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Former French President Giscard d’Estaing dies

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The former French head of state Valéry Giscard d’Estaing is dead.

The central politician, who served in the Élysée Palace from 1974 to 1981, died at the age of 94, as the French news agency AFP reported on Wednesday evening, citing those around the former president.

The former head of state had been hospitalized several times over the past few months with heart problems. In the middle of the month, he was released from a clinic in Tours in western France after a five-day stay.

Giscard d’Estaing was a staunch European and spoke out to the French public on EU issues well into old age.

In the 1970s he formed an exemplary Franco-German duo with the then Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (SPD) and pushed Europe forward together with the native of Hamburg.

For example, both top politicians designed the European Monetary System, which from 1979 onwards formed the framework for monetary cooperation between the partner countries.

The tall Frenchman with the aristocratic demeanour and the edgy SPD politician Schmidt pulled in the same direction on the international stage. They stood for the founding of the summit meetings of the great economic powers. These initially met in the so-called G6 format. The top representatives from Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Great Britain and the USA first met in 1975 at Rambouillet Castle near Paris.

The unification of Europe and the Franco-German friendship were part of Giscard’s life’s work. The French, who was awarded the Charlemagne Prize of the City of Aachen (2003), used his office for reforms and setting the course.

Born on February 2, 1926, in Koblenz in the then French-occupied Rhineland, he graduated from the ENA elite university after the Second World War. He was Minister of Economy and Finance for a long time before being elected to the highest office of the state after the death of President Georges Pompidou at the age of 48.

“VGE”, as Giscard was often called, won the runoff election only with a narrow majority against the socialist François Mitterrand. The sharp-tongued Mitterrand once ironically referred to his upper-class adversary as an “old young man”.

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