Former French President Giscard d'Estaing dies at 94 from Covid-19

Mr Giscard was admitted to hospital in September with respiratory problems. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (REUTERS, AFP) - Former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing died on Wednesday Dec 2) from complications linked to Covid-19, his foundation said.

"In accordance with his wishes, his funeral will take place in the strictest family intimacy," the Foundation Valery Giscard d'Estaing said on Twitter.

In a statement his family sent to AFP, it said that his "health had worsened and he died as a consequence of Covid-19,".

The family added that his funeral would be a very private event, in accordance with his wishes.

He made one of his last public appearances on Sept 30 last year for the funeral of another former president, Jacques Chirac, who had been his prime minister.

Mr Giscard was admitted to hospital in September with respiratory problems. He recovered but was re-admitted in mid-November.

Mr Giscard, a key architect of European integration in the early 1970s, died at the age of 94, the Elysee Palace said on Wednesday.

Mr Giscard, who was France's leader from 1974 to 1981, had recently been hospitalised in Tours, in western France, and was being treated in the cardiology unit, according to Europe 1 radio, which first reported his death.

Mr Giscard was known for steering a modernisation of French society during his presidency, including allowing divorce by mutual consent and legalising abortion, and was one of the architects of European integration.

Elected president at 48, he came to power after years of Gaullist rule and sought to liberalise the economy and social attitudes.

He lost his re-election bid, however, to Socialist Francois Mitterrand.

In Europe, he forged a close relationship with former West German chancellor Helmut Schmidt and together they laid the foundations for the euro single currency, setting up the European Monetary System.

Tributes poured in across the political spectrum in France.

Former President Nicolas Sarkozy said Mr Giscard had "worked his whole life to reinforce relations between European nations."

The head of President Emmanuel Macron's ruling party in parliament, Mr Christophe Castaner, said: "His modern and resolutely progressive policies ... will long mark his legacy."

He was also an ardent Anglophile, and took office a year after Britain joined the European Economic Community.

"Complete love-hate relationship with our country," Britain's former Europe minister in the early 2000s, Mr Denis McShane, said on a statement on Twitter, calling him a "big politician" who changed Europe.

Mr Michel Barnier, who is the lead European Union negotiator in talks with Britain over Brexit, said: "For Valery Giscard d'Estaing, Europe needed to be a French ambition and France a modern nation. Respect."

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a Facebook posting said he was saddened by news of Mr Giscard's passing.

The ex-president "played a huge role in the modernisation of French society and was a proponent of European integration - laying the groundwork for the euro single currency." Mr Lee said.

"MM Lee Kuan Yew was also his guest on several occasions when he visited France," he added.

PM Lee said that after retiring from politics, the ex-president served on France's Constitutional Council. "His literary accomplishments earned him a chair in the prestigious French Academy."

Mr Lee added: "I met him once at a conference in Taipei, after he retired. I found him very knowledgeable about Chinese culture and history. He could even speak some Chinese!

"France has lost a great statesman," Mr Lee said, offering condolences to the statesman's wife and family.

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