“England is an island!” With this exclamation pronounced on 14th January 1963, Charles de Gaulle put an end to Great Britain’s first attempt to negotiate its entry into the European Common Market. Indirectly, but in as completely effective a way, this sentence was instrumental in bringing about a decisive change in my professional career. I realised this many months later.
Arnold Hatter was working in Geneva as a researcher at the Battelle Institute. It was a laboratory that counted several hundred collaborators. At the beginning of the seventies about a thousand of these were permanent staff. The centre formed part of a larger institution, the Battelle Memorial Institute (BMI), founded at the beginning of the thirties thanks to a fund of about two million dollars bequeathed by Gordon Battelle, who was to the United States steel industry what Krupp was in Germany or Schneider was in France.
The mission of the Battelle Institute that had begun its work in Columbus, Ohio, was to make itself available to industry and also to other private or public institutions for carrying out research at cost price. The results and licenses belonged to its clients. Exceptions could occur however when research financing could not be found for a good idea and then it was necessary to run the risk in house: such, for example, was the case, at the beginning, with what was called xerography (the Xerox photocopier).
It was the Battelle Institute that introduced the age of not only technical, but also of scientific and economic research on contract. Starting from the steel sector its activities spread, especially after the Second World War, to every sector of technology, from soluble chocolate to solar panels, through surregenerator nuclear reactors. Between 8000 and 10000 projects were carried out in a year by about 6000 researchers in four large laboratories, such as those at Geneva, plus a series of smaller ones, for example in the oceanography field. Today the Battelle structure has changed – little research is carried out in Europe – while in the United States today the Institute still has more than 6000 researchers.
Let us return to Arnold Hatter. He was an Englishman with a strong social conscience. De Gaulle’s comment struck both his heart and his spirit. Yes it was true that England was an island and that in a Europe then being formed this became a sin. General de Gaulle was right. Amends had to be made, bridges had to be built; maybe the channel had to be filled in.
So it was that Mr. Hatter began to write letters to the European movements. He sought contacts and actions to set about finding a remedy for what de Gaulle had said and which he personally felt to be justified.
One of these letters reached the secretarial office of the European Federalist Movement in Paris and was forwarded to me in Zurich. I made a telephone call to the writer and he came to visit me. I had become angry. For the federalists of that time de Gaulle was certainly not an example of a good European. They hoped for a contribution from Great Britain and thanks to the country’s democratic tradition it could contribute to transforming the Brussels institutions such as the Parliament and the Executive (the Commission) through direct elections.
I tried to alleviate Arnold Hatter’s sense of guilt but it was not easy. The subject was changed and the conversation turned to his work as an economist at Battelle Geneva in the sectors interested in new technologies. Overall, economic research concerned less than 5% of the Institute’s total business and an important part was located in Switzerland, including the sector involving macroeconomic models (input-output). For my part I described my work in the chemical industry to him.
This convinced him that I too should join Battelle and I pursued this objective for over a year. Although I was in agreement with him the very idea of Europe that had led him to me, was initially an obstacle to my consent.
Actually Arnold Hatter began by sending a memorandum to his group and department superior suggesting me as a collaborator. I was invited to Geneva for a first interview: everything seemed to go smoothly until I met the head of the department, a Genevan who bore the surname of a family written into the history of the city, and whom I met some years later in the United States when he had become scientific councillor at the Swiss Embassy. I subsequently met him several times in an amicable way.
At the time of our meeting, the European Community of Six had been accused of being a protectionist tool, contrary to the rules and the spirit of free trade agreements. EFTA (European Free Trade Association) functioned as a counterbalance to the Brussels Institution. In many countries, and in Switzerland above all, the ruling class feared the European “bureaucratic” organisation for many reasons.
Thus it was that, when the department head showed an interest in my European activities, in my relations with Professor Rieben in Lausanne, who with his European Research Centre was Jean Monnet’s contact, I understood that the circumstances were not in my favour. One cannot have the good fortune to play at being a pioneer without coming up against some inconveniences. I returned to Zurich, therefore, empty handed.
About ten months later I received an offer of a position with Battelle. A few days earlier a new Department Head had been appointed and Arnold Hatter had returned to the attack. He had lost completely with de Gaulle but had won with me. Poor consolation.