifest destiny," even at the expense of the solidarity of the English-speaking and Atlantic worlds.

Ever since I began studying this process nearly forty years ago, I have been puzzled by the uncritical acceptance in the United States of the view that only with common institutions exercising sovereign power could Europe flourish economically, and play a proper role in its own defense. For while it is understandable that the United States should welcome the apparent decision of the countries of Western and Southern Europe to end their age old strife--did not Americans twice have to intervene to redress the balance?--the assumption that, without the institutions of Brussels, Luxembourg, and Strasbourg, these countries would once again be preparing for armed conflict is on the face of it wholly implausible.

I first looked at this question during a stay in Washington in the autumn of 1961, when it was still possible to discuss it with many of those who had taken part in the events leading up to the creation of the Coal and Steel Community, European Economic Community, and Euratom. It was obvious that in deciding to come to Europe's assistance with the Marshall Plan, both the administration and Congress had hoped that by treating Western Europe as a single entity they would lay the foundations for a "United States of Europe." Thus, having failed to give the organization intended to maximize the productive use of Marshall Aid--the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC)--supra-national powers, they found much to appeal in the ideas of Jean Monnet that led to the Schuman Plan, with its strong supra-national element. After relations with the Soviet Union were further envenomed by the outbreak of the Korean War, the idea of a European Defense Community (EDC), both to provide a cover for the rearmament of Germany and act as the core of a European political community, appealed further. When these plans failed through French resistance, the United States accepted the alternative method of securing German participation in Europe's defense by the creation of the Western European Union.

During this period of considerable creativity, Americans took some time to establish their preference for a "united Europe" over an Atlantic Community of some kind, which would have been more congenial to most British opinion. Understandably, what mattered most to Washington was how such constructions would fit into the struggle to prevent Western Europe from falling under Soviet domination, while making it possible to shift some of the burden of the continent's defense to the Europeans themselves, without either eliminating all hope of German reunification or resurrecting a powerful, independent and united Germany. With an ingrained hostility to "imperialism," Americans wished for both political and economic reasons to see the United Kingdom and France liquidate their overseas ties and take their place in a European Union.

American policy under both Truman and Eisenhower was the product of an exceptionally gifted and devoted set of public servants. Insofar as they were influenced by any individual European, it is abundantly clear that it was to Jean Monnet, whose wartime work on the inter-allied supply organizations had made him a familiar figure in Washington and New York, that they looked for guidance.

It is thus of the greatest interest that there should appear at this critical moment in the affairs of Europe a first-rate biography of Monnet by a close collaborator-disciple. The subtitle--"The First Statesman of Interdependence"--indicates the general flavor of the book. For François Duchêne the nation-state is obsolete; economics has determined that all our destinies are interlocked. Monnet must be regarded as the precursor of a new era in European and world affairs.

In dealing with Monnet's earlier career, including his work on the supply side in World War I and at the League of Nations, Duchêne shows that Monnet's original bias was not towards supra-national solutions. Indeed his first brush with the concept was his participation in the abortive plan for an Anglo-French Union in June 1940. But, by the time he took part in the Marshall Plan negotiations as head of the French "plan," he had come to the conclusion that without supra-national institutions nothing serious would be done to integrate the European economies, and he abandoned any interest in what became the OEEC. What Monnet needed was another country to join with France in dealing with the critical issues of the moment, notably the restoration in some non-harmful way of German industry. His failure to arrive at a common approach with Britain in 1949 meant that he had to seek partners in Germany itself, and this colored his later willingness to see European construction develop with the United Kingdom on the outside. Duchêne seems to accept the view that it was Britain that was responsible for this failure and for Monnet's subsequent German orientation. He seems not to have taken into account the version of these talks by Lord Plowden, the principal British negotiator, who pointed out that Monnet's ultimate aims were never made clear, and that Monnet, as someone outside the departmental machine, could make proposals without ministerial backing which Plowden as treasury official could not.

The story of the actual negotiation of the Schuman Plan and the setting up of its institutions covers familiar ground, as does the story of the EDC. But Duchêne is clearer than some previous writers about the extent of American pressure exerted to facilitate their success. The proponents of European federalism had endeavored to enlist opinion in the United States on their side quite early in the piece, and had established an American Committee for the United States of Europe which survived until 1960. Americans were moreover giving financial support to the European movement itself. But while Duchêne is well aware of Monnet's early immersion in things American and his enduring contacts with powerful figures in the United States, he somewhat plays down the extent to which Americans made the running in the early 1950s and the dependence of Monnet upon American funds to keep the momentum going.

