France mourns ‘great European’ Giscard after Covid death

France mourns ‘great European’ Giscard after Covid death
In this photo taken from French TV channel TF1, a picture of Former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing appears as Emmanuel Macron gives a TV address to the nation, Dec. 3, 2020. (AP Photo)
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Updated 04 December 2020

France mourns ‘great European’ Giscard after Covid death

France mourns ‘great European’ Giscard after Covid death
  • Giscard d’Estaing placed Paris at the heart of Europe in a post-war partnership with Germany and paved the way for the creation of the G7 group of world powers
  • He helped the push toward a monetary union in cooperation with German chancellor Helmut Schmidt, launching a European exchange rate system that was a precursor to the euro

PARIS: Tributes poured in Thursday after the death of former French president Valery Giscard d’Estaing from Covid-19 aged 94, with French and European leaders hailing him as an ambitious reformer and great statesman.
Giscard, who had been suffering from heart problems recently, died on Wednesday at the family estate.
He governed for a single seven-year term from 1974-1981, when France made great strides in nuclear power, high-speed train travel and legalized abortion.
He placed Paris at the heart of Europe in a post-war partnership with Germany and paved the way for the creation of the G7 group of world powers.
He was more accessible and media-savvy than his predecessors Georges Pompidou and Charles de Gaulle, but never shook off a sometimes haughty demeanour linked to his aristocratic background.
His ambition to go down as one of France’s greatest leaders was derailed in 1981 when he lost his bid for a second term to Socialist rival Francois Mitterrand.
“His seven-year mandate transformed France,” current President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement.
Macron added in a TV address late Thursday that December 9 would be a day of national mourning for Giscard.
“His legacy of modernity will remain,” Macron said. “You can be certain that I will do everything, together with you, to keep that flame of progress and optimism alive.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel mourned the loss of a “great European.”
Giscard launched a radical reform drive that included legalizing abortion, making it easier for couples to divorce and lowering the voting age to 18.
In Europe, he helped the push toward a monetary union in cooperation with German chancellor Helmut Schmidt, launching a European exchange rate system that was a precursor to the euro.
Giscard was born in the German city of Koblenz while it was under French occupation in the aftermath of World War I.
It was at his initiative that leaders of the world’s richest countries first met in 1975, an event that evolved into the annual summits of the Group of Seven (G7).
Some commentators have compared Macron to the center-right Giscard who became modern France’s youngest head of state at 48, a record since broken by Macron who was 39 when taking office in 2017.
Prime Minister Jean Castex said Giscard’s social reforms remained “deeply relevant” for young people and women.
He “succeeded in modernizing political life in France,” added former president Nicolas Sarkozy.
Aged just 18, he joined the French Resistance and took part in the World War II liberation of Paris from its Nazi occupiers in 1944. He then served for eight months in Germany and Austria in the run-up to the capitulation of the Third Reich.
He launched his political career in 1959, becoming finance minister in 1969.
Tall and slender with an elegant manner, “VGE” preferred a more relaxed presidential style than his predecessors, and was sometimes seen playing football, or the accordion.
Giscard “dominated almost naturally with his presence, his distinction, his language, his liveliness and intuitions,” said fellow centrist Francois Bayrou, a former minister and presidential candidate.
But Macron’s predecessor Francois Hollande said balancing his desire to be a man of the people with his background was not always easy for Giscard.
“He hoped to appear as a simple president and close to the French. He was not always understood,” said Hollande.
Giscard was ahead of his time in promoting women’s rights, naming four women to his government and giving women free access to the birth control pill.
“You can’t really call him a feminist, but you can call him a modernist,” feminism historian Françoise Picq told AFP.
“There was a wind of freedom blowing in society after May 1968, feminists were becoming more visible, and he grasped what was happening,” she said.
Earlier this year, French prosecutors investigated claims by a German reporter that Giscard had inappropriately touched her at his Paris office after an interview in 2018. He called the accusations “grotesque.”
After his electoral defeat in 1981 — which he said left him with “frustration at a job unfinished” — Giscard remained active in politics.
He made one of his last public appearances on September 30 last year for the funeral of another former president, Jacques Chirac. Chirac’s daughter Claude told AFP that her mother Bernadette had written a letter of condolence to Giscard’s widow Anne-Aymone.
Giscard will be buried in “strict intimacy” on Saturday in the village of Authon where he last lived, some 200 kilometers (125 miles) southwest of Paris, his family said.


