WHEN Jacques Delors took over as president of the European Commission five years ago, Western Europe was mired in internal quarrels over subsidies for milk, butter, and pork bellies. Mr. Delors changed that with his 1992 program for a single market, spurring the 12 European Community members to concentrate on ways to eliminate obstacles to economic integration. As ``1992'' turned into a powerful slogan, Delors soon became known as ``Mr. Europe.''
He met with the Monitor for his only official interview on his recent tour of the United States. Excerpts follow:
How will 1992 affect the Atlantic Alliance?
The moment has come to redefine the content, the spirit, and the functioning of the partnership between the United States and Europe.... Everybody is comfortable with old habits. For example, the United States divides up the discussion of problems. For security, it uses NATO. For foreign policy, it prefers bilateral discussions with major European powers. For economic problems, it's the Community. If we continue with this splintering, there will be no solution.
Let's turn to the dramatic changes taking place in the East. Do you think the Bush Administration is being too timid?
We in the democratic West must not be divided and get involved in a bidding war. We must present a common face, with common values, with a common analysis, and then carry out a common action marked by vigilance, openness of spirit, and generosity.
This is what we seek to accomplish with Poland and Hungary. If it's a success, it won't just be a success for them. It also will be useful to show ourselves in the democratic West that the time is finished when each country can act on its own. It will be proof that our partnership has become more coherent and consistent.
Have you seen the economic plans presented by the Poles?
Yes. They still are a bit lost in their own illusions. They're asking a lot. They must first give up some things themselves. They must take a clearer view of their own problems. They must start working. They must overcome their internal divisions. This is urgent, especially for a Poland on the brink of bankruptcy.
Do you think the Poles are ready to make the necessary tough choices?
They don't have much choice. When the house is on fire, you can't say you are going to patiently, room by room, try to reduce the fire. You need a tough reaction. In my opinion, the Poles must expect a tough plan. But this plan won't be any socially harder than the hesitations or incoherent decisions made until now.
How do you see the dramatic recent flow of East Germans to West Germany affecting your plans for a United Europe?
Until now, German policy has held firm, even if there were some hesitations: that is, to give absolute priority to the construction of Europe; to explain to West Germans that their aspirations for closer ties with East Germans - that is, a unification, in a form to be determined later - all of this only can be accomplished through a strong, united Europe.
There are strong emotions. There are some worrying declarations by public figures. But the line holds firm. In my official capacity, it's already one of my central preoccupations.
Do you think a strong, united Europe could calm security concerns about a reunited Germany?
We're just coming out of the Cold War. The Cold War was intellectually convenient. It was easier to manage than the present period. There was a balance of terror. You could evaluate the relative strength of each side, you could take your precautions, and two precautions were better than one.
Now we are in a difficult situation. We ask ourselves: Where will Mr. Gorbachev go? Will the Poles be able to improve their economy? Will the Hungarians destroy everything by a too rapid political evolution? And so on.
In this context, the existence of a peaceful, prosperous European community will be an element of stability.... The events of the East should force us to accelerate our social, political, and economic integration. Europeans must become responsible for the other Europeans. It's not just for the Americans and Russians to decide ex cathedra what we're going to do in Europe. That's over.