Former French president, Jacques Chirac, dies at 86
Jacques Chirac, the former president of France, has died aged 86.
Jacques Chirac, the former French president who championed the European Union, but whose later years were blighted by corruption scandals, has died aged 86.
“President Jacques Chirac died this morning surrounded by his family, peacefully,” his son-in-law told AFP.
Chirac served two terms as president and twice as PM, and took France into the single European currency.
French President Emmanuel Macron hailed Chirac as a “great Frenchman”.
A towering figure in French politics for five decades, Chirac will be remembered for his opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, his pragmatic statesmanship and his advocacy of the European Union.
In a televised address from the Elysee Palace, Mr Macron mourned his death, calling him a president who “embodied a certain idea of France”.
“We French have lost a statesman whom we loved as much as he loved us. Whether we share, or not, his ideas or what he fought for, we all recognise ourselves in this man who resembled us, and brought us together.”Mr Macron said.
Mr Macron’s office said a national day of mourning will take place on Monday, when a mass at the Saint-Sulpice church in Paris will be held.
On Thursday night, the illuminations at the Eiffel Tower will be switched off two hours earlier than usual in honour of Chirac, a former Paris mayor.
Who has paid tribute?
Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission and former Luxembourg prime minister, said he was “moved and devastated” to learn the news.
“Europe is not only losing a great statesman, but the president is losing a great friend,”he said in a statement.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was “very sad” to hear about the death of Chirac, who she described as an “outstanding partner and friend”.
Former French President François Hollande also paid homage to Chirac: “I know that today, the French people, whatever their convictions, have just lost a friend,” he said in a statement.
Another former French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, said on learning the news: “A part of my life has disappeared today”, adding that Chirac “embodied a France faithful to its universal values”.
A known admirer of Chirac, Russian President Vladimir Putin, praised the “wise and far-sighted statesman” for his “intellect and huge knowledge”.
British prime ministers past and present were among those to pay their respect, with John Major and Boris Johnson both hailing his political prowess.
What is Jacques Chirac’s legacy?
Chirac won domestic and international plaudits for his fierce opposition to French involvement in the Iraq War, presciently warning it would prove a “nightmare”. “War is always a last resort. It is always proof of failure,” Chirac said, in comments days before the war started.
In 1995, Chirac became the first French leader to recognise the country’s role in the deportation of Jews to death camps during World War Two.
After winning the 1995 presidential election on a platform of healing the “social rift”, his promised economic reforms were considered piecemeal.
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.
Described by some as a political chameleon, by others as the “bulldozer”, Chirac was seen as a leader who could bridge the gap between left and right.
As president, he pressed for a more federal Europe within the European Union.
In the 2000s, Chirac championed the European project and an EU constitution, which was later rejected in a poll by the majority of French voters.