The Trustees of the Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation express their sadness at the news of the death of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, President of France from May 1974 to May 1981.
Although Giscard became President of France two months after Ted Heath left office as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, he had served as French Finance Minister throughout Edward Heath’s time at Number Ten and he strongly supported British membership of the European Community throughout the Pompidou years. The two men had known each other from the early 1960s, when they served as ministers in their respective governments, at the time of Britain’s first application to join the Community. They remained friends until Edward Heath’s death in 2005. Indeed, Giscard lent his strong support as aninternational patron of the Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation in a group which includes other leading personalities from that era, notably Henry Kissinger, Jimmy Carter, Jacques Delors, Etienne Davignon, Sir Don McKinnon and Sheik Yamani. Their ranks used also to include Helmut Schmidt, Richard von Weizsäcker and Peter Carrington.
Both Giscard and Edward Heath sought to modernise and reform their countries. They were both ‘futurists’ who wanted to build modern market economies, often against strong forces of resistance. Both of their careers were marked by a strong and life-long commitment to the process of European integration – and a deep belief that their respective countries should play a central and leading role both in building a more united Europe and in making Europe a more powerful force in the world.
The maiden speech of Giscard in the French National Assembly in 1957 was on the ratification of the Treaty of Rome, in which Le Monde reported that he gave the only unambiguously positive endorsement of the Treaty from the backbenches – just as Edward Heath, in his maiden speech in the House of Commons in 1950, was the only parliamentarian to advocate Britain joining the new European Coal and Steel Community.
The death of Giscard marks a further break of the link between today’s political world and that of the post-war era. The Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation is committed to increasing understanding of, and maintaining the memory of, the contribution that far-sighted figures such as Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and Edward Heath made to the public life of their times and to trying to build a better world with multilateral institutions and international co-operation at its heart.