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 advisor 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.