Since Duchêne's book was published, the young British scholar Richard J. Aldrich has shed more light on the American role. He shows that the American Committee for a United Europe, though purporting to be an expression of European opinion, was in fact mainly financed from American government sources, and in all probability out of CIA funds. Once the leadership of the European Movement had passed from Duncan Sandys to the committed federalist Paul-Henri Spaak, and once the Attlee government had made it clear that Britain did not see its destiny as being part of a federal Europe, the inhibitions on American involvement were set aside and funds were made available for furthering the cause. The expenditure was not confined to the United States, but went into pro-federalist pressure groups active in Europe, particularly in France. Dr. Aldrich reckons that, in all, some three to four billion dollars were spent on this effort.
Of this background, European statesmen outside the Monnet circle were obviously unaware, but that they felt that American pressure was being exercised in an improper way comes out in some of the French accounts of the period, notably in the memoirs of Michel Debré. And this helps to explain the continued sensitivity of the Gaullists to American pressure after de Gaulle's return to power. It was not simply a matter of the General's personal resentment at Roosevelt's treatment of him during the war.

Monnet returned to private life in 1955 and was not again to play a leading role in the twenty-four years remaining to him. He was not thus directly involved in what Duchêne describes as the "determination of a small State Department group around Dulles and Eisenhower to give every possible efficient help to the revival of European integration after the EDC defeat." The form that this revival took in the 1957 Treaty of Rome did not in any event much appeal to Monnet. He did not think that the freeing of trade in a "common market" would conduce to the political ends he had set himself. According to Duchêne, what Monnet felt was needed was "a Financial Common Market which would lead to European economic unity." Only then would it be possible "to produce the political union which is the goal."

In the Gaullist years, Monnet's own propaganda organization, the Action Committee, made little impact and the pace of European integration slowed down. Its revival in the 1980s was to take place in a different climate and under different leadership. Indeed Duchêne seems to accept the view that Monnet was basically in favor of cooperation between heads of government and never truly a "federalist." To some extent, the beginnings of cooperation in foreign policy embarked upon in 1969 were compatible with such an approach. But the decision of the Paris Summit of 1972, after Britain's entry into the Communities, embraced economic and military union as an agreed objective and heralded what was to happen a decade later. It was delayed till the 1980s because it was only then that pessimism about Europe's role in the world created the conditions for a new generation of technocrats to bring about major changes in Europe's conduct of its affairs.

While the men of the new generation were different from those of Monnet's in origin and outlook, they resembled Monnet and his collaborators in three crucial respects. They believed that their own solutions for Europe were the only correct ones; they believed that they had the right to bring them about by whatever means were available, including if and where necessary disguising their ultimate purposes from those who might otherwise throw up obstacles; and they had no patience with the idea that it was the peoples of Europe rather than their elites who should determine their own future. In American parlance they were all Hamiltonians, not Jeffersonians. It is one of the ironies of the situation that America should pressure Britain to merge itself in a European federal structure whatever the wishes of the British, while the American federal system had been created by its leaders in partnership with the electorate, not against it.

To understand the new European system, now showing the weaknesses inevitable in a structure created from the top down, we are fortunate in yet another excellent biography--that of Jacques Delors, who came to symbolize the new era and was for the decade of his presidency a far more visible symbol of the new Europe than Jean Monnet had ever allowed himself to be. Charles Grant's book cannot of course claim to be the definitive work that Mr. Duchêne has attempted. Delors is still very much alive and Grant witnessed the Delors era in Brussels as a working journalist, from the outside.

If there could be doubts about Monnet's devotion to federalism--the supersession of the nation-state--no such doubt could exist in Delors' case. Monnet had no ideology other than what he fashioned for himself. Delors' ideology, a combination of socialism and Catholic doctrine, was fully formed before he got to Brussels. He was much closer to elements in French politics, and through them to a wider constituency, than Monnet had ever been.

