Transcription of the interview with Jacques Delors
— Part 3 — Jacques Delors, President of the European Commission from
1985 to 1995 (Paris, 16 December 2009)
"Transcription of the interview with Jacques Delors, President of the Commission of the European Communities from 1985 to 1995, conducted by the Centre Virtuel de la Connaissance sur l’Europe (CVCE) on 16 December 2009 at the Paris-based premises of the think tank ‘Notre Europe’, of which Jacques Delors is the founding director. The interview, conducted by Hervé Bribosia, Research Coordinator at the CVCE, particularly focuses on the following subjects: Delors’s appointment as President of the European Commission, the Single European Act, the accession of Spain and Portugal to the European Communities, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the negotiations on the Maastricht Treaty, the subsidiarity principle, the work of the ‘Delors Committee’ on Economic and Monetary Union, the coordination of economic policies and the 1993 White Paper, the non-participation of some Member States in the single currency, the ‘Delors Packages’, a review of the Delors Commission and the Delors method.
[Hervé Bribosia] So the IGC, the Intergovernmental Conference, opened.
[Jacques Delors] As regards the Intergovernmental Conference, we can say without bragging — well, there was a Luxembourg presence which was very accommodating, very remarkable, but it was us who drafted 80 % of the texts.
[Hervé Bribosia] By us, you mean the Commission?
[Jacques Delors] That’s right. It was the first time that had happened.
[Hervé Bribosia] So the Commission was very influential in the drawing up of that draft treaty.
[Jacques Delors] Oh yes, with the Single Act! I wanted there to be the single market and the possibility of extending qualified majority voting as well. But I also wanted there to be the social aspect. I also wanted there to be solidarity between poor regions and rich regions. I also wanted there to be a few words about the environment. It all went through apart from a few words about the single currency. And the Germans were against that.
[Hervé Bribosia] It was there in embryo, of course?
[Jacques Delors] Yes, it was, it was in the introduction, a little sentence, like Tom Thumb leaving a trail of white pebbles, you know the story … I’d put it there, having been a Finance Minister […]. So we arrived in Luxembourg, where the Council was chaired remarkably well by Santer. We should give Jacques Santer the credit he deserves. The commitment of the Luxembourgers to Europe is remarkable. From Jacques Santer to Jean-Claude Juncker, by way of Werner who inspired me … remarkable! So the day before, he didn’t want that little paragraph. I went to see Kohl and said to him: ‘Look, it’s quite simple, if we have a single market tomorrow, people other than you are going to raise the question of the single currency. So put a few words in and that can also be a way of showing that the EMS is useful, do you agree?’ He did. That left Mrs Thatcher. And I was able to talk to her while the sitting was suspended and she finally agreed.
[Hervé Bribosia] What did you do to convince her?
[Jacques Delors] Oh, it happened twice. In 1985 for what I’ve just said, and in 1988 when the German subpresidency secured the big budgetary agreement for me. I spoke to her in good faith, I didn’t spin her any yarns. I’m telling you, she’s a woman who was against my ideas but who was extremely courteous, extremely respectful of others. She said: ‘Right, environment and the single currency. So it’s a treaty I’m very fond of, because we got 80 % of it — due yet again to people like Émile Noël, François Lamoureux and others, and even people working for the other Commissioners, particularly Mr Perissich, who is still active. So it was a treaty we made ourselves. The Luxembourgers were very cooperative and very open to us, because agreeing to texts drafted by the Commission is not easy for a government. The Luxembourgers are very European. They didn’t do it out of carelessness but out of a European spirit. We worked well together and that was it. The treaty was agreed to — a miracle! — 12 months after I took office. It was adopted and then there was a referendum against it. But it was implemented in 1987.
VII. The work of the ‘Delors Committee’ on Economic and Monetary Union
[Hervé Bribosia] As regards Economic and Monetary Union, you’ve been described as the midwife of the euro, with Schmidt and Giscard as its forebears and Kohl and Mitterrand as its godparents. The Hanover European Council of June 1988 had made you chairman of a committee whose job was to make practical proposals. The committee was eventually named after you, the ‘Delors Committee’ — just like the report you submitted in April 1989, the ‘Delors Report’. How was the committee set up and how did it operate?
[Jacques Delors] To start with, hats off to Mr Werner! He’d been given the job of producing a report several years beforehand. He chaired a committee of senior officials and his report was a point of reference for us. So all credit to Mr Werner, a great European but a man who also, when he was President of the Council, agreed to chair a committee of technocrats.
[Hervé Bribosia] So you met him on many occasions?
[Jacques Delors] Yes, I did, and I really think … I was due to go to the Werner Foundation and I wasn’t able to go there. But we should pay tribute to him, because part of our report was borrowed from the Werner Report. That should never be forgotten. Secondly, before Hanover, Mr Genscher had talked about a single currency, and Mr Balladur, the Prime Minister, had talked about a common currency. I thought the atmosphere was right, I left them to it, Kohl first invited me to lunch at his house in Ludwigshafen and said to me: ‘So, we’re going to have to do something for the single currency.’ He said to me: ‘Right, there could be a committee of Finance Ministers.’ ‘Oh no,’ I said to him, ‘not the Finance Ministers, the governors of the central banks. Those are the ones: technical expertise and credibility!’ ‘So,’ he said, ‘could you chair it?’ I said to him: ‘Yes, I’ll take the risk.’ As President of the Commission, it was a risk. So I said to him: ‘OK.’ Up to the last minute, in Hanover, the President of the German Central Bank, the Bundesbank, wasn’t keen. He tried to prevent it, then later on he was in the group, he caused me a fair amount of trouble. But anyway he had his own ideas. And then Mrs Thatcher said: ‘As long as it’s about finding out how it could be done, let’s do it!’ So there was a committee of all the governors of the 12 central banks, plus three experts I had had appointed and who were good. So there we were, we set up this group, which was hard work … stormy at times. But we managed to get unanimity, including the Governor of the Bank of England, who prepared the ground for it politically. But he said to Mrs Thatcher: ‘They asked me how to do it, but not what to do.’ So the report was adopted unanimously, which gave it strength. But it was extremely difficult.
[Hervé Bribosia] The essence of the report is in the Maastricht Treaty, would you say?
[Jacques Delors] No, not the economic part.
[Hervé Bribosia] Not the economic part?
[Jacques Delors] It’s a bit out of balance as regards the monetary and budgetary aspects.
[Hervé Bribosia] You mean the report was more balanced from that point of view.
[Jacques Delors] That’s right, the macroeconomic policies and the monetary policies. And from then on, I fought to get it rebalanced, but to no avail, as you can see. To no avail, I’m telling you."