Former Laureates

Jean Monnet

Jean Monnet

1977

An extra Erasmus Prize was awarded in November 1977 to the then 89-year old statesman Jean Monnet. Because of his feeble health, the ceremony took place at his house at Houjarry, near Versailles. The prize was awarded as an extraordinary tribute to Jean Monnet, in recognition of his idealism and practical insight through which he served the European cause. He worked zealously in his striving for a European community of nations that should abolish war. Jean Monnet died in 1979.

Already in the First World War, Monnet was able to bring about a new economic collaboration between France and Britain. After the end of the Second World War, Monnet, ‘the father of Europe’ as he was rightly named, did much to achieve the French-German economic collaboration that took the form of the European Coal and Steel Community, of which he became the first president in 1952. This community was the first step on the way to the European Union. The publication of his memoirs in 1976 was in itself a European event of the first order: they are an essential source for historical research into a process of which the ideal is European unification. The versatile Monnet always tried to convince Europeans that apart from their national ties they possessed an essential common heritage as well. He has thus become a source of inspiration for many post-war leaders.

In 1978 the ‘Fondation Jean Monnet pour l’ Europe’ was founded, based in Lausanne, which supports initiatives dedicated to the advancement of Europe and inspired by the ideas, methods and actions of Monnet. Monnet donated his archives to this foundation, which form the basis of research and studies on the future of Europe. The money of the Erasmus Prize was used by the foundation to enable research.