Valery Giscard d’Estaing, the president of France from 1974 to 1981 who became a champion of European integration, died on Wednesday. He was 94. Giscard d’Estaing's office said he passed away in his family home in the Loir-et-Cher region, in central France, after contracting COVID-19, the AP reports. “In accordance with his wishes, his funeral will take place in strict privacy,” his office said. Giscard d’Estaing was hospitalized last month with heart problems, but remained vigorous deep into old age. In a January 2020 interview with the AP, he displayed a firm handshake and sharp eye, recounting details from his meetings as French president in the 1970s with then-US President Jimmy Carter and then-Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat, whose photos graced his office walls.
He wrote the article in the EU charter that allowed Brexit to happen—the brief measure that allows a member state to leave the bloc. On the eve of Britain’s departure this year, Giscard told AP it was a “step backward” geopolitically, but took the long view. “We functioned without Britain during the first years of the European Union ... so we will rediscover a situation that we have already known.” Born in Germany in the wake of World War I, Giscard d’Estaing joined the French Resistance and helped liberate Paris from the Nazis in the next world war, and later laid the groundwork for the shared euro currency and helped integrate Britain into what became the EU in the 1970s. (At age 83, he published a romance novel.)