A wonderful interview (in Dutch) by Jacques Delors in Het Financiele Dagblad, also to be found on the website of his think tank, Notre Europe, here. As the most proactive President of the European Commission and one of the ‘fathers’ of the internal market project and the euro, he makes it clear that he is concerned about the fate of Economic and Monetary Union and about, the stupidity (his words) displayed by current leaders of the EU. One of his examples: good decisions were taken on 21 July 2011 by the EU leaders… but, he says, then they say at the press conference, these decisions only will come into force in December! “C’est stupide! ” he says (it must be a relief to be no longer in an official capacity able to say this!) What were they thinking? This is not how the economy and the markets work!
I have always admired Delors’ vision and intellectual strength and expertise, but now we get a glimpse of his emotions. The questions which he poses in this interview resonate with a theme which has been central for me since we started this blog. European integration cannot be only about costs and benefits for any given member state, not today and not in the medium term. Political leaders today appear in their statements to present the EU arena as endless bargaining for the national interest, narrowly defined. It has to be also about cooperation and solidarity, otherwise it simply does not work. As Delors explains in the interview that he had proposals on economic policy coordination which leaders ignored, it is clear part of the crisis we have now is the result of their shortsightedness and reluctance to adopt provisions for coordination of economic policy at the time. A greater concern is that the EU leaders’ current response to the crisis is also limited to the lowest common denominator, without the will to work together and without cooperation. Working together, Delors says, is a contract, an almost moral contract. Believe me, he says, even if you transfer competences to the EU level (for controlling national budgets, for example) nothing is possible unless it is done in a spirit of cooperation.
The demise of the Community method and the EU institutions is his last point of polite but insistent criticism. Decisions in the EU and the news about them appear to be about two countries, not about the Council of Ministers or the Commission. The dominance of the Franco-German duo of leaders undermines the faith of other member states in the EU institutions. If not, he warns, Europe will move from one internal conflict to the other.