A lot has been said and written about Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the late French president who closely associated his name – and inevitably also his nation – with Greece.
The reasons behind this close relationship have been well documented. Giscard d’Estaing provided his presidential plane to bring statesman Konstantinos Karamanlis back to Greece and initiate the process of restoring democracy to the country; he offered military guarantees to a weakened and disoriented Greece in the wake of Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus; and he strongly supported Greece’s entry into the European Economic Community, as the European Union was then known, although the country did not meet the formal criteria for membership. The French president understood there was something inherently wrong in leaving the cradle of Western civilization out of a united Europe.
Giscard d’Estaing’s overall stance and his contribution to the foundation of democracy in Greece gave birth to the “Greece-France Alliance” slogan. Half a century later, this is one of the few slogans that still reverberates with a large majority of the Greek political spectrum.
In that sense, the idea put forward by Kathimerini columnist Takis Theodoropoulos for local authorities to place a bust of Giscard d’Estaing in the capital is worth looking into. It would be the least Greece could do to honor the late French politician.
A reformist at home, a fervent Europeanist and a champion of European integration, Giscard d’Estaing demonstrated, perhaps more than any other foreign leader, his love for Greece; and he did so with concrete deeds at crucial moments in the nation’s history.
As the traditionally close ties with France are getting stronger, particularly in the defense sector, such a symbolic gesture would be very timely. Moreover, it would enjoy the backing of all, or at least the overwhelming majority of political parties and citizens.
The monument could be erected as soon as early next year, when Greece is due to celebrate the bicentenary of its War of Independence from Ottoman rule.
It would be a simple sign of gratitude and recognition from an entire population to a great friend, a great European politician who took the traumatized Greek democracy by the hand and stood by its side in the early difficult steps after the end of the military dictatorship, escorting it all the way up until its entry into the European home to become part of the modern European family.