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Jacques Delors (1925-2023)

His was not just another presidency of the European Commission but that of the great European ‘ride’ of the 80s and 90s of the last century.

A few months before he took office in January 1985, I entered the College of Europe in Bruges in September 1984 to study Community law, with the negotiations for the accession of Spain and Portugal well underway, and I listened to Altiero Spinelli deliver his opening speech for the academic year in the Gothic hall of the Bruges Town Hall.

Those were times of great enthusiasm and confidence, especially in our country, which had been under socialist government for two years with Felipe Gonzalez leading a ship with the wind in its sails. A time in which the Madrid movement and the desire for freedom suddenly swept away all the bad omens of the right wing, warning against those young bearded socialists who, however, civilizedly occupied the ministerial offices and maneuvered skillfully to shape Marxism to the rhythm of the new times.

The young Iberian democracies were reconciling with Europe, the possibility of organizing the Olympic Games in Spain, which would reach Barcelona in 1992, was on the horizon, the European machinery was boiling: a single market for the richest in exchange for funds for the newcomers.

With Kohl and Gonzalez, Delors lived a political idyll that prepared the Euro and the German reunification after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990, leaving no one behind thanks to the economic and social cohesion policy that had in our compatriot Eneko Landaburu a firm squire. With him, from the Chambers of Commerce, we conceived the first ERDF Global grant… not for roads but to internationalize the SMEs of our most backward regions. Imagination, innovation, full inter-institutional trust between the European Commission-Parliament and the Council. From each European Council and with the push of a Parliament that was growing in powers, Delors returned with homework and more homework….

From Delors I remember his definition of Europe, an OPNI (Unidentified Political Object).

I was born into my professional life in Brussels on the same day that Spain became part of Europe: January 1, 1986. I did so with Jacques Delors piloting a vibrant Europe that was bursting at the seams to dream of itself and to realize its political union.

In the turbulent world of 2024, Europe is still knocking at the door of its own dream. May the younger generations take up the gauntlet of the creator of the Erasmus program and reclaim this project! Let us pay tribute to its great creator: may he rest in peace, Jacques Delors.

Emiliano Alonso is a lawyer and lobbyist.

Photo credit: Mouvement Européen France

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