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‘The president who modernised France’: political leaders remember Valéry Giscard d’Estaing

Late French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing giving a press conference at the Élysée Palace in Paris, June 26, 1980.
Late French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing giving a press conference at the Élysée Palace in Paris, June 26, 1980. © AFP File
8 min

The French Parliament held a minute of silence, and tributes poured in from across the political spectrum, after former president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing died Wednesday from complications linked to Covid-19.

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Emmanuel Macron: A presidency that ‘transformed France’

French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to his predecessor, saying Giscard’s seven-year term had “transformed France”.

“His death has plunged the French nation into mourning”, Macron said, describing Giscard as “a servant of the state, a politician of progress and freedom”.

“Valéry Giscard d'Estaing was also, and increasingly, a great European,” Macron added, in a long statement released by the Élysée Palace. “Creation of the European Council, election of the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage, establishment of the monetary union, founding of the European Space Agency: all these milestones bear his mark.”

02:02

François Hollande: ‘A statesman who chose to open up to the world’

“Valery Giscard d’Estaing will remain the president who modernised France,” said former president François Hollande in a statement posted to Twitter, adding: “Today, our country has lost a statesman who chose to open up to the world.”

Nicolas Sarkozy: ‘A man who brought honour to France’

“It is with great sadness that I learn of the death of Valery Giscard d’Estaing, who worked all his life to strengthen the ties between European nations, sought and succeeded in modernising political life, and devoted his great intelligence to the analysis of the most complex international problems,” said former president Nicolas Sarkozy. “He is a man who brought honour to France.”

Minute of silence in parliament

The Assembly and the Senate, which were in session when the news broke, observed a minute of silence.

“The European ideal loses one of its founders; France loses a President who brought it modernity and daring,” said Richard Ferrand, president of the National Assembly.

Christophe Castaner, who heads the ruling LREM party in the Assembly, said of the late president: “With Europe at his heart, he wrote a strong page in the history of our Republic. His modern and resolutely progressive action, in the service of the French people, will long mark his legacy.”

Party leaders

Christian Jacob, leader of the right-wing Republicans, remembered Giscard d’Estaing as a man “who will undoubtedly have left his mark on the Fifth Republic. He worked with conviction and determination to modernise our society”.

Marine Le Pen, president of the far-right National Rally, presented her “condolences to the relatives of Valéry Giscard d'Estaing”, calling him the “president of a France in crisis … the architect of new public liberties and an ardent supporter of technological progress”.

Julien Bayou, national secretary of the Green party (EELV), also extended his condolences to Giscard d’Estaing’s family, highlighting reforms passed during his presidency including the legalisation of abortion, divorce by mutual consent and reduction of the voting age from 21 to 18.

Fabien Roussel, national secretary of the French Communist Party, called Giscard d’Estaing “a man of conviction who, to the end … defended a very liberal economy and Europe”.

François Bayrou, who entered politics at Giscard d’Estaing’s side and succeeded him at the head of the centrist UDF party, said: “For entire generations, especially for those who were committed to him in their youth, he brought a great wind of modernity to French society and gave rise to immense hope of overcoming and coming together.”

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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