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  Félix Peña

INTERNATIONAL TRADE RELATIONS NEWSLETTER
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JEAN MONNET: AN INSPIRATION THAT IS STILL RELEVANT TODAY
The validity of his approaches on regional integration methodologies


by Félix Peña
October 2019

English translation: Isabel Romero Carranza


 

The ideas of Jean Monnet and, in particular, his main thoughts on the reasons that drive joint institutionalized work between nations that share a history and a contiguous regional space, can help rethink both the existential and methodological dimensions of regional integration processes. What were the main ideas behind his initiatives which today are showing their relevance, both in Europe and in the scope of Mercosur?

Three of these ideas stand out in his method for building spaces of integration between independent nations. They are: pooling of common resources; generating de facto solidarities that help link political and economic systems and developing cooperative relationships based on common rules and institutions.

A fact that stands out from the integration methodology inspired by Monnet is that its formulation and its translation into reality requires operating simultaneously in three dimensions. These are first the political and, based on it, the economic and the legal dimensions. Imagining a project of integration between sovereign nations that wish to remain so, that are contiguous and have unequal relative power, without having significant consent and support from citizens (the political dimension), a sustainable articulation of the economic systems (the economic dimension ), and common rules and institutions (the legal dimension), would be to condemn it either to failure or to a short-lived media effect.

Almost 70 years after the launch of the Schuman Plan, what can be called the "Monnet method" of regional integration continues to prove its validity. The fact that there is not a unique formula on how to achieve the positive effects of voluntary and lasting joint work between a group of nations that pool their resources, their sovereignty and their identities, but that not necessarily renounce their independence, explains the validity of this method in a world where all countries aspire to enhance their multiple options for international integration.


Frenchman Jean Monnet (1888-1979) "inspired" the founding of European integration. He was not, in fact, the only "founder" of a historical experience whose effects have reached far beyond Europe but, as General de Gaulle once said, he was "the inspirer."

Seventy years after the launch of the Schuman Plan, on May 9, 1950, the effects of the integration that originated at that time still endure and have deepened in the current European Union (EU).

Monnet never went to university. According to his own account in his memoirs, after his secondary studies, his father, a businessman from Cognac (France), sent him off to sell brandy in different countries. He was thus formed through practical experience. He was not a theoretician nor an academic. But he always surrounded himself and learnt from people with experience and knowledge. Before his time in the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and later in the European Economic Community (EEC), he had valuable experiences at the level of joint initiatives, first in the League of Nations and then as Commissioner of the Plan in France.

We could also say that Monnet, in addition to "inspiring", was noted for being a "builder." In other words, his inspirations were meant to generate actions aimed at building a reality of joint work between people and, especially, between nations.

Hence, familiarizing ourselves today with Monnet's thoughts and, in particular, with his central ideas about the reasons that drive joint and institutionalized work between nations that share a history and a contiguous regional space, can help us rethink both the existential and the methodological dimension of the regional integration processes.

In order to become familiar with the contributions of Jean Monnet to the European construction we can recommend three books. The first and most important is Memoirs, (Fayard, Paris, 1976) written at the end of his life, almost when he was turning 90, in which he narrates his rich and varied experiences (English edition, Memoirs, Third Millenium Publishing, London 2015). The other two are: Jean Monnet. The First Statesman of Interdependence, by François Duchene, (WWNorton & Company, New York-London 1994), and Jean Monnet, 1888-1979, by Eric Roussel (Fayard, Paris 1996).

What were some of the main ideas that guided the integration initiatives developed by Jean Monnet and that are currently proving their relevance both in Europe and in Mercosur?

Three key ideas stand out in the Monnet method for building spaces of integration that are sustainable over time between contiguous nations. These are: the pooling of resources, especially those that have given rise to or could lead to confrontation scenarios, even violent ones; generating de facto solidarities, which help in the development of linkage effects between the respective political, economic and social systems; and finally, approaching cooperative relations based on common legal rules and institutions.

In order to be effective such method requires a permanent institutional pact without deadlines, promoted at the highest political level of the participating countries, that provides a framework for joint work between the nations involved, and that helps generate the necessary links to sustain it over time. There is not a one-fits-all model of such institutional pact and, in fact, it can be developed in several steps and stages.

Having reversed the tendency towards confrontation in Europe, especially between Germany and France in the coal and steel sector, was the clearest effect achieved through the Schuman Plan. This happened in 1950, a time when the international context was showing signs of a return to the course of collision between the nations that had been involved in bloody wars during the previous decades, two of them of global scope.

If something stands out from the integration methodology inspired by Jean Monnet, is that its formulation and its translation into reality require acting in three dimensions simultaneously.

