Delors attacks EU leaders’ plot against Commission

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Series Details Vol.7, No.24, 14.6.01, p1
Publication Date 14/06/2001
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Date: 14/06/01

Jacques Delors has launched a blistering attack on EU governments and Sweden's presidency, accusing them of marginalising the European Commission.

Speaking ahead of today's gathering of Union leaders in Göteborg, the former Commission president told European Voice that he believed "there is a plot against the communatarian method" of decision-making, with an increasing tendency for governments of member states to bypass the Union's executive.

He singled out the preparations for last March's Stockholm summit for particular criticism.

Sweden's Prime Minister Göran Persson had written to EU leaders, asking them what issues they wished to have placed on the agenda, rather than following the traditional practice of first waiting for the Commission to place proposals on the table and then have further preparatory work undertaken by the Union's foreign ministers.

Commission head between 1985 and 1995, Delors conceded that he may have operated under different circumstances than current president Romano Prodi. "I had the chance to propose many new ideas, with the support of many governments."

Referring to how Germany Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and French President Jacques Chirac had sidelined the Commission during the horse-trading that preceded the drafting of the Nice Treaty, he added: "I deplore the lack of respect for the president of the Commission and the Commissioners from the governments."

Although he has been a vocal critic of the treaty, Delors is urging ratification in its current form, despite the shock still reverberating around national capitals after Ireland's rejection of Nice in last week's referendum. "We have the moral duty to enlarge Europe on one side and a very bad treaty from a technical point of view on the other. And my personal wish is that the institutional dimension of this treaty is never applied. But I would advocate the ratification of the treaty for one reason: to avoid a deterioriation of the good psychological climate in the applicant countries."

The failing of Nice, he added, was that each member state was adamant its national goals would be met and a sense of solidarity was therefore absent. "It's like having a very good design for a car but with a very weak motor. This is the main contradiction."

The 76-year-old Frenchman, who now heads the influential Notre Europe think-tank, also said he agreed with French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's recent assertion that the EU's further structure should be based on a federation of nation states. The focus of further treaties should be on simplifying and clarifying the division of powers between the EU institutions and national governments, Delors believes. "We must specify more clearly what the union does. We need less white books, less green books, less proposals. But we do need to be able to say 'Europe is responsible for this problem and it is possible for me as a citizen to follow the decision-making process'."

Despite the praise he has won for his decisive leadership, the Delors Commission was no stranger to controversy. Some MEPs continue to ask questions about the EU executive's action in a controversial subsidies case. It had agreed that a fine imposed on a French firm Fléchard, convicted of orchestrating a butter export fraud, should be slashed from €17.6 million to just €3 million.

Delors insisted that he had no personal role in this decision and that current Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, then his chef de cabinet, has already explained he had no role either. By Dave Cronin

Jacques Delors has launched a blistering attack on European Union governments and Sweden's presidency, accusing them of marginalising the European Commission.

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