Jean Monnet, the Frenchman regarded as the conceptual architect of the European Union, was a remarkable figure. He helped Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek reorganize China’s railways. He was an adviser to American President Franklin Roosevelt as well as just about every European leader of his era. He was even on such good terms with the Soviet Union that he managed to get Soviet citizenship for his married (to someone else) girlfriend in the 1930s so she could obtain a divorce then illegal in France. Famed economist John Maynard Keynes is said to have remarked that World War II was probably shortened by a year thanks to Monnet’s logistics planning for the Allies.
But what struck us most in a reading of a Monnet biography was his quick disillusionment with the newly founded League of Nations after he was appointed deputy secretary-general in 1919. He could not put up with the laborious process of unanimous decision-making. He thought it spelled the doom of the league. And so he quit in 1924. He died in 1979.
We can’t help but think that if Monnet were to return to the European Commission today (where the building is named after him), he would be profoundly depressed. It would no doubt remind him of the ill-fated League of Nations, a lumbering and paralyzed bureaucracy that failed to live up to its promise.
We are certainly pleased with the work of the Independent Commission on Turkey, whose new report on Turkey’s accession to the European Union we reported about on Tuesday. Chaired by Nobel Laureate and former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, the commission harshly criticized European leaders, implicitly singling out France’s Nicolas Sarkozy and Germany’s Angela Merkel for their opposition to Turkey’s EU membership. Sure, this commission of “wise men” found fault with Turkey’s leaders as well. But they leveled most of their criticism as the “negative attitudes and policies of European leaders … in clear contradiction to all previous EU decisions and commitment.”
We could not agree more with their assessment. We have argued many times here at the Daily News that the EU has far more to gain from Turkish membership than Turkey itself. We believe that Sarkozy, Merkel and a few others are not just playing deceitful, populist politics. We think they are selling out their own countries’ long-term interests as well. But do we think that these small-minded leaders will read this new report tomorrow and wake up to reality? No, we don’t.
We do think we know how Monnet must have felt in 1924 when he gave up hope on the dream of the league. How sad that his beloved EU appears to have a similar fate. At least, however, when Monnet turned his back on the league he could go back to the family business of making cognac. What will be “plan B” when Turkey turns its back on the EU?