‘Up yours Delors!’
I remember that day very clearly. It was November. 1, 1990, when a copy of “The Sun” newspaper, together with the rest of that day’s press, was pushed through my letterbox by the postman somewhere in south London.
The copy of the largest selling British tabloid was on the top of the thick pack and its front page headline hit me. It did the same to the over a million of the newspaper’s readers as it captured most graphically the anti-Europe sentiment then felt by a large part of the society.
The country was split between the eurosceptics and the defenders of the idea of a united Europe. And for the eurosceptics –headed by Prime Minister Thatcher - the then president of the European Commission, Federalist Jacque Delors, was the arch-enemy of British sovereignty.
And, for a newspaper that remained a strong supporter of Thatcher until the end, that day was a chance to give her a last hand, because her days in power were numbered. She was cornered by her disgruntled electorate, by her own ministers – her number two, Howe, resigned that day, the fourth minister in a row -- and by Delors’ Europeans. They saw her as the black sheep of the flock, blocking the realization of his ideal for a fully integrated union.
The British intransigence against Delors’ Europe helped The Sun to increase its sales to a record level then but did not help Thatcher. She was forced to resign by the europhiles of her party only three weeks later. Ironically, two years later to the day the Maastricht Treaty established the EU as we know it, which included Great Britain, although a cautious British approach still keeps Britain out of the Eurozone.
That famous front page of The Sun came back to my mind after seeing the 87 year-old former and longest serving President of the EC, who witnessed the Maastricht Treaty first hand, reemerging through the world media to comment on the current Eurozone crisis. During press and TV interviews last week, Delors expressed his great concern over the crisis, which he blamed on mistakes committed by weak politicians lacking solidarity and turning a blind eye on the rising private debt of member countries.
Talking to Euronews, he accused the leaders of Germany and France: “If Sarkozy and Merkel supported the community method, if they did not spend their time trying to marginalize the Commission […] Cooperation is the missing link. But if the euro project ends and Europe simply becomes a “loose confederation” as the British say, or if they decide to make a new treaty with more federalism at the top,” said Mr. Delors, without completing the sentence.
While to the Daily Telegraph he criticized Germany for insisting that the ECB must not support debt-stricken members of the Eurozone for fear of fueling inflation. The euro’s troubles, according to Socialist Delors, spring from “a combination of the stubbornness of the Germanic idea of monetary control and the absence of a clear vision from all the other countries.
A “make or break” period begins today for the Eurozone. Germany is preparing a new plan to announce it during the Eurosummit this Friday. Merkel, in constant consultation with Sarkozy, accepts that this is a “sovereign debt crisis” which may take years to resolve. She may push a plan of a new fiscal union with more discipline and central control. Will that mean also further loss of sovereignty for the members? This is something that Britain under another conservative leader, David Cameron, could not feel happy about. Which makes The Sun’s header timely once more.