Jacques Delors

Jacques Delors
President of the European Commission
In office
7 January 1985  24 January 1995
Preceded by Gaston Thorn
Succeeded by Jacques Santer
Minister of Finance
In office
22 May 1981  17 July 1984
Prime Minister Pierre Mauroy
Preceded by René Monory
Succeeded by Pierre Bérégovoy
Personal details
Born (1925-07-20) 20 July 1925
Paris, France
Political party

Socialist Party

Party of European Socialists
Religion Roman Catholic

Jacques Lucien Jean Delors (born 20 July 1925) is a French economist and politician, previously the eighth President of the European Commission and the first person to serve three terms in that office (between January 1985 and January 1995).[1] He is the father of Martine Aubry, the former first secretary (leader) of the Socialist Party of France.

French politics

Born in Paris in a family originating from Corrèze, Delors first held in the 1940s through the 1960s a series of posts in French banking and state planning with the Banque de France.[1] As a member of the French Confederation of Christian Workers, he participated in its secularization and the foundation of the French Democratic Confederation of Labour. In 1969, he became social affairs adviser to the Gaullist Prime Minister Jacques Chaban-Delmas, a move which was presented as part of Chaban's outreach to the centre-ground and first attracted media attention to Delors personally.[1]

In 1974 Delors joined the French Socialist Party, with other left-wing Christians. He was one of the rare members of the party to be openly religious, thus challenging its long-standing secular tradition of Laïcité. He served in the European Parliament from 1979 to 1981, becoming chairman of its Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs.[1] Under President François Mitterrand, Delors served as Economics and Finance Minister from 1981 to 1983, and Economics, Finance, and Budget Minister from 1983 to 1984.[1] He advocated a pause in the social policies, a clear acceptance of the market economy, and an alignment with European social democracy. Critically, he held the line on France's membership of the European Monetary System (EMS), giving priority to monetary stability over left-wing spending priorities. Mitterrand flirted with the idea of naming him Prime Minister, but never made the appointment.

Delors Commission

Delors in 1988

Delors became the President of the European Commission in January 1985. During his presidency, he oversaw important budgetary reforms and laid the groundwork for the introduction of a single market within the European Community, which came into effect on 1 January 1993. (see Delors Commission for details)

In the autumn of 1988 Delors addressed the British Trade Union Congress, promising that the Commission would be a force to require governments to introduce pro-labour legislation. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher responded with her famous "Bruges Speech" on 20 September 1988, in which she said that she had not rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain only to see them reimposed by a Brussels superstate.[2] These developments were of key importance for domestic politics in the UK; as recently as the early 1980s, large elements of the Labour Party had opposed British membership of the EC, whereas the Conservatives under Harold Macmillan (1957–1963) and Edward Heath (1970–1974) had favoured joining. After 1988 it was to be the Conservatives who were divided, with Thatcher and her supporters opposed to further European integration.

Shortly before Thatcher's ousting, Delors bore the brunt of British Euroscepticism; tabloid newspaper The Sun's headline on 1 November 1990 read "Up Yours Delors" (a rhyme which requires mispronouncing his name), in response to his attempts to promote further European integration and a single currency for the (then) EC. The article called Delors "the Froggie Common Market chief".[3]


Delors has a longstanding interest in education. Initiator of a French law in 1971 (la formation professionnelle continue – FPC) requiring firms to set aside part of their profits for educational opportunities for their employees, he also chaired a UNESCO Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century from 1993 to 1996 whose final report was published as Learning: the Treasure Within. This work continues to have a significant influence on discourse on lifelong learning, forming the conceptual foundation for both the Canadian Composite Learning Index as well as the European Lifelong Learning Indicators (ELLI) project.

In 1994, members of the French Socialist Party attempted to persuade Delors to run for President of France. Polls showed that he would have a very good chance of defeating either of the main conservative contenders – Prime Minister Édouard Balladur and Mayor of Paris Jacques Chirac.[4] However Delors declined to run and the eventual Socialist nominee, Lionel Jospin, was defeated in the 1995 presidential election by Chirac.

Delors founded the Paris-based, centre-left think tank Notre Europe in 1996 and remains one of its presidents. He is president of the Conseil de l'emploi, des revenus et de la cohésion sociale, and honorary member of both the Institut Aspen France and the Club of Rome.

On 15 September 2010 Delors supported the new initiative Spinelli Group, which was founded to reinvigorate the strive for federalisation of the European Union. Other prominent supporters include Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Guy Verhofstadt, Sylvie Goulard, Andrew Duff, and Elmar Brok.[5] In 2010, Delors was the first to be honored with the Leonardo European Corporate Learning Award.[6]

In 1990 he received the Freedom medal[7]

Delors is the father of Socialist politician Martine Aubry.[1]

In 2012, Delors stated in the Handelsblatt newspaper that "If the British cannot support the trend towards more integration in Europe, we can nevertheless remain friends, but on a different basis. I could imagine a form such as a European economic area or a free-trade agreement."

On 25 June 2015, Donald Tusk announced that Delors would become the third person ever to have the title of Honorary Citizen of Europe bestowed upon them, in recognition of "his remarkable contribution to the development of the European project".[8]

Selected works

Delors, Jacques; Arnaud, Jean-Louis (2004), Mémoires, Plon, ISBN 978-2-259-19292-7 

See also


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Political offices
Preceded by
René Monory
Minister of Finance
Succeeded by
Pierre Bérégovoy
Preceded by
François-Xavier Ortoli
Edgard Pisani
French European Commissioner
Served alongside: Claude Cheysson, Christiane Scrivener
Succeeded by
Édith Cresson
Yves-Thibault de Silguy
Preceded by
Gaston Thorn
President of the European Commission
Succeeded by
Jacques Santer
Academic offices
Preceded by
Margaret Thatcher
Speaker at the College of Europe Opening Ceremony
Succeeded by
Richard von Weizsäcker
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