What was the „Monnet plan“? How well does neo-functionalism explain the early development of the European integration?
In order to analyze the so called Monnet plan and the explanatory power of neo-functionalism in the light of early European integration a threefold analysis is necessary. First, the “Monnet plan” and its distinctive aspects have to be put into the historic context. Second, the relationship between this method and the theory of neo-functionalism has to be explained. Lastly, the explanatory power of neo-functionalism has to be analyzed in the context of the rise and fall of the “Monnet plan”.
“Monnet has the great merit of having built Europe and the great responsibility of having built it badly” Altiero Spinelli (Burgess 2000, pp. 55–56)
The Monnet plan is a concept for a federate European integration derived by one of the “founding fathers” of Europe Jean Monnet. In order to understand his plan properly, it is necessary to take into account the personal history of Monnet as well as the underlying theoretical concepts. Moreover, it is valuable to look at the first outcome of the Monnet plan: the European Community for Steel and Coal (ECSC).
Jean Monnet was a career state public servant, who had held positions within the French bureaucracy and the Geneva League of Nations. Shortly after the end of the war, Monnet was appointed to be the director of the French “plan de modernisation” designed to modernize French industry after the Second World War. During this time, he developed a distinctive plan to modernize French industry focusing on core sectors such as coal and steel (Dinan 2004, pp. 30–32). Central to his idea was the weakening of the German coal and steel production in order to revive the French economy: “on a diet of Ruhr coke till it largely replaced German steel” (Duchêne 1994, p. 156). However, Monnet had to realize that his initial conception was bound to fail due to two reasons: the American pressure for integration in Europe and the sudden German resurrection due to the Korean War as well as the Marshall plan (Dinan 2004, pp. 30–32).
After Monnet had realized that his initial plan was bound to fail, he derived a pan-European conception of the initial plan. This plan consisted out of his core idea for the modernization of the French economy enriched with lessons from his previous work in international organizations (Dinan 2004, pp. 30–32). There are three characteristic, which are worth special attention: Sectoral integration, elitism, and supra-nationality in institutions. The idea of sectoral integration originated from the focus of the French modernization plan on the coal and steel sectors as well as from Monnet’s dirigist believes that these were the core economic areas. Elitism and the idea of engaging core groups resulted from Monnet’s desire to reach the maximum independence from national governments and to create direct pressure for integration within each member state (Dinan 2004, pp. 30–32). The desire for supra-nationality is probably the most distinctive feature of the Monnet plan and merits a deeper analysis. Monnet’s understanding of supra-nationality, resulting out of his previous leadership experience, was based on a strong institutionalism backed up by a technocratic elite (Featherstone 1994). Moreover, it was important for Monnet, since these two features were the basis for creating a supra-national power house with the capacity to challenge national governments in creating an irreversible integration process.
The plan was put into practice with the Schumann declaration on the 9th of May 1950, which more or less outlined the mayor ideas of Monnet (Dinan 2004, pp. 37–41). Although some scholars argue that Monnet overstated his importance and influence on the event, it nevertheless marked the point at which the implementation of his ideas started (Monnet 1978, pp. 181–225; Milward 1984, pp. 395–397). The ambitions of the main actors Monnet and Schumann were clear in stating that the purpose of the outlined ideas was to “lay the first concrete foundation for a European federation which is so indispensable to the preservation of peace” (Robert Schuman, p. 76). Along the lines of Monnet’s ideas, the initial stage of integration was to be achieved through the integration of the steel and coal sectors: “the supply of coal and steel on equal terms […]; and the equalization as well as the improvements in the living standards” (Robert Schuman, p. 76).
With the Schumann declarations the initial ideas were set and the scope of the proposed union was defined. In the following years an extensive bargaining process started between the six member countries – Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg – revolving around a range of issues. In general, the negotiations were dominated by Jean Monnet and his French delegation, but the main question regarding the degree of supra-nationality and the power of the High Authority was heavily resisted by the Netherlands. Due to this question the United Kingdom had already opted to stay out of the negotiations (Milward 2002, p. 75), while the Netherlands continued to pressure for a less supra-national solution, although in principle being committed to the project.