Biden’s US revives support for WHO, reversing Trump retreat

NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci addresses the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, January 21, 2021. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci addresses the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, January 21, 2021. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
Updated 22 January 2021

Biden’s US revives support for WHO, reversing Trump retreat

NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci addresses the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, January 21, 2021. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
  • President Joe Biden’s top adviser on the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci, says the US will again fund the WHO
  • Trump's US halted funding for the UN health agency — stripping it of badly needed cash as it was battling a health crisis

GENEVA: The United States will resume funding for the World Health Organization and join its consortium aimed at sharing coronavirus vaccines fairly around the globe, President Joe Biden’s top adviser on the pandemic said Thursday, renewing support for an agency that the Trump administration had pulled back from.
Dr. Anthony Fauci’s quick commitment to the WHO — whose response to the pandemic has been criticized by many, but perhaps most vociferously by the Trump administration — marks a dramatic and vocal shift toward a more cooperative approach to fighting the pandemic.
“I am honored to announce that the United States will remain a member of the World Health Organization,” Fauci told a virtual meeting of the WHO from the United States, where it was 4:10 a.m. in Washington. It was the first public statement by a member of Biden’s administration to an international audience — and a sign of the priority that the new president has made of fighting COVID-19 both at home and with world partners.
Just hours after Biden’s inauguration Wednesday, he wrote a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres saying the US had reversed the planned pullout from the WHO that was expected to take effect in July.
The withdrawal from the WHO was rich with symbolism — another instance of America’s go-it-alone strategy under Trump. But it also had practical ramifications: The US halted funding for the UN health agency — stripping it of cash from the country that has long been its biggest donor just as the agency was battling the health crisis that has killed more than 2 million people worldwide. The US had also pulled back staff from the organization.
Fauci said the Biden administration will resume “regular engagement” with WHO and will “fulfill its financial obligations to the organization.”
The WHO chief and others jumped in to welcome the US announcements.
“This is a good day for WHO and a good day for global health,” Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “The role of the United States, its role, global role is very, very crucial.”
The two men hinted at a warm relationship between them, with Fauci calling Tedros his “dear friend” and Tedros referring to Fauci as “my brother Tony.”
The White House said later Thursday that Vice President Kamala Harris had discussed many of the same themes as Fauci raised in a call with Tedros.
But she emphasized the need to beef up the global response to COVID-19, “mitigate its secondary impacts, including on women and girls,” and work to “prevent the next outbreak from becoming an epidemic or pandemic,” the White House said in a statement.
“In addition, the vice president emphasized the importance of making America safer through global cooperation,” it added, highlighting the new tone out of Washington.
John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called the renewed commitment “great news” in an email. “The world has always been a better place when the US plays a leadership role in solving global health problems including the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria, polio and other diseases,” he said.
Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke wrote on Facebook: “This is going to have a huge impact on the world’s ability to fight the pandemic. It is decisive that the United States is involved as a driving force and not a country that is looking for the exit when a global catastrophe rages.”
Fauci also said Biden will issue a directive Thursday that shows the United States’ intent to join the COVAX Facility, a project to deploy COVID-19 vaccines to people in need around the world — whether in rich or poor countries.
Under Trump, the US had been the highest-profile — and most deep-pocketed — holdout from the COVAX Facility, which has struggled to meet its goals of distributing millions of vaccines both because of financial and logistic difficulties.
WHO and leaders in many developing countries have repeatedly expressed concerns that poorer places could be the last to get COVID-19 vaccines, while noting that leaving vast swaths of the global population unvaccinated puts everyone at risk.
While vowing US support, Fauci also pointed to some key challenges facing WHO. He said the US was committed to “transparency, including those events surrounding the early days of the pandemic.”
One of the Trump administration’s biggest criticisms was that the WHO reacted too slowly to the outbreak in Wuhan, China, and was too accepting of and too effusive about the Chinese government’s response to it. Others have also shared those criticisms — but public health experts and many countries have argued that, while the organization needs reform, it remains vital.
Referring to a WHO-led probe looking for the origins of the coronavirus by a team that is currently in China, Fauci said: “The international investigation should be robust and clear, and we look forward to evaluating it.”
He said the US would work with WHO and partner countries to “strengthen and reform” the agency, without providing specifics.
At the White House later in the day, Fauci quipped to Jeff Zients, who is directing the national response to the coronavirus, “You can imagine the comments we were getting from the people in the WHO.”
Then he added, his voice trailing off, “They were lining up to thank ...”