This book consists of four long talks between journalist Cécile Amar and Jacques Delors, which took place in 2015 on the occasion of the latter’s 90th birthday. The conversations span Delors’ 10 years at the European Commission, the current situation in Europe, and the world in which France finds itself today. Its title paraphrases those of biographies of other historical figures such as Louis XVI and George Washington who - willingly or not – had to give up power. After two terms as President of the European Commission, Delors could have run for the presidency of France and would probably have won by a wide margin. However, as he says in the book with great sincerity, he abandoned political ambition out of moral honesty. He didn’t want to make promises he could not keep and he wanted to make room for the younger generation, of which his daughter Martine Aubry is part. Those who know Delors personally will recognise in these conversations his natural vocation to educate, as well as the transparency, insight and openness of spirit that have always characterised his work, first in France and then in the European arena.
His faith in Catholicism and social policy also shine through, along with his dedication to the European project and its ‘community method’ for decision making. He gives an objective assessment of past successes and mistakes, and discusses the symbolic importance of breaking down old borders and the danger of erecting new walls in today’s world. His confessions remind us a little of those St Augustine made to God and also the great values in life – leaving us with a message that is Delors’ spiritual and political legacy. Although always open to compromise in the economic field, Delors is unyielding in his support for the fundamental rights of human dignity. Here, he accepts no compromise. Thus he is severe in his judgment of Europe today, which is constantly embroiled in emergencies and crises, such that over immigration. For Delors, the honour of Europe itself is at stake. Rather than stand up for its principles, he believes Europe has done the reverse: sold out on the essentials while maintaining secondary details. It has favoured the interests of individual states over respect for common values. It hasn't taken advantage of the various ‘escape routes’ offered by the Lisbon Treaty. It has promoted leaders who are not up to the job. And it has hurried through enlargement rather than proceeding in stages as intended, starting with the strengthening the heart of Europe through the transfer of sovereignty from the founding countries. Delors worries about the dismantling of the European construction, for though we must believe in human progress, as history shows “une vilaine bête peut tout détruire du jour au lendemain”. The book reveals a touching and farsighted character, concerned about the realities of today and the Europe of tomorrow, which will not be at the centre of the world, but will find itself competing not only with the current dominant powers, but also with emerging continents such as Africa and Latin America. However, despite his “pessimism of the intellect”, Delors emphasised one positive trend: the return to nature and the rural economy as the new engine of development. Finally, his only real consolation is that he will be recognised as "having done all he could" to ensure a better future for our continent!