The Telegraph today posts an interview of Jacques Delors by Charles Moore.
I ask the man who prides himself on being an architect of European Union whether he got it all wrong. Unhesitatingly, he denies it. It is a fault in the execution, not of the architects, which he claimed to have pointed out in 1997 when the plans for introducing the euro finally came together. At the time, he says, the best of the eurosceptic economists, whom he refers to as “the Anglo-Saxons”, raised the simple objection that if you have an independent central bank, you must also have a state.
Mr Delors thinks “they had a point”, but the way round this problem was to insist on the economic bit of the union as much as the monetary. As well as creating a single currency, you also had to create common economic policies “founded on the co-operation of the member states”.
I get the impression from Mr Delors that he thinks Mrs Thatcher would have agreed with this view. She certainly would not have agreed, however, on the Delors version of what that co-operation should produce — the harmonisation of most taxes, plans to deal with youth and long-term unemployment, and that social dimension for which he always called because “it is not just a question of money. I said all these things, but I was not heard. I was beaten.”
There was also a problem of “surveillance”. The Council of Ministers should have made it its business to police the eurozone economies and make sure that the member states really were following the criteria of economic convergence. This did not happen.
For a long time, the euro did remarkably well, Mr Delors argues, bringing growth, reform and price stability to the weaker members as well as the stronger. But there was a reluctance to address any of the problems. “The finance ministers did not want to see anything disagreeable which they would be forced to deal with.” Then the global credit crisis struck, and all the defects were exposed.
Whom does he blame most for this? He thinks that “everyone must examine their consciences”. He identifies “a combination of the stubbornness of the Germanic idea of monetary control and the absence of a clear vision from all the other countries”
And what would such a clear vision look like?
The euro can emerge from this crisis only if two conditions are met. “The first is that the firemen must put out the fire. The second is that there must be a new architecture. If you have one of these things without the other, the markets will be sceptical.”
The choice is “either to accept a greater transfer of sovereignty or to submit to a common discipline”.