This month sees the anniversary of the birth of Jean Monet. Although he started as a business student he became the man many see as the architect of the European Union, and responsible for peace in Europe for the last sixty years.
Monet's influence on the European stage started in World War I when he helped to merge France and Britain's war efforts. He remained a significant figure after the war and during World War II, again was instrumental in co-ordinating the allies efforts.
However, his most lasting influence can be felt in the form of the European Union. Along with Robert Schumann in 1951 he helped created the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which was formed through the signing of the Treaty of Paris by Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Italy and the Netherlands.
The Community had been formed to ease rising tensions between France and Germany over the commercially important coal and steel producing area of the Ruhr. Many feared that these tensions could escalate and plunge Europe into another destructive war. In taking the founder members coal and steel production under a single authority, trade protectionism was eliminated resulting in a reduction of "toxic nationalism". Jean Monet became the first President of the ECSC.
In 1957 the Treaty of Rome was signed by the same six countries to establish the European Economic Community and began the process of developing a common market for goods and services. The United Kingdom joined in 1973 along with Denmark and Ireland, bringing the total number of states to nine.
The term European Union was introduced by the Maastricht Treaty in November 1993, the new Treaty also set out a timetable for economic and monetary union as well as the introduction of a single currency.
By building an economic and trade link that bound the countries of Europe together Monet was able to help establish a peace in Europe that has lasted for sixty years. Monet strongly believed that he was building a union between people, rather than a co-operation between states, and that the economic and political benefits of such would be great. He died in 1979 and in 1988 his ashes were interred in the Pantheon in Paris.