Dominique de Villepin
(born Dominique Marie François René Galouzeau de Villepin
(— ) on 14 November 1953 in Rabat
) served as the Prime Minister of France
from 31 May 2005 to 17 May 2007.
A career diplomat, Villepin rose through the ranks of the French right as one of Jacques Chirac's protégés. He came into the international spotlight as Foreign Minister with his opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq which culminated with a speech to the United Nations (French address on Iraq at the UN Security Council).
A French judicial process has been commenced against Villepin in connection with the Clearstream Affair. Magistrates are investigating whether he was complicit in allowing false accusations to proceed against presidential rival Nicolas Sarkozy regarding bribes paid on a sale of warships to Taiwan. Recently, however, Villepin has enjoyed a modest return to public favour for his public critique of President Sarkozy's style of imperial rule.
He has three children: Marie (b. 1986), Arthur, and Victoire (b. 1989). He has written poetry, a book about poetry, and several historical and political essays, along with a study of Napoleon.
Dominique de Villepin is an Honorary Member of The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation
Villepin was born in Morocco and raised in Latin America in Venezuela, among other places there. His lyrical texts and passion for France won him awards in 2001 for his book about the last 100 days of Napoleon's rule, entitled "Les Cent-jours, ou L'esprit de sacrifice."
Villepin's great-grandfather was a colonel
in the French army, his grandfather was a board member for several companies, and his father Xavier de Villepin
, now retired, was a diplomat and a member of the French Senate
. The untimely death of his brother gravely affected him. Villepin speaks French, English and Spanish.
Villepin studied at the Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris
(Sciences-Po) and went on to the École nationale d'administration
, France's highly selective post-graduate school which trains its top civil servants. Villepin also holds degrees in Civil law and French literature from the universities of Paris II Panthéon-Assas
and Paris X Nanterre
. At the end of his studies, Villepin entered a career in diplomacy. His assignments were:
- Advising Committee on African affairs (1980 - 1984)
- The French embassy in Washington, D.C. (1984 - 1989), as premier secrétaire until 1987 and then deuxième conseiller
- The embassy in New Delhi (1989 - 1992), as deuxième conseiller until 1990 and then premier conseiller
- Foreign Ministry's top adviser on Africa (1992 - 1993)
Villepin was also heavily involved in developing the French foreign policy leading up to the Rwandan genocide. Among his questionable decisions are the import of weapons in spite of an arms import embargo, as well as the close links to Hutu officials responsible for the genocide. In August 2008 an independent Rwandan commission published a report on France's role in the genocide, including the name of Dominique de Villepin among the names of the French officials responsible for training troops and militia who carried out the massacres.
Villepin was introduced to Jacques Chirac in the early 1980s and became one of his advisers on foreign policy. In 1993 he became chief of staff (directeur de cabinet
) of Alain Juppé
, the Foreign Minister
in Édouard Balladur
's cabinet, and Chirac's political heir apparent
Villepin then became director of Chirac's successful 1995 presidential campaign and was rewarded with the key job of Secretary-General of the Élysée Palace during his first term as President of the Republic (1995 - 2002). He advised the president to hold an early general election in 1997, while the French National Assembly was overwhelmingly dominated by the president's party. This was a risky gamble, and Chirac's party went on to lose the elections. Villepin offered Chirac his resignation afterwards, but was turned down. This increased the perception among many politicians on the right that Villepin was aloof and had no experience or understanding of grassroots politics, and owed his enviable position only to being Chirac's protégé.
Villepin has an uneasy relationship with the members of his own political side. He has in the past made a number of demeaning remarks on members of parliament from his own party. In addition, his mutual distaste for Nicolas Sarkozy, head of the UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) majority party, is well-known. He had negatively criticized Jean Marie Le Pen for his far right politics.
He was appointed Foreign Minister by Chirac in the cabinet of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin
at the beginning of his second term in 2002.
