Tribute pours in for the architect of the modern EU, Jacques Delors

Political leaders have paid tribute to the 98-year-old former president of the European Commission, Jacques Delors.

Delors, who served from 1985 to 1995, contributed to the formation of the single market that enabled the free flow of products, services, and people throughout the bloc. Furthermore, he established the foundation for the euro, the unified currency of Europe.

He was regarded by former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as a "architect of the modern European Union" and a "dominant political figure."

Delors presided over the European Commission for three mandates, the longest tenure of any individual.

In addition to the single market and the eventual introduction of the euro, his presidency of the EU saw the establishment of the Schengen agreement for travel and the Erasmus programme for student exchanges.

President Emmanuel Macron of France lauded Delors, calling him a "inexhaustible artisan of our Europe" and a "statesman with a French destiny."

Olaf Scholz, the chancellor of Germany, described Delors as a "visionary" and "architect of the European Union as we know it." However, the "ever closer union" vision envisioned by Delors was not universally accepted.

His most enduring legacy consists of his confrontations with former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who vehemently opposed his ideals.

Thatcher deemed the 1989 Delors report, which advocated for economic and monetary union, intolerable due to its intention of removing control over numerous economic policies from the British Parliament.

Lord Clarke of Nottingham, who served in Margaret Thatcher's cabinet under the name Kenneth Clarke, stated on the PM programme of BBC Radio 4 that she agreed with Delors' vision of a single market but suspected he also desired a political union, which she opposed.

"In reality, Jacques Delors and Margaret Thatcher harboured a profound personal aversion towards one another, motivated by both personal and political considerations," he further elaborated.

Former opposition leader of the United Kingdom Neil Kinnock stated on the programme that he was not the "fanatical federalist" Thatcher attempted to portray him as, but rather a "very polite, calm, extremely intelligent man, and problem-solver."

Current incumbent Ursula von der Leyen described him as a "visionary who strengthened our Europe."

Former Portuguese Prime Minister José Manuel Barroso, who presided over the European Union's executive branch from 2004 to 2014, was among his successors who lauded his negotiating prowess.

Mr. Barroso remarked, "He had a vision despite himself being extremely pragmatic in his approach and the means by which he accomplished objectives."

Charles Michel, president of the European Council, characterised him as a "great European and great Frenchman" who "entered history as one of the architects of our Europe."

Outside of Europe, tributes have also been paid, including one from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

"Delors revolutionised Europe by unceasingly serving the concept of a unified and liberated Europe," he wrote on social media.

Upon resigning in 1995, Delors declined to run for the presidency of France, notwithstanding his substantial lead in the surveys.

He continued to adhere to his federalist principles. Recently, he issued a dire warning about populism in Europe and advocated for audacious actions in the aftermath of Brexit.