September 24, 2020
Foreign

Ex-French President, Jacques Chirac dies at 86

Former French president, who championed the country’s decision to join the European Union, Jacques Chirac, has died aged 86.

His son in law told newsmen that “President Jacques Chirac died peacefully this morning (Thursday) surrounded by his family”.

Chirac served two terms as president, one as prime minister, and took France into the single European currency but his later years were blighted by corruption scandals.

The French National Assembly observed a minute’s silence in his memory.

In a statement, president of the European Commission and former Luxembourg prime minister, Jean-Claude Juncker, said he was “moved and devastated” to learn the news.

Mr. Juncker said further that “Europe is not only losing a great statesman, but the president is losing a great friend”.

President Emmanuel Macron was expected to speak on television later today to pay tribute to his late predecessor.

Former French President François Hollande also paid homage to Mr Chirac: “I know that today, the French people, whatever their convictions, have just lost a friend,” he said in a statement.

French television stations are playing wall-to-wall tributes, and it is moving to be taken back once again to that long epoch in French history when Jacques Chirac was at the centre of it all.

Chirac was born in 1932, the son of a bank manager.

He served as head of state from 1995 to 2007 – making him France’s second longest serving post-war president after his Socialist predecessor Francois Mitterrand but his health steadily deteriorated after he stepped down until his death on Thursday.

Chirac also served as the French prime minister, but he was beset by a series of corruption scandals.

In 2011, he was convicted of diverting public funds while serving as the mayor of Paris.

Despite his failings, he won widespread support for his fierce opposition to French involvement in the Iraq War, and for being the first leader to recognise France’s role in the war-time deportation of Jews.

Among his major domestic political reforms was a reduction of the presidential term of office from seven to five years, and the abolition of compulsory military service.

In 2005, he suffered a stroke, and in 2014, his wife Bernadette said he would no longer speak in public, noting he had memory trouble.

BBC

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