The French political and economic adviser Jean Monnet dedicated himself to the
cause of European integration. He was the inspiration behind the ‘Schuman Plan’,
which foresaw the merger of west European heavy industry.
Monnet was from the Cognac region of France. When he left school at 16 he
travelled internationally as a cognac dealer, later also as a banker. During both
world wars he held high-level positions relating to the coordination of industrial
production in France and the United Kingdom.
As a top adviser to the French government he was the main inspiration behind the
famous ‘Schuman Declaration’ of 9 May 1950, which led to the creation of the
European Coal and Steel Community and, as such, is considered to be the birth of
the European Union. Between 1952 and 1955 he was the first president of its executive body.