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Peter Sutherland (1946 – 2018)

Posted on 10 January 2018

It is with deep regret that we have learned of the passing of Peter Sutherland, former European Commissioner responsible for Competition Policy.

The former Attorney General of Ireland and UN Special Representative for International Migration passed away in the hospital in Dublin at the age of 71 after being ill for some time.

He served as youngest ever European Commissioner between 1985-1989 and was a part of the first Delors Commission where he played a crucial role in opening up competition across Europe, particularly the airline, telecoms, and energy sectors.

In his capacity as European commissioner for competition Sutherland revolutionized competition and trade laws and his stance often brought him into conflict with Commission president Jacques Delors and British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, yet he didn’t give in and staunchly defended the independence of the Commission.

Peter Sutherland signed a deposit contract for his commissionership papers, which were transferred to the Historical Archives of the European Union in Florence in 2014. This year a further 114 files from his fonds have been opened for consultation by researchers according to the 30-year closure rule for EU-institutional archives.

The papers available in Florence concern his four year term as Commissioner for Competition, Social Affairs (with responsibility for the European Social Fund), Education and Training. The documents reflect the work of Sutherland and his Cabinet in the carrying out of their activities. Sutherland and Marín, who also recently passed away, were considered the fathers of ERASMUS and there are many papers in the fonds alluding to Sutherland’s contribution to education and training.

In a press statement, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “In every sense of the word Peter Sutherland was a true European. He believed strongly in the work of the European Union and other international organisations and their importance for cooperation and international dialogue. He was one of the founding fathers of the Erasmus programme and was  instrumental in shaping our internal market in the early days and competition policy as we know it today.”

The Peter Sutherland papers are available for consultation using this link