Giscard, one of the great reformers of France and Europe

Correspondent in Paris



Hospitalized in Tours, since the middle of November, Valery Giscard d’Estaing (Koblenz, 1926) died on Wednesday night. He was one of the great builders of political and economic Europe, one of the greatest modernizers in the political history of France.

Born into a family of the wealthiest upper bourgeoisie, a finance inspector, trained in the great schools, Giscard was the youngest and most brilliant of the finance ministers of General de Gaulle and Georges Pompidou.

A reformist liberal, he was, in his own way, one of the great patriarchs of the “authoritarian reformism” of the tradition, which Emmanuel Macron embodies today, preceded by Louis XIV, Bonaparte and de Gaulle.

Insensitive to the Bonapartist conservatism of General de Gaulle, he created in 1974 a tiny group, the Republican Party (PR), with which he won the supreme power, the presidency of the Republic, in 1974, often facing the dog face. traditional conservatism and all the left.

During his presidency, between 1974 and 1981, Giscard carried out a national and European social, political and cultural work of immense significance.

On the national scene, it modified the electoral legislation, favoring the emergence of a young and female electorate. It partially liberalized the labor market. He began the major reforms of the national pension system. He proposed introducing the possibility of convening the referendum of popular initiative. His “openings” to the reformist center and the moderate, non-socialist left, confronted him with the rest of the French right, which ended up favoring his electoral defeat in 1981, against the candidate of the union of the left, François Mitterrand.

Its economic policy allowed France to firmly face the first oil shocks. Under his presidential mandate, the last balanced budgets in the history of France were approved, in permanent “imbalance” (deficit / debt) since then.

Working closely with Helmut Schdmit, the former chancellor of Germany, his great accomplice, Giscard laid the foundations for all the great chapters of the political construction to come.

The Giscard – Schmidt couple created the European Monetary System (EMS), the matrix of the Europe of the euro. That defunct Franco-German “axis” gave other vital impulses for European political history: election of the European Parliament through universal suffrage; balance of powers between the Commission (executive body) and the Council of Heads of State and Government.

Giscard oscillated between a federal Europe and a Europe of the States, always convinced that the great democracies and European States should cooperate and work together, since alone, no ally could solidly advance on the new world scene.

For many years, Giscard suffered in his flesh a profound Spanish misunderstanding. During a private trip to Budapest, the late former president explained his point of view to me in these terms: “The Spanish press had an unfair and very sour behavior, out of place, accusing me of a“ stoppage ”never explained. Without a doubt, my first intention was to defend the interests and incomes of French farmers. But, but, Mr. Quiñonero, there were other very important factors that no one wanted to hear or seemed to understand. The EEC was at a crossroads. Mrs Thatcher wanted to change the established rules of the game: the integration of the United Kingdom was perceived as confusing, imperfect, with an unpredictable future, as it would end up being confirmed. And no one knew with precision and clarity where and with whom the government of Adolfo Suárez wanted to be. In Washington and Bonn, positions that seemed to flirt with the non-aligned movement were disturbing, with ambiguous and delaying messages about the Atlantic Alliance. At the same time, support was sought in London that was not entirely understandable in Paris or Bonn, who had a very different vision of Europe from the English. What more natural thing, for my part, than to ask for a clarification that would allow ending the problems of the United Kingdom’s membership, before beginning to complicate the situation of the EC with a future member who was not clear in what type of Community he wanted participate as an active member ..? ”.

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