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The Launch: Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and the EU elite

J Clive Matthews
21 September 2007
Valery Giscard d'Estaing

At the top end of national political power for four decades, President of France 1974-1981, the husband of the daughter of a Count and (supposedly) a descendant of the kings of France with a family tree that can be traced back to Charlemagne - you don't get many more perfect examples of the political elite than Giscard d'Estaing.

When he was put in charge of the Convention on the Future of Europe, the body that eventually drafted the aborted EU constitution, it was one of the most idiotic PR moves in the EU's history - not only was there no way that a politician so senior could possibly understand the needs of the ordinary citizen, but Giscard is also a proponent of that dangerous beast a "United States of Europe", an extreme form of the ideal which all but the most fervent EU-enthusiasts have long since abandoned as unrealistic.

Plus, of course, it doesn't help that since the French and Dutch rejection of his constitution he hasn't shut up about the "mistake" that was made by the voters in the two referenda. In Giscard's view, it would seem, the people don't know what's good for them.

So, what's old Giscard doing being involved in a democratic experiment? Despite his enthusiasm for European integration, he begins his speech oddly: "We have almost twice the population of the United States... so it is very hard to find a common position... When you look at the people, they are different from southern Europe, Northern Europe and the Anglo-Saxons... which makes a considered opinion very hard."

Rejecting the possibility of the Tomorrow's Europe poll being remotely representative of the people of Europe as a whole, Giscard also made an odd admission, coming as it does from one of the most elite of the elite: "The governments prefer not to clarify this issue - they prefer confusion".

The frustration with the failure of his compromise constitution is evident to all, yet Giscard's solution to the current deadlock is surprisingly radical and sensible. Now a proponent of a "two-speed Europe", Giscard d'Estaing now appears to have learned from his failure:

"We must consider the union anew."

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