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The London European Conference: Delors adopts guise of 'sleeping dog'

IT WAS the dog that did not bark. Jacques Delors, President of the European Commission, barely gave a whimper yesterday, writes Andrew Marshall.

Despite the strength of his views on all of the issues that were being discussed at the conference, Mr Delors made only one brief speech - in English. He had clearly decided not to interfere at a moment when outbursts such as those he has delivered in the past could derail ratification of the Maastricht Treaty. So, with so much at stake, there was no controversy, no criticism, no cantankerous outbursts.

It was possible to draw from his remarks a critical attitude to Britain's free- trade approach to the EC. 'Economic integration, unless it is backed by a strong political will, will not in itself produce stronger international institutions,' he argued. 'Without strong institutions, the will to co-operate is by itself not sufficient.' But this was buried in abstruse discussions of the EC's history and the future of the UN.

When all this is over Mr Delors will have his day. In his intervention in the debate in France, he suggested that opponents of the treaty should resign. He also said that if Maastricht fails, he will leave his post. In France, Mr Delors is seen as man's best friend, and his backing helped the treaty. But, in Britain, he is at the core of the debate and is widely regarded as a mad dog. Whereas in France his intention to resign leaves voters worried, in Britain it only whets the appetite.

So, yesterday, Mr Delors was left to argue about the 'universal conscience' and the spread of democracy, while others grappled with the big topics. It would have been interesting to hear what he really thought, but we shall have to wait.