In this file picture taken on June 20, 2019 Former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing applauds on the convention of the fiftieth anniversary of the election of Georges Pompidou to the Presidency of the Republic “With Georges Pompidou, think France: inheritances and perspectives” in Paris. JACQUES DEMARTHON / AFP
Former French president Valery Giscard d’Estaing, a number one advocate of European integration who led his nation into a brand new trendy period, has died of Covid-19, his household mentioned. He was 94.
Giscard, who had been in hospital a number of instances in current months for coronary heart issues, died late Wednesday “surrounded by his family” on the household residence within the Loire area.
“His state of health had worsened and he died as a consequence of Covid-19,” the household mentioned in a press release despatched to AFP, including that his funeral could be strictly non-public, in keeping with his needs.
French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to his predecessor, saying Giscard’s seven-year time period had “transformed France”.
“His death has plunged the French nation into mourning”, Macron mentioned, describing Giscard as “a servant of the state, a politician of progress and freedom”.
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Giscard made one in every of his final public appearances on September 30 final yr for the funeral of one other former president, Jacques Chirac, who had been his prime minister.
He grew to become the twentieth century’s youngest president at 48 when in 1974 he beat his Socialist rival Francois Mitterrand, to whom he then misplaced after his seven-year time period in 1981 in a failed re-election bid.
His presidency marked a transparent break from the Gaullist conservatism of postwar France, which had been dominated by Charles de Gaulle and his successor Georges Pompidou.
In France, he’s remembered for his radical reform drive, which included the legalisation of abortion, the liberalisation of divorce and the reducing of the voting age to 18.
In Europe, he helped drive strikes in the direction of a financial union, in shut cooperation along with his German counterpart chancellor Helmut Schmidt, with whom he grew to become mates and whose management years virtually overlapped along with his personal.
Together they launched the European Monetary System (EMS), a precursor of immediately’s single forex, the euro.
“For Valery Giscard d’Estaing, Europe was to be a French ambition and France a modern nation. Respect,” mentioned Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator.
He “succeeded in modernising political life in France,” added former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, praising the “great intelligence” he used to grasp “even the most complex international problems”.
Like Schmidt, Giscard was additionally a agency believer in sturdy ties with the US.
With his demise, France “has lost a statesman who chose to open up to the world”, added Sarkozy’s Socialist successor Francois Hollande. He hailed a person who was “resolutely European” who helped strengthen Franco-German unity.
It was at Giscard’s initiative that leaders of the world’s richest international locations first met in 1975, an occasion that developed into the annual summits of the Group of Seven (G7) membership.
‘A job unfinished’
With a extra relaxed presidential fashion than his predecessors, “VGE” was generally seen in public taking part in soccer or the accordion.
He additionally hosted rubbish collectors to breakfast and invited himself to dinner on the properties of bizarre residents.
Giscard concerned his household in his political appearances, had the blue and crimson of France’s “tricolore” flag toned down, and the Marseillaise nationwide anthem slowed.
Giscard was firmly a part of the elite.
Tall and slender and with a chic, aristocratic method, he studied at France’s unique Ecole Polytechnique and the National Administration School.
Aged simply 18, he joined the French resistance in World War II and took half within the liberation of Paris from its Nazi occupiers in 1944. He then served for eight months in Germany and Austria.
He launched his political profession in 1959, changing into finance minister in 1969.
After his defeat in 1981 — which he mentioned left him with “frustration at a job unfinished” — he remained energetic in centrist politics, first regaining a seat within the French parliament after which serving within the European Parliament.
In 2001, he was chosen by European leaders to steer work on the bloc’s constitutional treaty — which French voters then rejected.
After dropping his legislative seat, he ended his energetic political profession in 2004.
The demise of Mitterrand in 1996 adopted by that of his successor Chirac in 2019 had left Giscard as France’s oldest surviving chief by far.
In May 2020, French prosecutors opened an investigation after claims by a German reporter that he had repeatedly inappropriately touched her at his Paris workplace after an interview in 2018.
But Giscard strongly denied the allegations, describing them as “grotesque”.