Simone Veil

Not to be confused with Simone Weil, a French philosopher.
Simone Veil
12th President of the European Parliament
In office
July 1979  1982
Preceded by Emilio Colombo
Succeeded by Piet Dankert
Minister of Health
In office
27 May 1974  4 July 1979
President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing
Prime Minister Jacques Chirac
Raymond Barre
Preceded by Michel Poniatowski
Succeeded by Michel Poniatowski
In office
29 March 1993  18 May 1995
President François Mitterrand
Prime Minister Edouard Balladur
Deputy Philippe Douste-Blazy
Preceded by Bernard Kouchner
Succeeded by Elisabeth Hubert
Personal details
Born Simone Annie Liline Jacob
(1927-07-13) 13 July 1927
Nice, France
Political party UDF (1995-1997)
UDI (Since 2012)
Spouse(s) Antoine Veil
Profession Lawyer, politician
Religion Judaism

Simone Veil, DBE (French pronunciation: [simɔn vɛj]; born 13 July 1927) is a French lawyer and politician who served as Minister of Health under Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, President of the European Parliament and member of the Constitutional Council of France.

A survivor from the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp where she lost part of her family, she is the Honorary President of the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah.[1] She was elected to the Académie française in November 2008. She is best known for pushing forward the law legalizing abortion in France on 17 January 1975.

Early years

Veil was born Simone Annie Liline Jacob, the daughter of a Jewish architect in Nice, Alpes-Maritimes, France.[1] In March 1944, Veil's family was deported, Simone, her mother and one sister, Milou, to Auschwitz-Birkenau then Bergen-Belsen where her mother Yvonne died shortly before the camp's 15 April 1945 liberation. Veil's father and brother also died; they are last known to have been sent on a transport to Lithuania.[1] Veil's other sister, Denise, who had been arrested as a member of the Resistance survived her imprisonment in Ravensbrück. Milou died in a car crash in the 1950s. Veil returned to speak at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 2005 for the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the camps.[2]

Having obtained her baccalauréat in 1943 before being deported, she began the study of law and political science at Sciences Po and at the University of Paris, where she met her future husband Antoine Veil.[3] The couple married on 26 October 1946, and have three sons, Jean, Nicolas, and Pierre Francois. Antoine Veil died on 12 April 2013, at the age of 86 after 66 years of marriage.[4]

Veil became an attorney and worked for several years as a civil servant in the Ministry of Justice.

Political career

31 May 1988

Ministry of Justice

Having graduated from the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris with a law degree, she renounced her career as a lawyer, and in 1956, successfully passed the national examination to become a magistrate.[1] Veil then entered and held a senior position at the National Penitentiary Administration under the Ministry of Justice where she was responsible for judicial affairs and improved women's prison conditions and treatment of incarcerated women.[5] She abandoned this post in 1964 to become director of civil affairs during which she improved French women's general rights and status.[1] She successfully achieved the right to dual parental control of family legal matters and adoptive rights for women.[1] In 1970, she became secretary general of the Supreme Council of the Magistracy (Conseil supérieur de la magistrature).[5]

Minister of Health

From 1974 to 1979 she was Minister of Health in the governments of prime ministers Jacques Chirac and Raymond Barre. She pushed forward the following notable laws:

European Parliament

Simone Veil (1984)

Veil was elected as a Member of the European Parliament in the 1979 European election. In its first session, the new Parliament elected Veil as its President, which she served as until 1982.[6] As well as being the first president of the elected Parliament, she was the first female President since the Parliament was created in 1952. In 1981, Veil won the prestigious Charlemagne Prize.[7] She was re-elected in the 1984 election and became the leader of the Liberal Democrat group until 1989. She was re-elected for the last time in the 1989 election, standing down in 1993.[6]

Between 1984 and 1992 she served on the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, and the Committee on Political Affairs. After standing down from these committees she served on the Committee on Foreign Affairs and its related Subcommittee on Human Rights. Between 1989 and 1993 she was also a member of Parliament's delegation to the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, serving as its vice-chairwoman until 1992.[6]

