Stanley's blog

Laurens Jan Brinkhorst is a former Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs and a professor at Leiden University.

The avalanche of reactions to Stanley’s death just over four months ago is a living proof of Stanley’s great impact on those who met him. He inspired, he sometimes irritated, but you could never forget what he had said. His advice on a variety of issues always made sense. He was a man with strong convictions, but at the same time he was able not to take himself too seriously. He had a wonderful sense of humor, as witnessed by his 500th and last blog. In short: he was a remarkable and unforgettable man.

I consider it a great privilege that I have known him for nearly 25 years, shortly after my wife and I had moved to Brussels from Japan. Stanley had come to Brussels nearly a decade before and had already established quite a reputation as head of the Belmont European Community Law Office. By origin a lawyer, he had rapidly developed into an important source of information for companies and business organizations, that wanted to know more about the intricacies of the Brussels decision-making process.

We were different in temperament and character, but we soon discovered we were soul mates in a number of ways. As contemporaries we had grown up in the post-world war two period, having been witnesses to numerous signs of violence. Early on in our friendship we exchanged views on our past: he, a non- practicing Jew in Britain – and therefore as part of a minority- Stanley had never felt the desire to become more British than the British and as a result excessively nationalistic. On the contrary: in the post war Europe he felt that we had to overcome the vicissitudes of the past and work together to achieve more unity. I had undergone similar influences. Having a partly Indonesian background, I experienced early on a dimension not shared by most of my comrades.

We met during the very stimulating time of the first Delors Commission, the period when new roads towards European unity were being built. It was the time when the internal market took shape. I participated in and chaired a number of breakfast sessions which Stanley organized to muster support for the actions undertaken. “The audacity of hope” was very much present throughout that period.

Stanley was not only a man with a European vision. He was also an intensely practical man. He was asked a number of times to enter the world of politics, but politely declined the invitation. In one of his last interviews, he explained why. “ I want to achieve practical results”, he said…. For that reason also he was so much attracted to the ideas of Jean Monnet, to which reference has been made in most memorial comments: “thought cannot be divorced from action” was a concept he deeply believed in . It was his Leitmotiv in life. For some time he combined in one organization his practical, advisory activities and think tank activities, the Belmont EC office and the Belmont European Policy Centre. But after the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of the Soviet Union, he soon realized that the new Europe, required totally new attitudes of cooperation. States which had been enemies for decades and had developed very different lifestyles and societies had become interdependent.

For Stanley it meant that this gigantic new challenge also required his full time involvement. He became Founding Chairman of the European Policy Center, with his earlier mentor Max Kohnstamm (and John Palmer). He put all his considerable energies into this venture. With him I have been engaged in a number of battles he felt were necessary to realize his vision. These battles were not easy, but his mental resilience always overcame adversities.

As a result we can be grateful for the monuments he has created. He was not a “little European” focusing exclusively on the internal affairs of a unifying continent. He always saw the “big” picture, the place of Europe in a globalised world. For that reason his last efforts were directed at improving EU-China relations, which, he believed , were essential for the coming new world.

Only a man with his mental strength and sense of determination could have battled so long with his health. He had a tremendous willpower. My thoughts go out to Dahlia, Elizabeth and Jonty, who have lost a husband and dear father. We have all been enriched by having been close to Stanley, a unique professional and personal friend who gave all he had to fight for a better world.

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