True, to manipulate the destinies of Europe, Monnet had needed a political patron. He would not have succeeded had he not persuaded Schuman, a key figure in the Fourth Republic, that his vision of a Europe in which France and Germany would never again go to war could only be guaranteed through some mixing of their fortunes. We still speak of the Schuman Plan. By the time Delors took office, France could no longer take the leading role in his vision of Europe as a single Great Power. This role had to be reserved for Germany, something that became even more obvious when reunification made it unquestionably the leading nation in Western and Central Europe, both demographically and economically. Delors' great achievement was to enlist German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in the cause of European Union, who would, in turn, sell the idea to the arch-pragmatist Franois Mitterrand. Confident that France could look after itself and manage the relationship with Germany, he was not as bothered as Monnet had been about leaving Britain on the fringes of his new Europe.

On the formulation and negotiation of the two key documents of the period, the Single European Act (1987) and the Maastricht Treaty (1992), Grant cannot hope to add much at this stage to our general knowledge of the process. He does make it clear how crucial the Single European Act was in the qualitative leap from the Treaty of Rome, with its various safeguards, to a situation in which individual countries could be prevented from rejecting legislation with which they were not content. It was only after the event that Margaret Thatcher realized the extent to which she had been deceived into accepting a change of this magnitude, and her attempt to slow things down--which included a personal attack on Delors--precipitated the resignation of Geoffrey Howe and her own downfall.

More interesting is Grant's view that the Treaty of Maastricht, usually classed among Delors' triumphs, was not in fact wholly to his taste. Delors appears to have thought that it went too far too quickly on the political side, and that, apart from minor changes in the Treaty of Rome, it would have been better to concentrate on economic and monetary union. Even so, French objections prevented the full-blown degree of power for the central institutions that Kohl sought and which still figures on Germany's agenda. Mitterrand gave way on the issue of more powers for the European Parliament while leaving foreign affairs, defense, and matters of policing to inter-governmental cooperation.

Grant rightly points out that Delors sought and achieved more power for Brussels by increasing its financial calls upon its member states. He also achieved more power within the Brussels machine, and in wider international fora for the commission's president, thanks in part to the unwillingness of governments to nominate first-rate figures for commission membership. Grant makes clear what British ministers have even yet not fully understood: that the British belief that "subsidiarity" could function in some sense as a brake on "federalism" makes no sense. For Delors the two were equal pillars of the structure he was trying to bring into existence.

The central puzzle of Monnet's Europe remains equally a puzzle in Delors' time: it is hard to see why the United States would wish to imperil its close relations with the United Kingdom, still very much alive in the intelligence and other areas, for the sake of a set of institutions and ideas whose objectives include, prominently, resistance to American leadership.

The "common foreign policy" institutionalized by the Maastricht Treaty has produced, through faults of conception and execution, a failure for which the unfortunate peoples of the former Yugoslavia are paying dearly, and may yet pay a still higher price, as Noel Malcolm so cogently explained in the last issue of this journal. Who now remembers the vainglorious Monsieur Jacques Poos--prime minister of Luxembourg, no less!--proclaiming in July 1991, "This is the hour of Europe not of America"?

The long, drawn out confrontation over the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade showed how remote French protectionism was from the Anglo-Saxon idea of a global trading world. Delors could probably have echoed the remark of Adolphe Thiers that "free trade's underlying doctrine of laissez-faire" was "a blasphemy against God's design for civilization." While Delors could see some advantages in freer trade in industrial products, he remained an agricultural protectionist. What is relevant is that the GATT negotiations gave him a chance to do what he found so congenial: condemn the United States and its friends in Europe. ("The imperial power won't always be able to mock the others. One should not believe that because America has friends in Europe, and some get rather frightened when it raises its voice, that we are going to let ourselves be trampled on.")

General de Gaulle--the only first-rate statesman thrown up by post-Churchill Europe--was right in his perception that Britain was by reason of its oceanic outlook unsuited for membership in a continental system. But he was wrong in thinking that it would always choose the open sea: in 1972 it opted for the opposite. With more understanding of its own position than some American statesmen and diplomatists have shown, it may yet attempt to return to its natural stance. It is time for the United States to stop seeing Europe through the misleading prism of its own history. The United States was a nation before it had common government. Europe is not a nation. Could either Monnet or Delors be understood except as Frenchmen?

Essay Types: Book Review