Before we can answer this question fully, I believe the term ‘relaunch’ should be explored as it is a contentious claim. We need to decide whether European Integration was halted during the late 1970s and early 1980s for this claim to be substantiated or whether European Integration continued (just less overtly). By the 1970s European Integration had stagnated and there seemed to be no forthcoming light at the end of the tunnel.
It had reached such a critical state by the early 1980s that the term ‘Eurosclerosis’1 was coined to describe it. How to deal with the second oil crisis split the European countries, and the British budgetary question created a ‘serious deadlock in Community decision-making’. 2 As Pieter Dankert asked in The Origins and Development of the European Community, “Why has the infant which held out so much promise 25 years ago changed into a feeble cardiac patient whose condition is so poor that he cannot even be disturbed by a birthday party?
However this dismal outlook on European integration was soon to change, coinciding with the appointment of Jacques Delors as President of the European Commission in 1985. At this time European integration picked up speed again, supported by the basic idea of European Monetary Union. This change in pace is noticeable, however to claim that there was a ‘relaunch’ during the years between 1985 and 1990 is inaccurate. Integration is a process, not something that can be stopped and started instead it is something to be built upon.
The late 1970s and early 1980s did actually see a number of breakthroughs. There was the establishment of the European Monetary System in 1979, the first direct elections to the EP also in 1979, and the accession of Greece, from 1981, in addition to protracted negotiations with Spain and Portugal. 4 Therefore even when European Integration was sluggish, it was still evident. Perhaps it would be more fitting to replace the term ‘relaunch’ with ‘rejuvenation’.
In order to assess the role that Jacques Delors played in the ‘rejuvenation’ of European Integration (1985 to 1990) one needs to consider various factors. Firstly the personal qualities that Delors had, which complemented his role as the President of the European Commission. Secondly the measures which were implemented at this time e. g. the Single European Act, and how much (if at all) Delors was responsible for these developments. The developments which took place that Delors did not support are also relevant as well as the parts of the integration process which did not work out so well.
There were other important actors present who also played a role in European Integration at this time and need to be taken into account. External factors will obviously also affect the state of European Integration and hence need to be examined. Jacques Delors was always involved in finance, his first job was in the ‘Banque de France’. In the 1960s he moved jobs to a senior position in the French Planning Commission, which had been created by Jean Monnet. Subsequently he joined Mitterand in the reformed Socialist party and was elected to the European Parliament in 1979.
In 1981 he became Finance Minister for the Socialist government, and succeeded in moving the government away from the failing policies of economic expansion. He won the support of the German government in 1983 by playing a crucial role in negotiating the realignment of currencies in the European Monetary System. 5 It was this German support that gained him his place at the head of the European Commission, and perhaps gave him the extra support that his predecessors lacked.