A survivor of Nazi concentration camps, Simone Veil’s childhood and traumatic experiences during the Second World War sowed the seeds of her commitment to a unified Europe, a cause she would champion for the rest of her life.
Life and times
Veil’s political ascent began through an early career in law. In 1974 she joined the French government under President Giscard d’Estaing as Minister for Health.
Soon after her appointment, she fought to legalise abortion in France and only succeeded when the opposition in the national assembly joined her cause to push through the law in 1975. It was seen as a significant achievement and the law became widely known as ‘la loi Veil’.
A vision for Europe
When President Giscard d’Estaing asked Veil to head his party’s list in the first direct elections to the European Parliament in 1979, she jumped at the chance.
Veil was duly elected to Parliament, which chose her as its President, thus becoming leader of the first directly elected European Parliament and the first woman to head any EU institution. Two years later, she won the Charlemagne Prize, the award honouring a person’s contributions to European unity.
The European Parliament’s tribute to Simone Veil.
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More about Simone Veil’s life, work and contribution to the European project