On the 4th of July, 2017, the European Parliament paid tribute to Simone Veil. She was the first person elected by the direct universal suffrage to become president of this institution, in 1979. Holocaust survivor and women’s rights advocate, Simone Veil past away on the 30th of June, 2017, at age 89. She leaves a considerable legacy behind her.
Simone Veil was born on 13 July 1927 to a Jewish family in Nice, France. She was arrested in 1944, alongside her family, and sent to Nazi concentration camps. Her parents and brother died in the camps. She became a renowned politician in France: as health minister under President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, she established herself as a women’s rights champion defender. She fought so that abortion could become legal, and won the battle. She became the minister of social affairs under Edouard Balladur, and later sat on France’s top constitutional court, position she held until 2007. Beyond this impressive political career, she also wrote several books, for which she entered the prestigious “Académie française” in 2008.
During her political career, Simone Veil served a total of 14 years as a member of the European Parliament. She was a convinced European, and believed in the power of the Parliament as an institution. She once declared in front of the Parliament: “I am convinced that the pluralist nature of our assembly can serve to enrich our work and not act as a brake on the continuing construction of Europe.” In 1981, she was awarded the Charlemagne Prize, a distinction that honours those who help create a unified Europe. The esplanade in front of the European Parliament was also named “Agora Simone Veil” in her honour, in 2011.
The European Parliament President Antonio Tajani reminded us that “ Her presidency has had a long-lasting impact on our institution’s history. ”. He also declared that “Simone Veil was Europe’s consciousness and it is our duty to continue to cultivate her inspiring example. In my name and in the European Parliament’s, I would like to pass on my sincere condolences to the family of Simone Veil.”. He finished his speech by thanking Mrs Veil for what she did, for Europe, for us, and for all those who are to come.
Guy Verhosftadt, president of the Lib-Dem group at the European Parliament also reminded us that Simone Veil “plead for a reconciliation based on shared values such as liberal democracy and the rule of law”. Simone Veil has a historic link to the liberal-democrat ideas, as she led this political group in the European Parliament between 1984 and email@example.com