WHEN Valery Giscard d'Estaing became President of France in 1974 he was the youngest head of the French state since Louis Napoleon in 1848. Unfortunately his term of office was marred by political failures and also by a scandal over his financial relations with the discredited Emperor Bokassa of the Central African Republic. In 1981 he was defeated in elections by Francois Mitterand and retired into private life. His re–emergence last year as the person to undertake the task of writing a constitution for the future of the European Union was surprising and controversial but it has proved to have been an inspired choice. For a man of 77 to come back from two decades of political inactivity to drive forward a permanent convention of more than one hundred national representatives was remarkable enough; to succeed in bringing their disparate views sufficiently close together to produce the draft constitutional treaty completed on Friday, was altogther exceptional. M. Giscard was understandably in euphoric mood when he toasted the draft treaty with champagne and to the sound of Beethoven's Ode To Joy, the EU's anthem. He was entirely justified in saying that Europe was “on the threshold of a new era” and in advising the European leaders, who will gather in Thessalonika, Greece, next Friday to consider his draft, that they should not try to unravel it. There will, inevitably, be long and detailed discussions of this draft treaty, beginning next weekend and probably continuing until March next year. That is as it should be, but if they are wise governments will respect the broad drift of Giscard d'Estaing's draft.


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