The giant of Brussels sets his sights on the world

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The Independent Online
They still sit around the dinner tables of Brussels, bemoaning his departure. Six months after Jacques Delors stopped being President of the European Commission, he is missed both by those who saw him as the last man in Europe with vision and by those who saw him as the devil incarnate.

The French Socialist with the determined grimace and lectures that passed for speeches was a giant on the political stage for a decade. He left the European Commission in January, resurfaced briefly in the French presidential race and slipped out of sight. Perhaps it is evidence of his importance that it has taken two Jacques to succeed him: Mr Santer, the amiable but hardly heavyweight former prime minister of Luxembourg, who has taken over in Brussels, and Mr Chirac, the muscular Gaullist in Paris.

Mr Santer has succeeded Mr Delors but has not replaced him. Mr Delors generated schemes and schedules for Europe's integration that caused apoplexy on the British right. Mr Santer is only six months into the job, but seems determined to ensure his name stays out of the headlines.

"Up yours, Delors" read one Sun front page. The new President looks set to stay on the inside pages of the Financial Times with stories such as "Santer favours reform initiative".

Pro-Europeans believe Mr Delors will return from exile. These Jacobites were disappointed when he chose not to stand for the French presidency. Now Mr Chirac is throwing his weight around in Europe, the power of Brussels is ebbing back to national capitals.

Mr Delors famously said that 80 per cent of social and economic legislation would be passed by the European Union. In 10 years as President of the Commission, he tried to make sure that happened. In his later days he became more interested in philosophy, history and religion. Never ostentatious, he lives a modest life between a small office in Brussels and his Paris apartment.

For those who feel the departure of Jacques the Good left a Delors-shaped hole in Europe, hope is at hand. His daughter, Martine Aubry, is at 44 an up-and-coming Socialist and future presidential contender.

And for those who fear Jacques the Bad may rise from his tomb, there is unsettling news. Mr Delors has been working on a UN panel on global governance. France, Europe and then the world; it has a certain logic to it.