Being the first woman President of a European institution, Simone Veil transformed the European Parliament into a real political actor, assured of popular legitimacy. President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola said this as she unveiled a bust of Simone Veil in Strasbourg.
© European Union | European Parliament President Roberta Metsola unveiling a bust of Simone Veil, former President of the European Parliament
‘During the deportation, I reflected that, if one day we came out of the camp alive, we should not think about exacting further revenge on the Germans but should seek reconciliation.’
With these words, my predecessor at the head of the European Parliament, Auschwitz inmate: 7 - 8 - 6 - 5 - 1, was advocating neither forgiveness nor leniency.
She uttered these words in the spirit of reason, reconciliation and peace.
Despite having witnessed and fallen victim to one of the darkest chapters in European history, the Shoah, Simone Veil, a French patriot and pioneer for Europe, believed in humanity.
She was firmly convinced that it was possible to learn from the horrors of the past and rebuild a better future for Europe.
In 1979, Simone Veil became the first President of a European Parliament elected by direct universal suffrage and the first woman to serve as President of a European institution.
She went on to transform the European Parliament into a leading actor on the political stage that was assured of popular legitimacy. Under her leadership, it became increasingly independent and enhanced its reputation.
Simone Veil was the first woman to receive the Louise Weiss Prize. She was also awarded the Charlemagne Prize.
Since 2017, however, best administrative practices within Parliament in terms of equality, inclusion and diversity have been rewarded with a prize named after her: the Simone Veil Award.
Every day, we pay tribute to her as we enter the main door to one of the principal European Parliament buildings from Simone Veil esplanade.
For me, however, her most important legacy was her dignified but unremitting struggle to uphold women's rights.
Indeed, if I am standing here before you today - as President of this Parliament - it is also thanks to her and the path she struck, enabling millions of women to make their voices heard.
Simone Veil, every day we honour your memory and the legacy you have handed on to women and to entire generations.
Simone Veil, in my personal and official capacity, I owe you a debt of gratitude.
I should like to extend a greeting to Pierre-Francois Veil, one of Simone Veil's sons, whom we are lucky enough to have with us today.
I should also like to welcome Jean-Louis Debré, former President of the National Assembly and former President of the Constitutional Council. Thank you joining us here.
My thanks also to the Strasbourg Foundation, which has today donated a bust of Simone Veil to the European Parliament.
My warmest congratulations to Sissy Piana for the talent and delicacy she has displayed in the execution of this work.
I also thank Jean-Louis de Valmigère, without whom none of this would be possible.