Jacques Delors: Former European Commission head dies aged 98

The Frenchman was considered the architect of the modern EU and the euro

Jacques Delors served as president of the European Commission from 1985 to 1995. AFP
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Jacques Delors, a former head of the European Commission and key figure in the creation of the euro, has died.

Mr Delors, who was 98, died in his sleep in his Paris home, his family said.

He served as president of the European Commission from 1985 to 1995, and was considered by many to be the most successful holder of that post to date.

Projects which he oversaw included the creation of the common market, the Schengen accords for travel, the Erasmus programme for student exchanges and the creation of the bloc's single currency, the euro.

French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to his compatriot as a statesman who served as an "inexhaustible architect of our Europe" and a fighter for human justice.

Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator during Britain's divorce from the bloc , said Mr Delors had been an inspiration and a reason to "believe in a 'certain idea' of politics, of France, and of Europe".

Mr Delors served as France's minister of finance from 1981 to 1984 and was also a member of the European Parliament from 1979 to 1985.

But he declined to run for French president in 1995 despite being overwhelmingly ahead in the polls – a decision he later put down to “a desire for independence that was too great”.

His drive for increased integration met with resistance in some member countries, especially Britain under prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

Mr Delors later founded think tanks with the aim of furthering European federalism, and in recent years warned of the dangers of populism in Europe. He also called for “audacity” in dealing with the Brexit fallout.

He was also involved in international debates such as on the future of the Middle East and the post-Soviet world.

Mr Delors is survived by his daughter Martine Aubry, a French politician who is mayor of Lille and who campaigned to be the socialist candidate for the French presidency in 2011, losing to Francois Hollande.

Updated: December 28, 2023, 7:01 AM