Such dimensions are, first and foremost, the political and, based on it, the economic and the legal dimensions. Envisioning a project of integration between contiguous sovereign nations, who wish to remain so and that have unequal relative power, without the consent and support of their citizens (the political dimension), a sustainable integration of their economic and productive systems (the economic dimension), and without a foundation of common rules and institutions (the legal dimension), would be to condemn it either to failure or, what would be practically the same, to having a short-lived effect.

It becomes clear from this first European experience that neutralizing the more complex effects of the inequality of relative power between the participating nations is a key factor in order to achieve the sustainability of an integration project over time.

In this perspective, the common institutions and ground rules helped, among other things, to generate effective expectations of mutual gains; to protect the interests of partners with less relative power; and at the same time, to generate a reasonable balance between two requirements that might be contradictory: that of the predictability necessary to encourage productive investments, and that of the flexibility that is required for the rules to adapt to very dynamic and sometimes unpredictable realities.

Almost 70 years after the launch of the Schuman Plan, what can be called the "Monnet method" of regional integration continues to show its validity, even for countries in other regions and, most certainly, in Latin America. It is not focused on a predetermined final product, consisting of the transformation of autonomous units of power into a new supranational whole (even though that might have been the apparent objective at the beginning). It is not, therefore, based on the goal of superseding pre-existing independent national spaces, including their own markets, for example, through conceptually rigid formulas such as that of a customs union or of a free trade zone. Nor does it involve erasing national identities.

On the contrary, the sharing of markets and resources with the intention of permanence; the collective disciplines resulting from the effective validity of the common rules and institutions; the effects of the linkages that make it costly -though not impossible- to withdraw from the joint work agreement (as evinced in the recent experience of the "Brexit" by the United Kingdom); and the reality of having greater power to operate effectively in the international system, are just some of the main positive effects that can explain why the "Monnet method" of integration has a validity that exceeds its own original European space.

The fact that there is no single and unique formula on how to achieve the positive effects that can be generated from joint, voluntary and sustained work between a group of nations that pool their resources, their sovereignty and their identities (but not necessarily renounce the possibility of regaining their independence) helps explain the current validity of this methodology in a world where all countries aspire to enhance their multiple options for international integration.


Recommended Reading:


  • Brinkley, Douglas; Hackettt, Clifford (editors), "Jean Monnet: The Path to European Unity", Introduction by George W.Ball, St.Marin's Press, New York 1991.
  • Caramaru de Paiva, Marcos; Lins, Clarissa; Ferreira, Guilherme, "Brasil-China. O Estado da Relaçâo, Belt and Road e Liçôes para o Futuro", CEBRI, Rio de Janeiro, Setembro de 2019.
  • De Martín de la Torre, Victoria, "Europa, un salto a lo desconocido: Un viaje en el tiempo para conocer a los fundadores de la Unión Europea (Ensayo)", Prólogo de Javier Solana, Encuentro, Madrid 2015.
  • Duchéne, François, "The First Statesman of Interdependence", W.W.Norton & Company, New York - London 1994.
  • Fondation Jean Monnet pour l'Europe, "La Naissance d'un Continent Nouveau", Centre de recherches européennes, Lausanne 1990.
  • Fundación Foro del Sur, "Archivos del Presente", Revista Latinoamericana de Temas Internacionales, Año 22, Número 69, Buenos Aires 2019.
  • Monnet, Jean, "Memoires", Fayard, Paris 1976
  • Monnet, Jean, "Memorias", Prefacio de José María Gil.Robles, Encuentro - CEU, Madrid 2010.
  • Monnet, Jean, "Memoirs", Third Millenium Publishing, London 2015.
  • Roth, Francois, "L'invention de l'Europe. De l'Europe de Jean Monnet a l'Union Européenne", Armand Colin, Paris 2005.
  • Roussel, Eric, "Jean Monnet 1888-1979", Librairie Arthéme Fayard, Paris 1995.
  • Studwell, Joe, "How Asia Works. Success and Failure in the World Most Dynamic Region", Grove Press, New York 2013.
  • UNCTAD, "Made in Africa. Rules of origin for enhanced intra-African trade", Economic Development in Africa. Report 2019, Géneva 2019.
  • Ugland, Trygve, "Jean Monnet and Canada. Early travels and the Idea of European Unity", University of Toronto Press, Toronto-Buffalo-London, 2011.
  • Vaca Narvaja, Sabino (editor), "Por qué China. Miradas sobre la Asociación Estratégica Integral", Universidad Nacional de Lanús, 2015

Félix Peña Director of the Institute of International Trade at the ICBC Foundation. Director of the Masters Degree in International Trade Relations at Tres de Febrero National University (UNTREF). Member of the Executive Committee of the Argentine Council for International Relations (CARI). Member of the Evian Group Brains Trust. More information.

http://www.felixpena.com.ar | info@felixpena.com.ar


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