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Jacque Delors

October 31, 2011

Jacques Delors doesn't think too highly of the governments haggling for solutions to the eurozone's problems. After the summit on saving the euro, the former EU Commission President sees danger ahead for Europe.

Jacques Delors
Delors was a guiding force behind the euro and EUImage: Radike/Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen e.V.

Jacque Delors was the President of the European Commission from 1985 - 1994. Before that, he was a member of the European Parliament, as well as French Economic and Finance Minister under President Francois Mitterrand.

As European Commission president, Delors was a major influence in pushing forward the EU integration process. He was a critical influence in the creation of the single European market and the Treaty of Maastricht, which turned the European Community into the European Union in 1992.

In 1996 Delors founded the think tank "Notre Europe," which focuses on European integration.

Last week, Delors, now 86, was given the 2011 Theodor Wanner Award, which is awarded by the German Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations to recognize those who have made a significant contribution to dialogue between cultures.

DW: Mr. Delors, back in August you saw Europe on the edge of a precipice. What is your evaluation now based on the results of the EU summit on saving the euro?

European politicians at the summit in Brussels
EU leaders could have worked better together, says DelorsImage: dapd

Jacques Delors: As far as the regulations about the banks and the sovereign debts of certain eurozone members are concerned, those are solid and can continue. The banks accepted a big sacrifice on their part to save Greece. Given the situation, that's about the best you can hope for. But as far as the agreements about the future institutional organization in the eurozone are concerned, I'm very disappointed. The end result resembles a machine with a thousand intricate parts. New groups and new presidential positions are being created, but how it all is supposed to work remains unclear.

How have the results of the summit affected the solidarity of the EU?

The agreements on common measures to be taken throughout the eurozone were negotiated like a poker game among the EU members. That sort of went against the method of working as a community. In that sense, the European Commission was pushed aside. Now there are four or five groups - the EU is divided. But the community approach has proved itself in the past: Europe made progress when it was used. That's the only method that is simple and efficient. It forces the governments to make decisions together. The agreements that came from the summit had to put out the fire burning in the eurozone, but the community of Europe has suffered, and the Commission has suffered a loss of authority.

In an interview with the French newspaper Le Monde in August, you suggested reforms to the treaties. You said it must be possible for eurozone members - either voluntarily or under pressure from the group - to be able to leave the common currency area. Is this option still necessary in light of the most recent agreements?

It's absolutely necessary, for a simple reason: the 27 EU member states share a single European market and 17 countries even share the euro. A common currency is more than just a symbol; it's a reflection of the sovereignty of a country. People are very concerned about their currency. For that reason, every member or the eurozone has a much bigger responsibility than those that are only a part of the 27-nation EU. For that reason I think it's a scandal that Finland or Slovakia have called for guarantees for their solidarity in the eurozone crisis.

Protesters in Greece
The eurozone crisis has become the EU's top priorityImage: dapd

In 1992, during your time as president of the European Commission, the single European market was completed. Currently we're battling to defend keeping the euro at all. Are long-term, mutually beneficial goals missing in the EU right now?

Yes, that's correct. It is a serious mistake that the euro is overshadowing all the other problems of the EU. We're not addressing anything else anymore. For example, Germany has taken a very important position in its energy policy. Was European energy policy affected at all by that? No, of course not. Or take the negotiations for a global free trade agreement - hardly any Europeans are looking at this. Or the danger of an imminent economic recession in Europe. The EU doesn't have the means or the instruments to support the economy should it come to that. It appears that the "dictatorship of the immediate" currently is in charge in Europe. A project like the EU demands a common vision of living together in diversity. I don't see that kind of vision at the moment.

Interview: Richard A. Fuchs / mz
Editor: Michael Lawton