“Europe loses a founding father” with the death of Jacques Delors (98) | News

UpdateJacques Delors, former President of the European Commission, founder of the euro and leading politician of the political left wing in France, died in his sleep at his home in Paris on Wednesday at the age of 98. His daughter Martine Aubry announced this.

Delors, a member of the French Parti Socialiste, played a key role in shaping contemporary Europe: the creation of the Single European Market, the signing of the Schengen Agreements, the Single European Act, the launch of the Erasmus student exchange programme, the reform of the common agricultural policy and the Economic and Monetary Union that would lead to the creation of the euro, which was introduced in 1999.

With Jacques Delors, Europe loses a founding father. Prime Minister Alexander De Croo wrote this on X, formerly Twitter, on Wednesday. “He was the architect of the European Union in difficult times, convinced that a united Europe was in the interests of its citizens,” the prime minister said. “His plan for a stronger and more secure union remains hugely relevant for the Europe of tomorrow.”

Commenting on the death of his compatriot, French President Emmanuel Macron calls Delors “a tireless architect of our Europe”.


Born in Paris in 1925, into a family with roots in Torhout, West Flanders, Delors started his professional career at the Banque de France, the French national bank. There he worked his way up until he was elected as a Member of the European Parliament in 1979.

From 1981 onwards, Delors made a name for himself as Minister of Finance in the first government of President François Mitterand. After an unsuccessful expansionary budgetary policy, three devaluations of the French franc and a threatened departure from the European Monetary System (EMS), the government could only get the economy back on track with a stricter budgetary policy. Delors was the architect of this change of course in 1983. It gave Delors the necessary fame to be appointed as the new President of the European Commission a year later.

Archive image.  French President Francois Mitterrand (left) and Finance Minister Jacques Delors during the G7 in Williamsburg.  (29/05/83)
Archive image. French President Francois Mitterrand (left) and Finance Minister Jacques Delors during the G7 in Williamsburg. (29/05/83) © AFP

Diplomat with ambition

Immediately after his appointment as chairman, the Frenchman sought a major project to revive the then European Economic Community. He opted for the completion of the internal market, which was the only area on which the then Member States agreed. All felt that mutual trade had too many obstacles. The negotiations led to the signing of the Single European Act in 1986, which not only promised the free movement of goods, people, services and capital by 1 January 1993, but also gave new impetus to European integration.

This was done by giving the European Parliament more powers and by reforming the decision-making procedure in the European Councils of Ministers. From now on, unanimity was no longer required for various subjects, but decisions could be taken by voting with a qualified majority. In this way, the balance of power in European decision-making partly shifted in the direction of the Commission, because more proposals were approved than before.

The new procedure was introduced to ensure the timely adoption of a total of 297 legislative proposals needed to complete the single market. Delors should therefore be seen as the politician who gave the internal market its final shape, but also as the diplomat who sensed that the political context was right to bring the project to a successful conclusion.

German Chancellor Helmut Kohl (left) and President of the European Commission Jacques Delors during a Euro Summit in Luxembourg.  (28/06/91)
German Chancellor Helmut Kohl (left) and President of the European Commission Jacques Delors during a Euro Summit in Luxembourg. (28/06/91) © AFP

Founder of the euro

Delors showed the same agility when launching the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). The plan for such a coordinated policy among the European member states dated back to the early 1970s, but Delors also felt that the time was right. In the ‘Delors report’, the Commission President recommended achieving EMU in three steps, with the introduction of a single currency as a possible final step. But it was not until the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl reunified Germany that the decision was made to introduce the euro from January 1, 1999. This far-reaching integration was anchored in the Maastricht Treaty in 1992.

The socialist, but also religious, Delors was able to build his record through his good cooperation with Christian Democratic rulers such as Kohl, the Luxembourg Prime Minister Jacques Santer and the Belgian Philippe Maystadt, who as minister was successively responsible for Economic Affairs and Finance. Wilfried Martens praised Delors in his memoirs as “the personification of the revival of European thought”. To date, Delors is the only Commission President to have served three terms.

After Brussels

In 1995, despite being the big favorite according to polls, he refused to run for the French presidency.

With his think tanks ‘Club témoin’ or ‘Notre Europe’, which subsequently became the ‘Institut Jacques Delors’ in Paris, Brussels and Berlin, he advocated a strengthening of European federalism until the end of his life, and called for to more “guts” in the time of Brexit and the attacks of “all kinds of populists”. In March 2020, Delors called on European leaders for more solidarity as they struggled with a common response to the corona pandemic.