Giscard d'Estaing: death of a great European

The former French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing has died of Covid-19, aged 94. In foreign policy, Giscard, who was in office from 1974 to 1981, did much to reconcile France and Germany. On the home front he was a moderniser who once announced: "The only thing that interests me is change". In the eyes of Europe's press, his track record in both areas is impressive.

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Corriere della Sera (IT) /

France's moderniser

Despite his conservatism Giscard d'Estaing was nevertheless a president of progress, Paris correspondent Massimo Nava points out in Corriere della Sera:

“Elected president at 48 and surpassed only by Emmanuel Macron as France's youngest president, Giscard d'Estaing stood for the modernization of French society and the renewal of the right, which had hitherto been dominated by the Gaullists. His seven-year term of office saw the introduction of important civil reforms, the lowering of the age of majority and the voting age, the decriminalisation of abortion and a policy of economic liberalisation. ... The plans for the high-speed TGV train, the decisive revival of nuclear energy and the first steps in information technology also coincided with his presidency.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

From hereditary enemies to friends

Hospodářské noviny pays tribute to Giscard's collaboration with German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt:

“Both partners shared intelligence and war experience, albeit on opposite sides of the front. They actually also had a different background and political orientation. One was the great French marquis who promoted economic liberalisation in France. The other the stocky leader of German social democracy and an advocate of the welfare state. ... The Giscard-Schmidt duo resembled Adenauer and de Gaulle and the Mitterrand and Kohl tandem. They were united in their belief that the 'hereditary enemies' must cooperate to keep Europe together, instead of rocking the continent with their conflicts.”

Vzglyad (RU) /

Today's Europe lacks such politicians

For Vzglyad, Giscard embodied a lost era of European visionaries:

“Today, the firm grandmotherly embrace of German dominance in the EU no longer leaves room for lively, forward-looking politics. The French awakening is being replaced by the ageing economy and German thriftiness, which dictates everything. The soaring heights reached in the era of the first presidents of the Fifth Republic were probably the last in the history of French grandeur. For the past three presidential terms of office the country has been grappling with a pile of problems for which no solutions are in sight. ... Compared to today's European politicians, Giscard was an exceptional figure on a historical scale.”