Jacques Chirac: Former French president dies at 86

The late French leader, Chirac


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 prime minister, and took France into the single European currency.

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

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.

President Emmanuel Macron was expected to speak on television at 20:00 local time (18:00 GMT) 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.

And 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”.

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.

He moved during the course of his career from anti-European Gaullism to championing the European project and a European Union constitution that was then rejected by the majority of French voters.

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)