EU leaders meeting for a two-day summit today (25 June), dedicated to the divisive immigration issues and the Greek crisis, will bestow the title of “Honorary Citizen of Europe” on Jacques Delors, for extraordinary work to promote European cooperation.
Delors, who will not take part in the ceremony, will become the third person to be honoured with this rare title, after Jean Monnet and Helmut Kohl.
The decision to honour Delors, widely seen as the most visionary of EU leaders, and who will turn 90 on 20 July, helps convey the truthfulness of his ideas to today’s EU leadership.
However, it should be remembered that the long-serving Commission President (1985-1994) didn’t mince his words in criticising German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her foot-dragging over the first Greek bailout, and for her lack of leadership in the Union, and former Council President Herman Van Rompuy, for having surrendered to the inter-governmental method, at the expense of the community method that made the Union strong in the 1990s.
Now honorary President of the institute Notre Europe, which was recently called after his name, Delors is the recognised architect of the euro and the EU’s Eastern enlargement. Delors’s role in German reunification was highlighted in a recent EurActiv interview of Carlo Trojan, chief negotiator on the integration of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) into the Federal Republic of Germany.
More recently, Delors has put forward political ideas that became the backbone of the Energy Union, the plan put forward by the present Commission led by Jean-Claude Juncker, aimed at ensuring secure, affordable and climate-friendly energy for citizens and businesses.
It has become a tradition to evaluate all Commission Presidents against the legacy of Delors. The vintage politician is said to be sympathetic to present Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, although he said in 2013 that he favours his former chief of cabinet and compatriot Pascal Lamy for the top job.
As an unsuccessful candidate for Commission President, the liberal ALDE leader and former Prime Minister of Belgium Guy Verhofstadt had pledged to follow Delors’ path, as a contrast to former Commission Chief José Manuel Barroso, for his lack of initiative, and for making use instead of the community method, of the “telephone method”, by consulting with the leaders of Germany and France.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is reported to have proposed that Delors be given the title of “Honorary Citizen of Europe”. It is not expected that Delors will be present.
The title was bestowed by EU heads of state and government to Jean Monnet in 1976 (1888-1979), considered the chief architect of European unity, and to Helmut Kohl, the long-serving former Chancellor of Germany and architect of German reunification.