BRUSSELS – Jacques Delors, who headed the European Commission between 1985 and 1995 and is seen as one of the most important architects of the European internal market and the single currency, died on Wednesday at the age of 98.
Delors was a central figure in the revival of the quest for a united Europe after World War II, and is best known for presiding over the Single European Act of 1987, which set Europe on a path toward borderless economic integration, and the 1993 Maastricht Treaty that created the European Union. The European Union has drawn up a path for countries to join the euro currency.
Perhaps most important in formulating the concept of a unified European democracy is that the Maastricht Treaty also created EU citizens, who would participate in elections to the European Parliament.
Born in Paris in 1925, Delors worked at the Bank of France until 1962. A committed Christian and trade union activist, Delors entered politics as a member of the Socialist Party in 1974 and was appointed finance minister by President François Mitterrand in 1974. In 1981. Facing a recession, He began by offering the conventional remedy of increased spending, but eventually persuaded Mitterrand to change course toward greater conformity with market economics.
The Jacques Delors Institute said its name would be linked to several binding infrastructures of the European project in addition to the single market and the euro: the Schengen area for passport-free travel, the enlargement and student exchange of the Erasmus programme, and the cohesion funds for aid. Development in poor countries.
French President Emmanuel Macron was quick to praise.
“A statesman of French destiny. An indefatigable craftsman of our Europe. A fighter for human justice. Jacques Delors was all that. His commitment, his ideals and his righteousness will always inspire us. I salute his work and his memory and share the pain of his loved ones.” Statement on X
His daughter, Martine Aubry, confirmed Delors' death. Aubry, the socialist mayor of the French city of Lille, said: “He died this morning at his home in Paris in his sleep.” French media.
His current successor as European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, described Delors as “a visionary who made Europe stronger.”
European Council President Charles Michel added: “Jacques Delors led the transformation of the European Economic Community towards a true union, based on human values and supported by a single market and one currency, the euro. He was a passionate and vocal advocate for it until his final days. “He is a great Frenchman and a great European. He has gone down in history as one of the builders of our Europe.”
“Europe has just lost one of its giants,” said Josep Borrell, the EU's top diplomat.
In Britain, Delors was sometimes viewed more hostilely, especially when he faced figures such as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who was more skeptical of deepening European integration.
Famously, one of the Sun's most popular front pages greeted Delors' moves towards currency union with two fingers raised and the headline “Speak up, Delors.”
Despite these differences with the British, Delors himself was opposed to Brexit and said the UK's membership of the bloc benefited both parties.
Ultimately, his old sparring partner, The Sun, admitted on Wednesday that he was “respected as a passionate and hard-working politician.”
“Infuriatingly humble alcohol fanatic. Unapologetic beer practitioner. Analyst.”