Simone Veil : a European life

Article published on Feb. 4, 2008
Article published on Feb. 4, 2008
She has lived everything. From the darkest times to the most expected reunion of the Old Continent. Simone Veil, first president of the European Parliament from 1979 to 1982, has just published her autobiography. The outcome of a contrasted lifetime comes right at the perfect time for Mrs Veil has got the aura of a wise woman in France.

Survivor of the Auschwitz camp during World War Two, where she had been deported with her mother and her sister Madeleine – lovingly nickname Milou -, Simone Veil could have renounced this continent that had abused her and her family. In 1945 “my sister and I were alive, but like in many other families, the Jacob family [Simone Veil’s maiden name] has been taken a heavy toll on by the Nazi fury. Very fast, we understood that we would not see neither Dad nor Jean [her brother] anymore. Milou, scrawny, bitten by foils, was tremendously weakened by typhus.”

“The reactionary attitude of certain judges”

Against all odds, life got back to its course and Simone undertook to study at the Institute of Political science and then at the law University of Paris Assas. Her first assignments as a magistrate were about renovating prison life in France. It was in 1974 that Simone Veil made her first appearance in French political life. Jacques Chirac, Prime Minister of the President Valérie Giscard d’Estaing at the time, entrusted her with the Health department. The biggest challenge that she had to undertake was the abortion legalization. “It had been years since I  had been  worrying about the abortion matter; not only as a woman, but also as a magistrate. Like most of my colleagues, I was alarmed about the dramas I could hear. And the reactionary attitude of certain judges chocked me […] they kept on suing doctors who practiced abortions in order to prevent them from ever practicing medicine again.”

The next year, after lots of hubbubs and a memorable speech at the National Assembly, the legislative text on termination of pregnancy was passed. But the Nice-native lady had new ambitions. Not for herself nor for her career, but for France and her heart family: Europe. “… as soon as the prospects of the first European Parliament election using the universal suffrage became clearer […] I jumped on the occasion. Besides some need of changing, I had the feeling that I couldn’t move on anymore.”

The need of European unity

For three years, this European lady buckled down to reform the EU organization: budget, vote, diplomacy, Simone Veil foresaw the tests that the European Union would have to take. “… on the diplomatic level, more than ever Europe needs unity face to the ongoing international tensions, and the Iraqi crisis tragically showed how it was hard to speak up with one voice in order to be heard.” It is true that the Old Continent went through way worst. Two bloody wars, a Wall that caused its division: future is not as dark as some describe it. Indeed “this is here [in Europe], where the absolute Evil was perpetrated, that willingness must reborn from a fraternal world, a world based on the respect of  human being and of its dignity.”

Une vie. Simone Veil (Edition Stock)