Former French President Giscard d’Estaing dies of COVID-19 at 94

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Former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, who led France into the trendy period and was a key architect of European integration within the early Seventies, has died on the age of 94 after contracting COVID-19.

Giscard, who had been in hospital a number of occasions within the final months for coronary heart issues, died “surrounded by his household” on the household dwelling within the Loire area.

“His state of well being had worsened and he died as a consequence of COVID-19,” the household mentioned in a press release despatched to the AFP information company, including that his funeral can be strictly personal in keeping with his needs.

Giscard, who was France’s chief from 1974 to 1981, grew to become president at 48 – the youngest particular person elected within the twentieth century – and launched into a radical reform drive which included the legalisation of abortion, the liberalisation of divorce and reducing the voting age to 18.

In Europe, he helped drive strikes in the direction of a financial union, in shut cooperation with German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and the 2 males grew to become good pals. Collectively they launched the European Financial System (EMS), a precursor of as we speak’s single foreign money, the euro.

Tributes poured in from throughout the political spectrum in France.

The pinnacle of President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling occasion in parliament, Christophe Castaner, mentioned: “His fashionable and resolutely progressive insurance policies … will lengthy mark his legacy.”

France “has misplaced a statesman who selected to divulge heart’s contents to the world,” mentioned former President Francois Hollande. He hailed a person who was “resolutely European” who helped strengthen ties between France and Germany.

Giscard was dedicated to Europe and an ardent Anglophile. He’s seen (fifth left) assembly Queen Elizabeth II in Could 1977 [File: Jimmy Carter Presidential Library/US National Archives and Records Administration/Handout via Reuters]

Giscard was additionally an ardent Anglophile and took workplace a yr after Britain joined the European Financial Group, which later advanced into the European Union. The UK has now left the grouping after a divisive 2016 referendum.

“Full love-hate relationship with our nation,” the UK’s former Europe minister within the early 2000s, Denis McShane, mentioned on a press release on Twitter, calling him a “massive politician” who modified Europe.

Michel Barnier, who’s the lead European Union negotiator in talks with Britain over Brexit, mentioned: “For Valery Giscard d’Estaing, Europe wanted to be a French ambition and France a contemporary nation. Respect.”

Born to a well-to-do French household, Giscard was firmly a part of the French elite.

Tall and slender and with a chic, aristocratic method, he studied at France’s elite Ecole Polytechnique and the Nationwide Administration Faculty.

On the age of 18, he joined the French resistance and took half within the World Conflict II liberation of Paris from its Nazi occupiers in 1944.

As president, Giscard was identified for his relaxed fashion, and was generally seen in public enjoying soccer or the accordion.

He additionally hosted garbage collectors to breakfast and invited himself to dinner on the properties of atypical residents.

The 94-year-old made considered one 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.

Giscard “dominated virtually naturally together with his presence, his distinction, his language, his liveliness and intuitions,” mentioned fellow centrist Francois Bayrou, a former minister and presidential candidate.