Convinced European, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, who died Wednesday, worked for European construction during his seven-year term, before returning to the front of the stage 20 years later, at the head of the convention responsible for drawing up a draft constitution of the European Union.
The French "no" to this text during the referendum in May 2005 was a huge disappointment for him, and he preferred to blame it on a rejection of French domestic policy rather than on the project itself.
To revive the European Union after the vote in the United Kingdom in favor of Brexit in June 2016, he pleads for a Europe more concentrated around the "founding countries" and their "neighbors who share the same ideas".
In his memoirs, "Le Pouvoir et la vie", Valéry Giscard d'Estaing affirms that the two figures of national and international political life who made the greatest impression on him are Charles de Gaulle and Jean Monnet, one of the fathers founders of Europe.
He affirmed his European commitment before his election to the presidency of the Republic in 1974, from the end of the 1960s, underlines the historian Elisabeth du Réau in "The Giscard years", a work which brings together the proceedings of a study day on the subject in January 2004.
During the presidential campaign, VGE advocates a relaunch of European construction, proposing the election of the Strasbourg Parliament by universal suffrage, which will materialize under his leadership in 1979.
"A subject of intense satisfaction for me is to contribute to the construction of political Europe", writes the former French president in his memoirs.
Establishment in 1974 of regular "European councils", which take over from the summits of heads of state and government, creation in 1979 of the European Monetary System (EMS) which will give birth to the euro 20 years later, and the first European elections by universal suffrage constitute the major European achievements of which he took the initiative during his seven-year term.
- "Franco-German couple" -
He cooperated closely with German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.
The 1974-81 period "remains as a particularly fruitful period of relations" between France and Germany, according to historian Georges-Henri Soutou.
It is from this period that the appearance of the expression "Franco-German couple" dates.
On the other hand, it was contested within the right-wing majority, in particular by Jacques Chirac who launched the famous "Cochin appeal" in 1978 qualifying the UDF, too pro-European in its eyes, as "the party from abroad".
VGE supports the accession of Greece, whose official act will be signed in 1979 under the French presidency of Europe, and begins to prepare those of Spain and Portugal which will be finalized after its seven-year term.
But in 2002 he manifested strong opposition to a possible entry of Turkey.
Member of the European Parliament from 1989 to 1993, the former French head of state was appointed at the end of 2001, at the age of 76, president of the Convention on the future of Europe.
This return to the forefront of the European scene arouses gnashing of teeth on the part of small countries, which have always looked down on the preponderance of the Franco-German couple.
Especially since his arrival is marked by a controversy over his supposed financial requirements.
In June 2003, after 16 months of work, he gave the European leaders a compromise text, having overcome many oppositions, in particular that of the President of the European Commission Romano Prodi.
This project will however be rejected by referendum in France and the Netherlands in 2005, blocking the ratification process in the EU.
© 2020 AFP