On December 2nd local time, former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing died at his home in the Loire region of France at the age of 94 due to complications caused by the novel coronavirus.
Destin served as President of France from 1974 to 1981, participated in World War II, and also witnessed and promoted the European integration process. During his tenure, he promoted a number of institutional reforms that had a great impact on French society and expanded the scope of French citizens to enjoy political democracy. He was also committed to the construction of European integration and was known as the “father of the European Union Constitution” and the “father of the modern euro”; Destin also visited China many times to promote the development of Sino-French friendly relations.
Former French President Sarkozy commented that d’Stein devoted his life to strengthening the links between European countries, “seeking and modernizing French politics and using his great wisdom to analyze the most complex international problems”.
Long Jing, deputy director of the European Research Center of the Shanghai Institute of International Studies and a member of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told The Paper (www.thepaper.cn) that De Stein, as a typical representative of his generation of European leaders, is different from World War II represented by de Gaulle before. Leaders who emphasize sovereign independence are also different from later politicians who care more about how much their own interests can be derived from the European integration process.
“The blueprint of Europe he cherishes is not only a Europe that can avoid war and conflict, but also a Europe that can be integrated in a higher dimension, a Europe that is more similar to a federal country.” Long Jing pointed out that Durstain’s death may represent the withdrawal of a group of early European integration designers with such ideas from the stage of history.
Young president from a political family
Valery Giscard d’Estaing was born on February 2, 1926 in Koblenz, Germany, when the German Rhineland region was occupied by French troops, where Déstein’s father, Edmond Giscard d’Estaing, was The French High Commissioner serves as the Finance Officer. In addition, Edmund also served as an official of the French Ministry of Finance. Destin’s mother, May Bardoux, was a descendant of King Louis XV of the Bourbon dynasty of France, and Destin’s great-grandfather and maternal grandfather were also members of the local council.
Growing up in such an environment, Destin is very ambitious. It is said that he solemnly announced in front of his family at the age of 13: “At the age of 40, I want to become the President of France! At the age of 50, become the President of Europe!” This statement, which was regarded as a joke at that time, confirmed Destin’s path in the coming decades.
Shortly after his birth, Destin returned to France with his family. Since then, he has attended the prestigious Louis the Great High School in Paris. He was forced to suspend his studies due to the outbreak of World War II. In 1944, Destin joined the “Free France” resistance led by de Gaulle. After that, he joined a tank regiment to participate in World War II and was awarded the medal.
After the war, two colleges that D’Stein trained French elites, the Central Academy of Public Engineering (the predecessor of Polytechnic University of Paris) and the National School of Administration (ENA), graduated first and joined the French Financial Supervisory Agency in 1952. Four years later, he was appointed deputy director of the office of the Minister of Finance; in 1956, d’Stein was elected to the French National Assembly (French House of Commons). In the same year, he was appointed as a member of the French delegation to the United Nations General Assembly, and was elected to the National Assembly several times. From 1959 to 1962, during Charles de Gaulle’s government In 1962, at the age of 36, Destin became the Minister of Finance and Economy, and was dismissed in 1966. In 1969, de Gaulle resigned, Pompidou was elected President of France, and Destin became the Minister of Finance for the second time.
In 1974, then-President Pompidou died of illness, and the French presidential election was held ahead of schedule to 1974. Destin wrote at the beginning of his autobiography, Memoirs of Destin: Regimeries and Life: “If it were not for the death of President Pompidou, I would never have had a chance to become President of the Republic.”
But in fact, opportunities are always reserved for those who are prepared. Durstain has been building strength for his political career. In 1962, Destin’s party split due to different attitudes towards de Gaulle. The faction led by Destin supported de Gaulle. Therefore, Destin united with some of his followers to form an “Independent Republican Research and Liaison Center”, which gradually formed an independent Republican Party on the center-right.
In the 1974 presidential election, the two major opponents competing with Destan were former Prime Minister Shabong-Delma and Mitterrand on the left. In order to get the approval of the majority, Durstain supported de Gaulle while keeping a certain distance from de Gaulle to show that he was a “liberal” or “advancing conservative”. In this way, although Durstain’s power is not big, he can take advantage of de Gaulle’s great prestige and gain the support of centrist forces.
In addition, Destan’s political platform has also been welcomed by a considerable number of voters. On the political system, he proposed to reduce the presidential term to five years and implement an electoral law of proportional representation; economically, he said that he would pursue laissez-faire, stabilize taxation, and give priority to solving unemployment problems; and in foreign relations, he advocated the construction of an independent and powerful France and a united Europe.
Chirac, the leader of the Union for the Defence of the Republic, the largest party in Parliament at that time, immediately expressed his support for Destan immediately after the first round of voting.
Since no candidate obtained more than half of the votes in the first round of voting, Destan and Mitterrand entered the second round of voting, and the election debate with Mitterrand gave Destan a considerable advantage.
In the end, Giscal d’Estain, 48, defeated Mitterrand with 50.8% of the vote to become the youngest French supreme leader after Napoleon – a record that was not broken by Macron at the age of 39 until more than 40 years later.
