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Simone Veil

Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation 2005

Recognized as one of the most influential people in France and Europe, Simone Veil (Nice, France, 1927 - Paris, Frances, 2017) is a survivor of Auschwitz concentration camp and devoted her life to the fight against intolerance. The strength of her moral and intellectual commitment enabled her to overcome the horror of the Holocaust and work for the construction of a Europe based on the spirit of citizenship. In 1944, during World War II, she was deported to Auschwitz concentration camp together with her mother and sister. Her father and brother disappeared and were never seen again. Once released, she settled in Paris in May 1945, where she graduated in Law and furthered her studies at the Institute of Political Studies.

In 1957, she earned a post in the magistracy after passing public examinations and became attaché to the Ministry of Justice. In 1969, she became technical advisor at the same ministry, and between 1970 and 1974 she was general secretary of the Supreme Council of the Judiciary. In 1974, during Valery Giscard d´Estaing´s term of office as President, she became the first female minister of the Fifth Republic when she was appointed Minister of Health and Social Security, a post she held for five years, during which time she modernized hospital organisation. In the 1979 European Parliamentary elections, she headed the voting list for the Union for French Democracy and was appointed President of the first European Parliament elected by universal suffrage. She held the post until February 1982, when she moved on to take up the presidency of the European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs.

In the 1984 European elections, she headed the list of the liberal-conservative alliance and became president of the liberal group. In 1989, she was elected European Member of Parliament for the "Centre pour l´Europe" and was a member of that Parliament´s Commission for Political Affairs. After Edouard Balladur´s 1993 election victory, she was appointed Minister of State for Social Affairs, Health and the City Affairs, holding the post until 1995. After quitting this post, she was candidate to be the first European Ombudsman, but lost the election on the second round of voting to Finland´s Jacob Söderman. Since 1998 she has been a member of France´s Constitutional Council; she was also president of the Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah (Holocaust), which was founded that year, and which she is still president of. She wrotte two works, L´Adoption, donnés médicales, psychologiques et sociales (1969) and Les hommes aussi s´en souviennent (2004).

She was Knight of the National Order of Merit (France) and Grand Officer of the Order of the British Empire. Among others distinctions, she has received the Charlemagne Prize of the City of Aachen (1981), the Truman Peace Prize (1991) and the World Health Organization Gold Medal for Health for All (1997). She also received fourteen honorary degrees from different universities, including Princetown, Georgetown, Yale, Cambridge and Glasgow. In 2008, she was awarded the Charles V European Award, granted by the European Academy of Yuste Foundation in honour of “her acknowledged merits in the struggle for the advancement of women’s equality”.

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