During the crisis in Haiti, Villepin once again showed himself to be a resolute decision-maker, obtaining the backing of the United States Secretary of State, Colin Powell, in his bid to solve the crisis by ousting Jean-Bertrand Aristide from power.
Villepin's most famous assignment as Chirac's Foreign Minister was opposing the U.S. plan to invade Iraq, making France look like the leader in a coalition of countries such as Germany, Belgium, Russia and China that opposed the invasion. The speech he gave to the United Nations to block a second resolution allowing the use of force against Saddam Hussein's regime received loud applause.
During the summer of 2003 Villepin organized Opération 14 juillet to rescue his former student, Ingrid Betancourt, who was being held by FARC rebels in Colombia. The operation failed, and because he had neither informed Colombia, Brazil, nor President Chirac of the mission, it resulted in a political scandal.
During the cabinet reshuffle that made Nicolas Sarkozy Finance Minister
, Villepin was appointed to replace him as Interior Minister
on 31 March 2004.
His actions against radical Islam included mandatory courses for Muslim clerics, notably in the French language (a third of them do not speak it), in moderate Muslim theology and in French secularism: laïcité, Republican principles and the law. While Sarkozy created the French Council of the Muslim Faith, an official body which is now dominated by radicals, Villepin would have preferred a "Muslim foundation," in which mosque-based representatives would be balanced by secular and moderate Muslims.
He also cracked down on radical Muslim clerics, causing an uproar when he tried to expel Abdelkader Bouziane, an imam who taught that adulterous women could be whipped or stoned. When the decision to expel him was overturned by the courts, Villepin pushed a change of the law through Parliament, and Bouziane was sent home.
President Chirac was at one point thought to have turned his eye on Villepin as a possible successor, assuming that he himself would not enter the 2007 presidential contest. However, Nicolas Sarkozy
was chosen to represent the centre-right UMP
On 29 May 2005, French voters in the referendum on the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe turned down the proposed document by a wide margin. Two days later, Raffarin resigned and Chirac appointed Villepin as Prime Minister of France.
Contrat Première Embauche (CPE), or First Employment Contract
On Thursday, 16 March 2006 tens of thousands of French university and school students marched to demand the government scrap a contentious youth jobs clause, known as CPE
. The law, intended as a response to the 2005 riots
, was intended to stimulate job growth and arrest the 23% youth unemployment rate by allowing employers to fire employees aged under 26 within the first two years of their employment for any or no reason. Supporters of the law argued that such probationary arrangements are not unusual in Western countries and that the current system in France discourages employers from hiring people whom they may be unable to fire if they prove unsuitable for the job. Critics argue that it discriminates unnecessarily against the young and decreases job security. The union movement issued an ultimatum to Villepin to scrap the law by 20 March or face a general strike. This ultimatum expired without concession. A general strike was called for 28 March.
General strike, demonstrations, and the fall of Villepin
On March 28
, between one and three million people demonstrated across France. The protests were accompanied by some violence and 800 people were arrested, 500 of them in Paris. Prime Minister Villepin refused to withdraw the CPE but called for negotiations on adapting it. The demonstrators for the most part called for the complete withdrawal of the CPE.
More unrest for Villepin
On 20 June 2006 during the questions to government in the National Assembly
, Dominique de Villepin accused head of the Socialist Party François Hollande
. Hollande had questioned the Prime Minister about the recent "insider trading
" scandal involving the aerospace company EADS
and executive Noël Forgeard
. This triggered an incident in the Assembly, with Socialist deputies converging on the government benches and were stopped by the Assembly ushers. Hollande demanded apologies and the resignation of the Prime Minister ; the next day, Dominique de Villepin apologized. This event resulted in criticism even from Villepin's own UMP
party, with UMP parliamentarians including Assembly vice-president Yves Bur
suggesting that president Chirac
should appoint another Prime Minister.