“Former President who speaks Chinese”
As a center-right president and descendant of the aristocracy, Destin tried to abandon his image of aristocracy. At the beginning of his tenure, he said that it would make the government more responsive to public opinion. In order to create a young, modern, more people-friendly presidential image than his predecessor, he also went to ordinary people’s homes for dinner and played the accordion at the event.
Destin first chose Chirac, who helped him win the election, as Prime Minister. However, the cooperation between the two only complemented in the first few years. Over time, the political discord between the two sides and opinions intensified, and Chirac resigned in 1976. On the night of Chirac’s resignation, d’Stein immediately appointed Foreign Trade Minister Raymond Barr as Prime Minister.
According to Destin’s plan, the French government will take the necessary measures in one year to increase youth employment and increase subsidies for families and the elderly. During the three governments led by Barr since then, the French government has carried out a lot of reforms, as promised by Destin during the election. In addition to passing decrees such as “freedom of divorce” and “free abortion”, lowering the legal age of French civil and political rights (such as the right to vote) to 18 meets the requirements of the left-wing opposition for many years. In addition, d’Stein has also streamlined government institutions, improved the political status of women, and deepened the economy and social. Reform.
The stagnation of Western countries in the 1970s ended France’s “gloerful three decades” of economic growth after the war. The Destin government was forced to implement austerity plans, and unemployment rose sharply. Against this background, plus Destin’s failure to gain Chirac’s public support when he ran for re-election in 1981, he narrowly defeated Socialist Mitterrand in the second round of the general election.
During the seven years of Destan’s rule, he has pursued a multipolar foreign policy and advocated national diplomatic autonomy. These diplomatic moves reflect France’s desire for peace, security and survival in the struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union. During this period, Destin also actively pursued the European route and promoted the cause of European construction.
In addition, Durstan also attaches great importance to dealings with developing countries. He emphasizes the interdependence of the world and the interconnectedness of world problems. He visited China in 1980 when he took office. After leaving office, he also visited China many times to give a positive evaluation of China’s development and advocate the development of Sino-French relations. Xiao Yunshang, deputy dean of the School of Western Languages and head of the French Department of Shanghai International Studies University, told The Paper that Destin promoted the establishment of the French Consulate General in Shanghai, which not only strengthened Sino-French relations, but also brought positive effects to China’s reform and opening up.
“Derstein is a former president who can speak Chinese and is very friendly to China.” Xiao Yun said. Destin has not only studied Chinese, but also is very interested in Chinese traditional culture. According to Xinhua News Agency, at the 14th Sino-French Economic Seminar held in Shanghai in April 2008, Destin delivered a speech in Chinese, citing Ciyuan and Zuo Zhuan.
“Father of Modern Euro” and “Father of European Constitution”
After leaving the presidency, Déstein is still active in politics. He said that many people think that being “former president” is no longer useful. “They only have the right to publish unread memoirs, but I have never accepted this, and over time, I feel more and more free.”
As Destin said, he served as chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the French National Assembly twice from 1987 to 1989 and 1993 to 1997, and was a member of the European Parliament from 1989 to 1993. Promoting European integration has always been the goal of Destan’s political career.
Destin has always been an enthusiastic supporter of the European Constitution, supporting the concept of “United States of Europe” from the beginning of entering politics. In 1974, Déstein proposed the establishment of the Council of Europe to formalize the meeting between European heads of state. He also helped to expand the powers of the European Parliament, especially in the context of budget review.
During Destin’s tenure, he and West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt advocated the search for a “third way” outside “strong supranational Europe” and “vulnerable Europe subject to member states”. While serving as French Finance Minister, Destin supported the establishment of the European Economic and Monetary Union and the transfer of economic and monetary affairs authority from countries to the European Community (i.e., the predecessor of the European Union). In 1979, Déstein and Schmidt jointly initiated the establishment of the European Monetary Union, which laid the foundation for the future euro. He is also known as the “father of modern euros”.
In February 2002, d’Stein became the chairman of the European Constitutional Preparatory Committee. He then described the Europe of his dreams as follows: “Let’s imagine a peaceful continent, without walls and barriers of division, where history and geography will eventually reconcile and all countries can build their future together.”
In 2003, the 1,073-page draft EU constitution prepared by the Preparatory Committee was approved, and De Stein was also known as the “Father of the European Constitution”. However, the European Constitution was eventually rejected in referendums in the Netherlands and d’Estaine’s motherland France, and finally failed to enter into force.
However, there is no Turkey in Europe envisaged by Destin. In contrast to the controversy caused by De Stein’s firm opposition to Turkey’s accession to the European Union in 2002, in contrast, in the months before the Brexit referendum held in 2016, De Stein publicly shouted to the British: “We love you. Don’t leave us now.
After Destin’s death, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief representative for Brexit negotiations, tweeted, “For Valerie Guiscal d’Stein, Europe must be France’s aspirations, and France must be a modern country. He is respectable. French President Macron also said on December 2 that d’Estain “changed France”, while former French Prime Minister Lafarin said that d’Estain had “brought hope to France”.
The European politicians of the Destan era have gradually gone. Long Jing told The Paper that against the backdrop of the difficulty of the design of the current EU system to cope with many crises and challenges, and the worrying power of the German and French twin engines on the future European integration, Durstin’s death has not only triggered a memory of a senior European politician, but also a reflection on where European integration is going. .