Jacques Chirac: Former French president dies at 86

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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.

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

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.

French President Emmanuel Macron was expected to speak on television at 20:00 local time (18:00 GMT) to pay tribute to his late predecessor.

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".

The years have passed and no-one particularly wants to dwell on the many failings of the man. No mention in the tributes of the corruption and the flip-flops.

What remains for most is the memory of a likeable man, a man of culture (at least that was the image he cultivated), and a president who acted like a French president is supposed to - that is, projecting the permanent conviction that France, of course, is the best place in the world.

 

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