‘Architect of EU’ Jacques Delors dies at 98


The then 12-nation bloc also set the conditions on his watch for eventually admitting the ex-communist states of central and eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989…reports Asian Lite News

Former European Commission President Jacques Delors, a founding father of the EU’s historic single currency project, died on Wednesday at the age of 98.

Delors, an ardent advocate of post-war European integration, served as president of the European Commission, the EU executive, for three terms — longer than any other holder of the office — from January 1985 until the end of 1994.

During Delors’ dynamic decade as Commission chief, the EU completed its integrated single market and agreed to introduce a single currency and build a common foreign and security policy.

The then 12-nation bloc also set the conditions on his watch for eventually admitting the ex-communist states of central and eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

His daughter, Martine Aubry, the socialist mayor of Lille, told AFP that her father died in his sleep at his Parisian home.

French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to his compatriot calling him a “tireless creator of our Europe.”

Posting on X, formerly Twitter, Macron said “his commitment, his ideal and his rectitude will always inspire us.” Delors was “a statesman with a French destiny,” Macron added. Olivier Faure, head of the French Socialist party where Delors was a towering figure, said “a giant has left us.”

Delors, who served as finance minister under Socialist president Francois Mitterrand, sought to “overcome tragedy by building a durable peace” after World War II ravaged Europe, Faure added.

European Council President Charles Michel said Delors “led the transformation of the European Economic Community toward a true Union.” “A great Frenchman and a great European, he went down in history as one of the builders of our Europe,” Michel posted on social media.

Current European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said Delors had “shaped entire generations of Europeans, including mine” and was “a visionary who made our Europe stronger.” European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde highlighted Delors’s role for the single European market and “the path he laid out toward our single currency, the euro.”

Europe, she said, “has lost a true statesman.” Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief negotiator during Britain’s divorce from the EU, said Delors had been an inspiration and a reason to “believe in a ‘certain idea’ of politics, of France, and of Europe.”

Delors, a staunch federalist, was a passionate defender of an “ever closer union” who at the helm of the EU executive frequently clashed with Britain’s then-prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, who vigorously pushed back against any shift of power to Brussels.

Delors’ plans for monetary union led The Sun tabloid in Britain to famously run a front page headline in 1990 reading “Up Yours Delors.”

The announcement of Delors’ death came hours after news broke of the passing of Wolfgang Schaeuble, whose career in the German parliament spanned more than half a century, during which he helped secure his country’s place at the heart of Europe.

In an interview to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding Treaty of Rome in March 2007, Delors told Reuters he worried the EU could unravel within 20 years unless it reformed its institutions to streamline its decision-making.

A little over two decades later, Britain quit the bloc. Federalists still warn that planned further enlargement, perhaps as far east as Ukraine, risks bringing decision-making to a grinding halt if deeper reforms are not enacted. Nevertheless, Delors at the time expressed pride in the EU’s record of spreading peace, prosperity, democracy and the rule of law on a continent scarred by war, dictatorship and atrocities.

“Modern Europe today loses its founding father,” said Enrico Letta, a former Italian prime minister who currently heads the Jacques Delors Institute created by the ex-EU commission chief. Writing on X, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani praised “a personality who showed, on the basis of Christian values, the path of strengthening Europe.”

Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo also hailed the EU’s “founding father,” whose “project for a stronger and more secure union remains hugely relevant for the Europe of tomorrow.”

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said that Delors “always believed in a united, open and prosperous Europe.” “He worked to make what many thought impossible a reality,” Sanchez wrote on X.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz hailed Delors as a “visionary” and an “architect of the EU as we know it.” Delors fought for European unity “like few others,” Scholz added in a message posted on X, urging Europeans to continue his work for the continent’s benefit.

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