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Europe loses a truly great Frenchman

Valery Giscard d'Estaing

Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, President of the French Republic from 1974 to 1981, has left us.

This statesman of exceptional qualities embodied a moment in history, when France was modernising at great speed. His reforms concerned all aspects of society: the status of women, morals, public and individual liberties, the economy and industry. As a promoter of a peaceful democracy in the land of a restless population, he led the French economy in an exemplary manner. Despite the crises, France was, in its time, a model of good management and creativity.

A European at heart and in mind, whose youth witnessed the horrors of the Second World War, he never ceased his quest for new steps forward in this great continental project, thereby assuming France's traditional role: European Parliament elections by direct universal suffrage, creation of the European Council, laying the foundations for monetary Europe. He presided over the Convention for Europe which, without the short-sightedness of certain Member States, would have provided the continent with a genuine constitution.

He succeeded with Germany in open familiarity expressed in his friendship with Helmut Schmidt, Minister of Finance like himself, then Chancellor. With them, the two countries maintained permanent dialogue as equals that nurtured the European cause.

Finally, as a European, he contributed to a more policed organisation of world affairs. In particular, we can thank him for the G5 and the Helsinki Charter, which introduced the notion of human rights in the East, the only way to defeat totalitarianism – and we can also thank him for the sustained attention he paid to the African continent and developing countries.

This great French liberal honoured Europe, and he will be missed.

Conference with Valéry Giscard d'Estaing