In 2004, French judges were given a list by an anonymous source containing the names of politicians and others who, it was alleged, had deposited kickbacks from a 1991 arms sale to Taiwan into secret accounts at Clearstream, a private bank in Luxembourg. The most prominent name on the list was that of Nicholas Sarkozy, Villepin's rival for power in the UMP. The list was later shown to be fraudulent, a discovery Villepin kept from the public for 15 months at a time when the two men were vying for party supremacy. Meanwhile, the source of the list was later revealed to be a longtime associate of Villepin's, one Jean-Louis Gergorin, an executive at EADS. Critics claimed that Villepin, perhaps with the support of then-president Jacques Chirac, had tried to defame his rival. Sarkozy, in turn, filed a suit against whomever was behind the creation of the Clearstream list. An investigation continues.
1994 Rwanda Genocide
On 5 August 2008, the government of Rwanda issued a report accusing Dominique de Villepin of involvement in the 1994 Rwanda genocide that killed 800,000 people. He and other French officials were accused in the report of giving political, military, diplomatic and logistical support during the genocide to Rwanda’s extremist government and the Hutu forces that slaughtered minority Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus.
There was speculation that Villepin might be a candidate in the 2007 Presidential election
; however, interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy
was selected unopposed as the UMP's presidential candidate on 14 January 2007. On 12 March 2007 Villepin formally endorsed Sarkozy for President.
Villepin's first cabinet
In an address to the nation, Chirac had declared that the new cabinet's top priority would be to curb unemployment
, which was consistently hovering above 10%, calling for a "national mobilization" to that effect.
Villepin's cabinet was marked by its small membership (for France), and its hierarchical unity: all members had the rank of Minister, and there were no Secretaries of State, the lowest cabinet member rank. The aim of this decision was for the cabinet to form a close-knit and more efficient team to combat unemployment.
The French economy was growing sluggishly and a significant drop in unemployment was yet to be seen. Villepin's aim was therefore to restore the French people's trust in their government, an achievement for which he publicly set himself a deadline of a hundred days from the appointment of cabinet.
Another issue was the European Constitution which appears condemned after its rejection by France and the Netherlands in referenda, and the shelving of the planned referendum in the United Kingdom, Poland and other countries.
Some had speculated that Villepin, with his diplomatic experience and the prestige associated with the job of Prime Minister, would negotiate a new treaty with the European Union, while Sarkozy would run the country at home. However, Villepin obtained favorable reviews from the press and temporarily increased popularity in polls. In particular, he was increasingly cited as a possible presidential candidate for 2007, although Nicolas Sarkozy had publicly stated that he himself was giving considerable attention to that election. Villepin and Sarkozy initially avoided any open division.
Villepin declared that lowering unemployment was the number one objective of his government (which, was also the case of other prime ministers before him, to no avail). He, as well as the UMP party, believed that France's workforce rules were too rigid and discouraged employment, and that some liberalizing reforms were necessary in order to "correct" the French social model.
On 2 August 2005 he issued ordinances establishing a new kind of work contract (called CNE) for small enterprises, with fewer guarantees than ordinary contracts. While Villepin's measures would surely have been approved by his wide UMP majority in Parliament. Villepin said the government needed to act fast, especially when Parliament was going on its summer recess.
On 16 January 2006 he announced a similar kind of work contract (called Contrat première embauche, or CPE) for young people (under 26). The parliament approved on 8 February. Subsequently students started to protest. This wave of protest eventually forced the government to give in. Although the law on the CPE is formally still valid, the government promised to hinder its application and initiated a new legal initiative which will abolish the key points of the CPE. During the protests, Villepin was widely perceived as stubborn and arrogant. As a consequence, his popularity rates went down rapidly and he was no longer regarded as a serious contender for the 2007 presidential election.
Another major issue in Villepin's government was the state of the national budget. France runs high deficits, which run afoul of the rules set in the EU Maastricht Treaty. Villepin's margin of maneuver in that respect was extremely slim.
