Delors: 'Superficial' Franco-German engine needs kick-start

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In an exclusive interview with EurActiv, former European Commission President Jacques Delors said Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy maintain a "superficial" alliance which needs to be "rebuilt" – a goal for which he is offering a helping hand.

Delors, who is considered as one of the "fathers" of the EU, compared the French president and the German chancellor to their predecessors.

Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder were only in agreement on saying "nein" or "non", Delors said, for example on increasing the EU's budget. But when it came to more ambitious plans, they fell short of taking tangible initiatives, he said.

"[Chirac-Schroeder] was a superficial alliance, as superficial, it seems to me, as the one between Madame Merkel and Monsieur Sarkozy," Delors said.

For the former Commission chief, previous Franco-German couples – like Francois Mitterand and Helmut Kohl, Valery Giscard d'Estaing and Helmut Schmidt, and Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer in the post-war period – have been a driving force for the EU.

"All of them have left their mark on the history of Europe, because at a given moment they overcame their preconceptions towards the other, for a European vision. This is what made that period great."

"But since Mitterrand and Kohl have gone, everyone has taken on their old role," Delors lamented.

The long-serving Commission president (1985-1994) said that the Franco-German engine needed to be rebuilt "not because France and Germany must dominate Europe," but because this relationship is one of the "trees of life" of Europe.

In spite of his age (he was born in 1925), Delors, who is still active with his think-tank Notre Europe, indicated that he was willing to offer his support to help rebuild relations between Paris and Berlin.

"I am a great advocate for renewing dialogue at all levels between the Germans and the French. It is essential. And it is still to be done. I think that the younger generations will have to take care of this. And me, I am ready to bring my support to bear," Delors said.

Asked what would change if the Socialists were to return to power in France and Germany, Delors – whose daughter Martine Aubry is leader of the French Socialist Party – diplomatically answered that they would have "slightly different visions on the economic and financial management of Europe and of what could be done at the global level".

"This is important. But the essential thing, it's above all that the French and the Germans understand each other, accept their different characters, and manage to complement one another for the better," Delors added.

He also underlined that globalisation was spreading "fear and almost terror" among citizens, breeding populism and extremism across the whole EU.

To read the full text of the interview in English, please click here.

To read the original text of the interview in French, please click here.

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