Return to French Government

From 1993 to 1995 Veil was again a member of the cabinet, serving as Minister of State and Minister of Health, Social Affairs and the City in the government of Prime Minister Édouard Balladur.[8]

Member of the Constitutional Council

In 1998, she was appointed to the Constitutional Council of France. In 2005, she put herself briefly on leave from the Council in order to campaign in favour of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe. This action was criticized, because it seems to contradict the legal provisions that members of the council should keep a distance from partisan politics: the independence and impartiality of the council would be jeopardized, critics said, if members can put themselves "on leave" in order to campaign for such or such project.[9] In response to this opposition, Veil challenged the attacks claiming that she, the President of the Constitutional Council and colleagues had deliberated on the issue beforehand and they had given her permission to take her leave without having to resign. Being a staunch supporter of the European project, she believed others should not "ignore the historical dimension of European integration".[9]

Honors and other activities

In 1998, she was awarded an honorary damehood by the British government.[10]

In 2003, she was elected to the Board of Directors of the International Criminal Court's Trust Fund for Victims.[11]

In 2005 she was awarded with the Prince of Asturias Award in International Cooperation.

In 2007, she was awarded the North-South Prize of the Council of Europe.

In 2007, Veil surprised many observers by declaring her support for the neo-conservative presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy. She was by his side on the day after he received 31 percent of the vote in the first round of the presidential elections that year.[12]

Veil entered the Académie française in 2008, the sixth woman ever to do so.[13] Veil joined the Academy's forty "immortals" at their 13th seat, originally the seat of Jean Racine. Her induction address was given in March 2010 by Jean d'Ormesson. On her sword, given to her as to every other immortal, is engraved her Auschwitz number (number 78651), the motto of the French Republic (liberté, égalité, fraternité) and the motto of the European Union (Unis dans la diversité).[14]

In 2010 she received the Coudenhove-Kalergi Badge by the Europa-Union Münster.[15]

She also participates as jury member for the Conflict Prevention Prize[16] awarded every year by the Fondation Chirac.

She was awarded the Grand Cross of the Légion D'Honneur in 2012.[17]

Political career mandates

Governmental functions

Electoral mandates

Other functions


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "Simone Veil". Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  2. "Simone Veil". France in the United Kingdom. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  3. "Une vie (Simone VEIL)". Politique. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  4. "Mort d'Antoine Veil, mari de Simone Veil". Le Monde. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  5. 1 2 "Simone Veil, défenseure de l'avortement". L'histoire par les femmes. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  6. 1 2 3 , European Parliament website
  7. "Bahrain business pioneer Veil mourned". Trade Arabia. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  8. "Simone Veil". Flying over Europe. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  9. 1 2 "Référendum : Simone Veil répond à Debré". My TF1 News. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  10. Veil, Simone (01/02/2009). A life. Haus Publishing. Check date values in: |date= (help);
  11. Amnesty International, 12 September 2003, "Amnesty International welcomes the election of a Board of Directors". Accessed 1 August 2007.
  12. "ARCHIVES Simone Veil rejoint Nicolas Sarkozy". My TF1 News. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  13. Erlanger, Steven (18 March 2010). "France: Ex-Minister To Join Academy". New York Times. Retrieved 8 November 2010.
  14. Simone Veil : an icon in the 'Académie', Le Parisien, 18 March 2010.
  15. Preisträger, Europa Union Münster, per 24 March 2016
  16. The jury for the Conflict Prevention Prize awarded by the Fondation Chirac
  17. "Simone Veil faite grand'croix de la Légion d'honneur" [Simone Veil made Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor]. Le Parisien (in French). Le Parisien. 210 September 2012. Retrieved 10 February 2012. Check date values in: |date= (help)
Political offices
Preceded by
Constitutional Council of France
Succeeded by
Renaud Denoix de Saint Marc
Preceded by
Emilio Colombo
Succeeded by
King Juan Carlos of Spain
Preceded by
ERASMUS programme
Prince of Asturias Awards
Succeeded by
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Academic offices
Preceded by
Dries van Agt
College of Europe Orateur
Succeeded by
Bruno Kreisky
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