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The Democratic Deficit (June 5, 1989)

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It was Jacques Delors of France – whom Chancellor Helmut Kohl referred to as “a European with an incredible background, a man of vision and engagement” – who finally ended the paralyzing Euro-sclerosis. By giving his public servants a new sense of mission and self-confidence, he of course also reinforced the already all-encompassing power of the bureaucracy.

He got the highly frustrated, highly paid bureaucrats in the Commission moving and brought the inefficiency of the EC authority to an abrupt halt. He pressured the agriculture minister to make serious cuts in price and purchase guarantees for agricultural products. And he convinced the heads of government of the twelve member countries to approve a new financing concept for the Community, so as to put the budget, which was in perpetual deficit, back on its feet.

But his greatest merit was to revive the economic community’s sense of political business, which its founding fathers inspired back in 1955: the vision of a Europe united not only economically but also politically, with no internal borders.

[ . . . ]

In contrast to the [West] German federal government, which has long used the Commission in Brussels as the final repository for flagging politicians and dubious bureaucrats, the French government has always placed great value on sending the most qualified personnel possible to the EC headquarters. After all, there are national interests to be defended in the European headquarters.

The British are also practicing calculated personnel politics, preferring to fill influential positions in the research departments, where English has asserted itself as the official language.

Greece and Luxembourg also replaced their weak commissioners with the career diplomat Jean Dondelinger and industry minister Vasso Papandreou – “first-class professionals” according to the Commission’s estimation.

[ . . . ]

Source: “In Brüssel vordemokratische Zustände” [“Pre-Democratic Conditions in Brussels”], Der Spiegel, June 5, 1989, pp. 136-41.

Translation: Allison Brown

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