Francois Duchene

Political thinker and analyst

If Jean Monnet was the "First Statesman of Interdependence", as Francois Duchene aptly entitled his magisterial 1994 biography of the principal architect of European integration, Duchene would probably have defined himself as the great man's amanuensis. In fact, he was one of the foremost political thinkers and analysts of the "méthode Monnet".

A journalist by training and profession, yet a poet by the subtlety of his political intuition and imagination, Duchene had caught the attention of Jean Monnet in 1950, when Duchene was only 23, through a series of articles in the Manchester Guardian in support of the European Coal and Steel Community. Out of this developed a close working relationship for more than a decade, and Duchene became one of the foremost analysts of the statecraft of interdependence. He later worked on The Economist as its first correspondent in Paris and then as editorial writer on European affairs before, in 1969, assuming the directorship of the still young but already prestigious International Institute for Strategic Studies as successor to its renowned founder Alastair Buchan.

In Duchene's view, the experience of European integration, which Monnet had done so much to realise, had shown up a creative new approach to international relations beyond the balance of power politics and appeasement, and from his various observation platforms - at The Economist, at the IISS and then, from 1974 until 1982, at Sussex University, in Brighton - Duchene proceeded to analyse, clarify and expand from the European to the planetary level the nature and relevance of "the statecraft of interdependence".

This new approach reflected the new civilisational realities of ever-deepening "interdependence" (today, we call it "globalisation") which created a disjuncture between the need to regulate jointly common problems and the capacity of traditional international politics to deliver such co-operative solutions. In effect, this statecraft wanted to transform international politics from their traditional, inter-state focus towards a law-centred and participatory approach which characterised politics within Western democracies.

European integration had shown that this was indeed possible, that inter-state relations could be "domesticated" and thus liberated from the nightmare of industrial warfare, Duchene argued; and he then proceeded to think this approach through for the wider scope of "planetary interdependence". This transformation, in his view, had been achieved in Europe in the 1950s neither by incrementalism nor by social revolution, but by "that rarest of all phenomena in history, . . . a change in political civilisation".

It could be done at the global level, as well, Duchene held, not least because the destructive power of nuclear weapons had made war all but obsolete as a meaningful policy option for great powers. And he saw the European Union, a "civilian power", as an important potential promoter to such a "domestication" of international relations, as it could provide powerful impulses towards international co-operation and integration, as well as a corrective to the sometimes excessive efforts by American foreign policy at ordering the realm.

He had no illusions about the difficulties involved in such a transformation, but he could point to the determination with which Monnet had realised his European ambitions, which at the time had seemed equally implausible. In a famous intellectual exchange, one of the leading "realist" international relations thinkers of the 1960s and 1970s, Hedley Bull, had dumped Duchene's notion of Europe as a "civilian power", first formulated in the late 1960s/early 1970s, into the dustbin of history, and he had seemed to be vindicated by the onset of the "Second Cold War" after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979.

Yet, 10 years later, the Cold War was over for good, and the Eastern European members of the Soviet bloc were pushing for entry into what then was still called the European Community. The central assumption on which Duchene had built his argument, namely the declining relevance of military power and military security issues and the rise of economic and cultural factors, had held.

In his international relations analysis, Duchene was as much, if not more, a poet as a strategic thinker. (He once had used a scholarship which was supposed to support a study on arms control to produce a book on W.H. Auden, The Case of the Helmeted Airman, 1972.) His reasoning was steeped in a profound knowledge of French, British and European history, and although he also worked extensively on European economic and industrial policies, "culture" was also the most important variable in his framework of analysis.

In the present crisis of European integration, Duchene would have pointed out that there was no meaningful alternative to the European Union, if Europeans wanted to remain in charge of their own fate.

Hanns W. Maull

Francois Duchene made a great contribution to Sussex University, where he was still an Emeritus Professor at the time of his death, writes Peter Holmes. In the 1970s and early 1980s, he ran the Sussex European Research Centre and its thriving graduate programme.

His greatest success was in leading networks of researchers for projects on agriculture, industrial policy and EU enlargement. There were brilliant and colourful collaborators, including Margaret Sharp (now Baroness Sharp of Guildford), the Lib Dem Europe specialist Edward Szczepanik, later prime minister of the Polish government-in-exile, Patrick Messerlin, France's only free-trade economist, Danuta Hübner, now a European Commissioner, and Luigi Scricciolo, later arrested as a Bulgarian spy.

He had a great strategic vision of where Europe had to go. I still recall his passionate belief, long before others woke up to this, that the EU had to embark on an economic partnership with the Southern Mediterranean countries to prevent an economic decline that would risk social and strategic instability. We collaborated, more than 20 years ago, on a study of the region. There were workshops in splendid locations. Francois was one of the finest travelling companions one could imagine. Not only did he have a brilliant grasp of European history, politics and culture, but he also knew how to choose the best restaurants and the finest wines.

Francois was a great colleague and friend, a brilliant, funny, generous and warm-hearted man. Our last conversation was to arrange a lecture he would have given to our first-year students at Sussex this autumn.