Sun. Mar 3rd, 2024

Jacques Delors, former president of the European Commission ;enne, is dead

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Jacques Delors at the Élysée Palace in 2007 after a meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy

Agence France-Presse

Unclassifiable and iconoclast, the Frenchman Jacques Delors, who died on Wednesday at the age of 98, often went against the grain in French political life and will remain above all the man of European construction to which he was deeply attached.

His career stalled when he left the presidency of the European Commission in January 1995.

A month earlier, this father of the single market and the euro had dampened the hopes of the left by refusing to run in the French presidential election, despite flattering polls, convinced that he would not have a majority to carry out the reforms that he deemed essential.

I never organized my life around a career to achieve, he said in his memoirs.

This trade unionist steeped in social Catholicism was called by the socialist François Mitterrand, elected president in 1981, who first entrusted him with the post of Minister of the Economy (until 1984), a mandate during which he imposes the turning point towards austerity and defends – successfully – the maintenance of France in the European monetary system, a prelude to the euro.

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At the head of public finances, he managed to straighten out the state's accounts and, thanks to an unprecedented austerity plan, prevented France from plunging into inflation. Delors assumes an austere language of truth.

Expected to become prime minister in 1984, he made this conditional on maintaining his duties as Minister of the Economy. A whim, judge François Mitterrand, who prefers another. He will remain for his role at the head of the European Commission, but in politics: zero, Mitterrand will let go a few years later. indeed in Brussels that Jacques Delors acquired a historic stature.

Appointed President of the European Commission in 1985 with the dubbing of Mitterrand and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, this workaholic, who had already been an MEP between 1979 and 1981, is recognized as a providential man. p>

His action and his vision of the continent as a federation of nation-states have earned him comparison to the founding fathers of the continent. Post-war Europe.

In 2015, he was made an Honorary Citizen of Europe, a distinction of which only Jean Monnet and Helmut Kohl were also honored.

During his presidency, under the impetus of the Franco-German tandem, the man who reassured the markets launched the project of the Economic and Monetary Union which would lead to the creation of the single currency. Passionate about education issues, he designed the Erasmus student program.

His rough but skillful character brought him the respect of all leaders, including the British Margaret Thatcher and John Major, with whom relations were nevertheless execrable, Jacques Delors embodying in their eyes the Brussels bureaucracy encroaching on national sovereignty. /p>Open in full screen mode

Jacques Delors (right) with François Mitterrand and his advisor Jacques Attali (middle)

Did Jacques Delors ever think of succeeding François Mitterrand? In the fall of 1994, the polls did so for him, giving him the victory in the French presidential battle to be held the following spring.

His spectacular resignation live on television in front of some 13 million viewers marks the end of his leading political responsibilities, 50 years after his first commitments.

He was born in Paris on July 20, 1925 in a simple environment: his father, 90% mutilated during the 1914-1918 war, was a cash collector at the Banque de France.

After the liberation of Paris, Jacques Delors, passionate about jazz and films, dreamed of journalism and cinema. But obedience to his father pushed him towards the Banque de France, which he joined with a simple degree in economics.

Very quickly, he joined the French Confederation of Christian Workers (CFTC), then participated in the deconfessionalization of the union which gave birth to the CFDT.

He waited until 1974 and the age of 49 to join the Socialist Party with the hope of being useful. Two years earlier, he was still an advisor to Gaullist Prime Minister Jacques Chaban-Delmas. The man with a modest appearance and blue eyes married in 1948 a colleague who shared his union and religious convictions, Marie Lephaille, who died in 2020.

The observation of injustices and my Christian faith led me to become an activist, he explains, emphasizing that he does not carry his Catholicism over his shoulder.

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Jacque Delors and his daughter Martine Aubry attend a soccer match in Lille on April 20, 1996.

From the mid-90s, it x27;it is almost as a simple activist that Jacques Delors continues his battles.

With his centers of reflection, he pleads until the end for a strengthening of European federalism and calls for greater boldness at a time of Brexit and attacks from populists of all kinds.

Very modest , he knows how to preserve his private life, bereaved in 1982 by the death of his son, Jean-Paul.

He provides support to his daughter Martine Aubry (current mayor of the city of Lille and former minister) during the Socialist Party primary for the 2012 presidential election. She has something more than me, he confides, magnanimously. His generosity is limitless.

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