- Nicolas Sarkozy - Minister of State, Minister of the Interior
- Michèle Alliot-Marie - Minister of Defence
- Philippe Douste-Blazy - Minister of Foreign Affairs
- Jean-Louis Borloo - Minister of Employment, Social Cohesion and Housing
- Thierry Breton - Minister of the Economy, Finance and Industry
- Gilles de Robien - Minister of National Education
- Pascal Clément - Keeper of the Seals, Minister of Justice
- Dominique Perben - Minister of Transportation, Equipment, Tourism and the Sea
- Xavier Bertrand - Minister of Health and Solidarity
- Dominique Bussereau - Minister of Agriculture and Fishing
- Christian Jacob - Minister of Civil Service
- Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres - Minister of Culture and Communication
- Nelly Olin - Minister of Ecology and Sustainable Development
- François Baroin - Minister of Overseas France
- Renaud Dutreil - Minister of Small Businesses, Commerce, Craftsmanship and Self-Employed Professionals
- Jean-François Lamour - Minister of Youth, Sports, and Associative Life
- Henri Cuq, delegate minister for relationships with Parliament;
- Azouz Begag, delegate minister for equal opportunities;
- Jean-François Copé, delegate minister for budget and the reform of the State, spokesman for the Government;
- Gérard Larcher, delegate minister for employment, work, and the professional insertion of the young;
- Catherine Vautrin, delegate minister for social cohesion and parity [of the sexes];
- Brigitte Girardin, delegate minister for international cooperation, development and francophonie;
- Brice Hortefeux, delegate minister for local governments;
- Catherine Colonna, delegate minister for European affairs;
- François Goulard, delegate minister for higher education and research;
- Léon Bertrand, delegate minister for tourism;
- Philippe Bas, delegate minister for Social Security, the elderly, the handicapped, and the family;
- François Loos, delegate minister for industry;
- Christine Lagarde, delegate minister for foreign commerce;
- Hamlaoui Mékachéra, delegate minister for war veterans;
- Christian Estrosi, delegate minister for the management of the territory.
26 March 2007
5 April 2007
- Azouz Begag ceases to be delegate Minister for equal opportunities and is not replaced.
On 15 May 2007, on the last full day of President Jacques Chirac
´s term Villepin tendered his resignation from the office of Prime Minister and it was accepted by the President. He was replaced two days later by François Fillon
Post Prime Ministerial career
Context of Villepin's political career
Villepin has never held elected office; the French Constitution
allows the president to appoint unelected ministers. This is a political liability for him, because he is periodically accused of being out of touch with the realities of ordinary citizens. He is also reported to despise elected officials, calling members of Parliament connards
(an insult). Villepin is not the first "unelected" prime minister, even in the relatively short history of the Fifth Republic
: notable predecessors include Georges Pompidou
, who was a banker before being called to office, and Raymond Barre
, who had a previous career as a professor
and appointed official, and started an elected career only after being Prime minister.
Bibliography: works written by Villepin himself
- 2001: Les Cent-Jours ou l'esprit de sacrifice (Perrin, 2001 - Le Grand livre du mois, 2001 - Perrin, 2002 - Éditions France loisirs, 2003); soulful writing on a topic which Villepin says has fascinated him since childhood, the "One Hundred Days" between the return of Napoleon from Elba and the defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, interesting for its contrast with English & American & Hollywood & even many other French views of its controversial subject, awarded the Grand Prix d'Histoire of the Fondation Napoléon (2001) and the Prix des Ambassadeurs (2001);
- 2002: Le cri de la gargouille (Éditions Albin Michel, 2002 - Librairie générale française, 2003), a "meditation" upon French politics, in the classical style, written with cascading imagery, a pensive and deliberate analysis of the good & the bad & the really ugly & the truly magnificent, in the French political character -- enjoyable reading;
