MEPs honoured former European Parliament President Simone Veil, who passed away on 30 June at the age of 89, with a ceremony held in Strasbourg on 4 July.
During the ceremony Parliament President Antonio Tajani said: “It is with all the energy of a survivor who knows the cost of peace that Simone Veil fought her countless battles, both in France and at the European Parliament. These fights have enhanced the rights of all citizens."
Referring to Veil being the first female president of the directly-elected parliament, Tajani added: “Aware of the historical task she was undertaking, she accompanied the young Parliament in its first steps, oriented it in the right direction and laid the foundations of its future evolution."
Guy Verhofstadt, president of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, also paid tribute to her. He said Simone Veil belonged to “this generation that Europe marked by the very worst in its history, but was able to make the best of a destiny broken by war”.
He also called her an “exceptional figure, an incarnation of our shared history and our common future”.
Born in 1927 to a Jewish family in Nice, France, Simone Veil was a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Bobrek and Bergen-Belsen.
A central figure of post-war feminism, she greatly advanced women’s rights in France as minister of health from 1974 to 1979.
Veil was elected to the European Parliament in 1979 and became the first female president of the directly-elected Parliament. She served as a member for 14 years and was chair and vice-chair of the Liberal and Democratic Group before returning to French politics in 1993.