Written by Philippe Perchoc.
Valéry Giscard d’Estaing was one of Europe’s leading figures in the generation which came after that of the founding fathers. He was close to Jean Monnet, but he himself said that his main source of inspiration was Robert Schuman. For both Schuman and Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, their relationship with Germany was a thread running through their lives.
Valéry Giscard d’Estaing was born in Koblenz, Germany, where his father had been posted in the French administration after the First World War. Giscard d’Estaing was involved in the liberation of Paris at a very young age and then in military operations at the end of the Second World War. After studying engineering, he chose a career in public administration, going on to be an economic adviser in various post-war French governments.
He was later elected as an MP in Auvergne, where his family had roots, and was then appointed Secretary of State for Finance at the very young age of 32. He held various ministerial positions in this field, moving in European circles and spending time with colleagues from other European Community Member States. Elected French President in 1974, he favoured a policy of economic and social liberalism. His main accomplishments came in the areas of women’s, young people’s and disabled persons’ rights. At international level, he drew on the support of the German Chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, to develop political and monetary initiatives.
Defeated in the 1981 elections, he continued his political career at regional, national and European level. He carried on working to bring about monetary union and develop the Franco-German partnership, before chairing the Convention on the Future of Europe, which culminated in the drafting of the Constitutional Treaty. Despite his disappointment at the rejection of that treaty, he continued to serve Europe until the end of his life.
Read the complete briefing on ‘Valéry Giscard d’Estaing: The optimist of the European integration process‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.