Delors, Jacques: On Integration
(Report on his speech to the Institutional Affairs Committee of the European Parliament on 17th March ’98)
In an appeal for a powerful and generous Europe, Mr Delors argued that if we were to avoid creating a soulless Europe it was essential to be aware of how Europe had declined and show greater political will, more imagination as regards institutional matters and greater realism when implementing policies. Europe needed to be easier for the public to understand, so that they could take part in this European adventure – the first which they had been summoned to take part in for a long time.
Turning to the criteria for improving the political and institutional set-up of the EU – transparency, subsidiarity, efficiency and democratic scrutiny -Mr Delors emphasised that transparency did not just mean having access to documents; above all, it meant that what was happening at European level must make sense to ordinary people, as Europe was now an integral part of their everyday lives. As to subsidiarity, he was in favour of relaunching the debate for the sake of greater simplicity. On efficiency, it was important to make clear who took the decisions, the Commission or the Member States. In this connection, he criticised the role now played by the “rampant undergrowth” of committees. Mutual trust was crucial in this area. Mr Delors went on to distinguish between external and internal efficiency the system of pillars, he said, was a form of “organised schizophrenia” -Europe must speak with one voice in order to negotiate all aspects of external policy. As to democratic scrutiny, he was in favour of reducing the area of shared powers and of affirming clearly the powers of the European Parliament and the national parliaments.
As regards institutional changes, Mr Delors was surprised that the last IGC had only dealt with the Commission and the weighting of votes – and this only at the last minute – whereas in his view the most important point was the preparation of decisions. He argued for a return to the simple situation under which the Commission had a right of initiative; the public had to be able to know what the goals of the EU were as regards the validity of the Community model. He said that this model had enabled progress to be made but acknowledged that the machinery was complicated and was not becoming any clearer or more efficient. He believed that the political debate within the EU and vis-a- vis the outside world needed to be personalised. On EMU, Mr Delors warned against the new imbalance now emerging between a monetary pole and an economic pole, the first having a genuinely federal institution, the European Central Bank (although it if operated in a political vacuum it might become a scapegoat for critics of the integration process, thereby jeopardising this process as initially conceived). The initial political model should therefore be “purified” by raising the profiles of both Parliament and the Commission.
On the subject of enlargement and the chances of a Union of 25 or 30 countries maintaining the same level of ambition, the former President of the Commission voiced his doubts. He then put forward two hypotheses, one of enlargement resulting in an economic area with a few common policies, an area of peace, cooperation, etc., and one in which certain countries would seek to go further towards political union. In the former case, the rules of the game would have to be clearly defined by the Commission and the Court of Justice, with scrutiny by Parliament, and working methods would have to be reviewed. Mr Delors regarded this hypothesis as equivalent to “a mass without faith”. Under the second hypothesis, two spheres, the political and the economic, would have to be differentiated. No country would be able to prevent the others from advancing or force them to follow. Within this political Europe, there would be two poles, Parliament and the Commission. The role of the Member States would have to evolve as well, with COREPER being replaced by meetings once a fortnight between the deputy prime ministers of the Member States. Ultimately, however, the important point when examining these issues was to find out whether everyone agreed on what should be done together, rather than how it should be done, and this meant laying one’s cards on the table. It was better to progress via a crisis than through bouts of schizophrenia.