Jacques Delors, the former president of the European Commission and one of the most influential figures in the history of the European Union, died in his sleep on Wednesday at the age of 98, his daughter Martine Aubry announced. Delors was widely regarded as the architect of the modern EU, having played a pivotal role in the creation of the single market, the euro, and the Maastricht Treaty.
A life dedicated to Europe
Delors was born in Paris in 1925, in a family of modest origins. He joined the Bank of France in 1945, where he rose to a senior position, and became active in the Christian trade union movement. He later studied economics at the Sorbonne and joined the Socialist Party in 1974. He was elected to the European Parliament in 1979, where he chaired the economic and monetary committee.
In 1981, he was appointed as the minister of economics and finance by President François Mitterrand, and implemented a series of reforms to stabilize the French economy. He left the government in 1984 to become the president of the European Commission, the executive body of the European Community (EC), the precursor of the EU.
A visionary leader of the European Commission
Delors served as the president of the European Commission for three consecutive terms, from 1985 to 1995, making him the longest-serving president in the history of the institution. He is widely credited with revitalizing the EC and advancing the process of European integration. He was the driving force behind the Single European Act of 1987, which established the single market and the free movement of goods, services, capital, and people within the EC. He also chaired the committee that proposed the monetary union and the creation of the euro, a single currency to replace the national currencies of the member states. This was achieved by the signing of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, which also transformed the EC into the EU and introduced the pillars of common foreign and security policy and justice and home affairs.
Delors was a passionate advocate of the European project and its values of peace, democracy, solidarity, and diversity. He also promoted the social dimension of the EU, by launching initiatives such as the European Social Charter, the Erasmus program, and the Cohesion Fund. He was a strong supporter of the enlargement of the EU to include new members, especially from Central and Eastern Europe. He also fostered the relations between the EU and other regions of the world, such as Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
A legacy of inspiration and admiration
Delors retired from the European Commission in 1995, and declined to run for the French presidency, despite being widely favored by the public opinion. He remained active in the public sphere, as the president of the think tank Notre Europe, and as a member of various international organizations and forums. He also received numerous awards and honors, such as the Charlemagne Prize, the Prince of Asturias Award, and the Robert Schuman Medal. He was also named as an honorary citizen of Europe by the European Parliament in 2015.
Delors’ death has sparked an outpouring of tributes and condolences from across the political spectrum and the world. Many leaders and personalities have praised his vision, leadership, and contribution to the European integration and the global community. He is widely regarded as one of the founding fathers of the EU and one of the most influential Europeans of the 20th century.