At the Jacques Delors Centre, academic research goes hand in hand with the development of concrete ideas for future-oriented EU policies.
In our think tank work, our analyses provide an independent, non-partisan view of European policy processes and decisions. We develop concrete proposals for a better Europe. Through a variety of different formats and channels, we share our findings and ideas with decision-makers and the interested public and put political developments into perspective in real time.
In our research work, we systematically close knowledge gaps on European integration. In close exchange with scholars from all over the world, we conduct theoretically-grounded empirical EU research from legal, political, and economic perspectives.
The synergies between academic and policy analysis make the Jacques Delors Centre a unique place for European research, debate, and visions. Our academic findings form a key starting point for our policy recommendations, and our think tank work provides the impetus for further research activities. By integrating the two, we bring facts and analysis to the discussions on European policy and drive them forward. This way, we strive to promote a strong Europe in the spirit of our namesake Jacques Delors.
About Jacques Delors
Jacques Delors - Founder of the modern European Union
When Jacques Delors paid his first visit to the European Parliament as the new president of the European Commission, Europe was in crisis. Great Britain blocked further European integration and a general pessimism about the future of European economics prevailed among the 10 member states of the European communities. The European project, it was heralded, was slowly falling apart. Despite this dark outlook, Jacques Delors entered the European Parliament with a vision - and a plan. "Is it presumptuous”, he asked, “to announce and then also to implement the decision to abolish all intra-Community borders by 1992?”. Together with this bold announcement, the president put 300 legislative measures on the table which allowed the creation of a European Single Market. He kept his words and signed the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992, which meant the official abolition of all borders for economic goods within the Europe Union, the driving force behind European integration.
Jacques Delors strongly believed in the European project and advanced European integration with his famous eagerness and love for detail. Born 1925 in Paris, he witnessed the cruelties of the Second World War, a “European civil war”, as his father told him. Growing up in a catholic family with a socialist and war-disabled father, Jacques Delors came to understand Europe as a peace project. His political career, however, started with his activities at the Catholic labour union. While eagerly working up his way as an employee of the Banque de France, he was struggling for his vision of a socially just society ensured by a strong role of the labour unions. The importance of the social dimension to him is also reflected in his conception of man, which is deeply rooted in the concept of personalism. This doctrine views human beings as characterised by individual freedom and responsibility for their fellow beings alike. Like this, personalism sought to promote the golden mean between capitalist individualism and communism. Seeking to put these ideals into practice and realising the limits of his activities at the labour union, Jacques Delors eventually entered French politics, as social affairs adviser to the Gaullist Prime Minister Jacques Chaban-Delmas in 1969.
“There are people who content themselves with protesting against the current society, and others, who seek to change it actively. I prefer to be part of the second category.”, Jacques Delors once said. Hence, he joined the French socialist party in 1974 despite his initial suspicion of large parties. After a short period as an MP at the first directly elected European Parliament, where he served as chairman of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, he became the Minister for Finance and Economics in 1981 under the French President Mitterrand. This was a rather unlikely position for a former employer of a bank without a degree from the usual French elite institutions, reached by hard work and immense persuasive power. In this position, he realised a firm policy of cutbacks, stabilising the Franc and halving the inflation rate. Despite their success, his politics lacked popularity among the population. In 1984, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and President Mitterrand proposed him as President of the European Commission and Jacques Delors took on the most powerful position in the European Communities at the beginning of the year 1985.
Quickly after he entered office, Jacques Delors was able to spread his enthusiasm about a further deepening of European Integration among the member states. Already in 1986, the European communities agreed on a profound reform of their founding treaty, the Treaty of Rome. The Single European Act provisioned the transition from a purely economic to a political union with the Single Market at its centre, introducing also a regional cohesion policy. Hence, Delors managed to save Europe with more Europe. In only ten years, his successive commissions prepared the Treaty of Maastricht, the founding document of the European Union. With this treaty, the Single Market was finalised, European cooperation in domestic and legal policy was introduced, and the competences of the Union in foreign and security politics were widened. Likewise, the treaty paved the way for the common currency Euro by establishing the monetary union. In addition, Delors laid the foundation for an Europeanisation of social policy with the social protocol as an annex to the treaty.
As President of the European Commission, Jacques Delors sought to combine his vision of the European Union as a peace project with his belief in the importance of a social union. He identifies the economy as the key area to hold the union together and foster European Integration. “The European model is, first, a social and economic system founded on the role of the market […]. Second, we have a state which intervenes, regulates, and fills the gaps left by the market. The third element is the role of professional bodies and trade unions, the ‘social partners’, which help to make people more responsible.” With this combination of market order and social solidarity, Delors sought to distinct the European model from US-American neoliberalism and hold the union together. In his view, the European contract is defined by „Competition that stimulates, co-operation that strengthens, and solidarity that unites”. He continues to stress the importance of European solidarity also after his time as the President of the Commission throughout the euro crisis of the 2000s.
After three terms, Jacques Delors’s time as the president of the European Commission came to an end. He decided not to run for the French Presidential Elections, as he did not see a majority for his political ideas. He did not enter any more political offices, but continues to fight for European Integration. In 1996, he founded the think tank “Notre Europe”, which is now our sister institution, the Jacques Delors Institute in Paris. In addition, the former president actively sought until very recently to influence media debates and regularly warned that the monetary union cannot work without an economic union. As the architect of the Single Market, accelerator of European Integration and forethinker of the Euro, Jacques Delors received numerable prices and is one of the three honorary citizens of Europe.