Delors : inside the house that Jacques built

– Extracts from Delors : inside the house that Jacques built >


Charles Grant (British, born 1958) is a journalist, writing first for ‘Euromoney’ and then for ‘The Economist’, where he spent four years as Brussels correspondent (1989-1993). He left ‘The Economist’ in 1998 to become founding director of the Centre for European Reform, the think tank which he continues to lead.


This biography of Jacques Delors, published as he entered the final year of his Presidency of the European Commission, tells the story of how he reinvigorated an institution which had lost influence in the recession-hit Europe of the early 1980s. As French Finance Minister in François Mitterand’s first government, Delors had been responsible for austerity policies which had helped pull the country out of economic trouble.

Delors was appointed Commission President in July 1984, and immediately sought a “big idea” with which he could drive the Community out of its moribund state. He chose the internal market, in part because that was the only area which would be supported by all 10 of the Member States at the time. With the initiative launched, he then persuaded governments to launch the process of treaty change, leading to the 1986 Single European Act, with its all-important introduction of qualified majority voting in the Council. This was critical if the internal market programme, with its 297 legislative measures was to be completed by the deadline of the end of 1992.

The biography outlines Delors’ role in the major subsequent developments in the Community over his three terms in office (1985-1995), including the fixing of a first multi-year budget package, the development of plans for economic and monetary union, German reunification, and the negotiation of the Maastricht Treaty.

It relates how he, together with his chef de cabinet, Pascal Lamy, reorganised the Commission and, despite its collegiate system, focused power in the President’s office. It also considers how Delors’ Socialism and Christian faith influenced his work on the European project, not least his championing of a ‘social Europe’ alongside the internal market.

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