- 2003: Éloge des voleurs de feu (NRF-Gallimard, 2003), in English On Poetry, which is some reflections on the subject; Villepin is said to have worked on the final draft during the UN session where the French successfully blocked authorization of the 2003 War in Iraq;
- 2003: Un autre monde (l'Herne, 2003), preface by Stanley Hoffmann, tr. américain Toward a new world: speeches, essays, and interviews on the war in Iraq, the UN, and the changing face of Europe (Hoboken, N.J. : Melville House, c2004), a selection of speeches by Villepin as Foreign Minister, with commentary by Hoffman, Susan Sontag, Carlos Fuentes, Norman Mailer, Régis Debray, Mario Vargas Llosa, others;
- 2003: Preface to Aventuriers du monde 1866-1914 : Les grands explorateurs français au temps des premiers photographes (L'Iconoclaste, 2003), collective work;
- 2004: Preface to l'Entente cordiale de Fachoda à la Grande Guerre : Dans les archives du Quai d'Orsay, Maurice Vaïsse (Éditions Complexe, 2004);
- 2004: Preface, with Jack Straw, to l'Entente cordiale dans le siècle (Odile Jacob, 2004);
- 2004: Preface to 1905, la séparation des Églises et de l'État : les textes fondateurs (Perrin, 2004);
- 2004: Preface to Mehdi Qotbi : le voyage de l'écriture (Paris : Somogy, 2004 - Paris : Somogy, 2005), "published on the occasion of an exhibition organized by the Institut Français du Nord and Attijariwafa Bank, presented at the Galerie Delacroix of the Institut français du Nord at Tangiers from 25 June to 5 September 2004 and at the Espace d'Art Actua of the Attijariwafa Bank, Casablanca, Oct-Dec 2004" -- Villepin has a lifelong and interesting personal connection with the Maghreb and the Third World -- "born in Rabat, raised in Latin America", as the bios put it;
- 2004: Le requin et la mouette (Plon : A. Michel, 2004), essay;
- 2005: Histoire de la diplomatie française with Jean-Claude Allain, Françoise Autrand, Lucien Bély (Perrin, 2005);
- 2005: L'Homme européen, with Jorge Semprun (Plon, 2005 - Perrin, octobre 2005), a pamphlet in favour of the Treaty establishing a constitution for Europe;
- 2005: Urgences de la poésie ([Casablanca] : Eds. de la Maison de la Poésie du Maroc, July 2005) tr. into Arabic by Mohamed Bennis, illustr. by Mehdi Qotbi; includes three poems by Villepin himself, "Elegies barbares", "Le droit d'aînesse", and "Sécession";
- 2006: , The Globalist, 3 March 2006.
- 1986: Villepin, Patrick de, Encore et toujours : François Xavier Galouzeau de Villepin, 1814-1885, un Lorrain émigré à Paris au XIXe siècle (Paris (21 rue Surcouf, 75007) : P. de Villepin, 1986)
- 1987: Villepin, Patrick de, "Maintenir" : histoire de la famille Galouzeau de Villepin (1397-1987) ([Paris] (21 rue Surcouf, 75007) : P. de Villepin, 1987)
- 2004: Le Maire, Bruno, Le ministre : récit (Paris : B. Grasset, 2004) ISBN 2-246-67611-8.
- 2005: Derai, Yves et Mantoux, Aymeric, L'homme qui s'aimait trop (Paris : l'Archipel, impr. 2005) ISBN 2-84187-753-1.
- 2005: Saint-Iran, Jean, Les cent semaines (Paris : Privé, DL 2005) ISBN 2-35076-011-1.
- L'option de la guerre peut apparaître a priori la plus rapide. Mais n'oublions pas qu'après avoir gagné la guerre, il faut construire la paix. ("The option of war might seem a priori to be the swiftest. But let us not forget that having won the war, one has to build peace." (address on Iraq at the United Nations Security Council on 14 February 2003, shortly before the US-led invasion of Iraq )
- "We need a strong policy to combat radical Islam. It is used as a breeding-ground for terrorism. We cannot afford not to watch them very closely." As Interior Minister, December 2004.
- "With the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime, a dark era is drawing to a close. And we welcome it...Together we must now build peace in Iraq and for France this has to mean the United Nations having a central role. Together we must build peace throughout the region and this can be done only through the determined search for a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.