Jacques Delors. Perspectives on a European leader

Author (Person)
Publication Date 2000
ISBN 0-415-12424-7 (Hbk)
Content Type

Book abstract:

If Jean Monnet laid the foundations for the European Union then Jacques Delors surely fixed the plumbing to make the structure work. His ten years as President of the European Commission represented an unprecedented form of European leadership and it has been argued that 'no politician since the war has made a greater impact on Europe'. This detailed account, which is often biographical, examines the personal and political factors that made Delors into one of Europe's most famous statesman and looks at how Delors himself shaped the political leadership and institutions of the European Union.

Opting for a topical rather than chronological approach the book opens with Delors' heydays as President of the European Commission. The factors that led him to this post are discussed in chapter two, which traces Delors' life as far back as his birth to a Catholic lower class middle family in Paris in 1925 but mainly focuses on his activities in trade unions from 1945 and his service to the state from the 1960s. In chapter three the focus shifts from the leader to the European Commission itself. The role of the Brussels executive in relation to the other EU institutions, the work of the President and the institution's legitimacy issues are all tackled in addition to a comparison of previous Commission Presidents and the mark they left on the institution. Returning specifically to Delors in chapters four and five, the author uses the perspectives developed in these three introductory chapters to contrast the high and low points of Delors' presidency. His final years at the Commission are reviewed in chapter six together with his work after he moved on in 1995 and became associated with several think-tank type activities.

Not only does this book recognise the importance of Delors but also the power of the European Commission's President to shape the European Union. As such it is a valuable read for students, scholars and researchers of all levels in European Politics that offers an interesting insight into the 'accidental nature' of political leadership.

Helen Drake is a lecturer in the Department of European Studies at Loughborough University.

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