Valery Giscard D'Estaing, the son of a French civil servant serving with the occupying forces after the First World War, was born in Germany on 2nd February 1926. Educated in Paris he joined the French Resistance during the Second World War, for which he was awarded the Croix de Guerre.
After completing his studies at the Ecole Polytechnique and the Ecole Nationale d'Administration he joined the Inspection Générale des Finances in 1952. Four years later he was appointed Deputy Director to the Office of the Minister of Finance.
In 1956 Giscard D'Estaing was elected to the National Assembly and served as Secretary of State for Finance (1959-1962). Other posts include Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs (1962-1966 and 1969-1974) and Mayor of Chamalières (1967-1974). Although he served under Charles De Gaulle he remained outside the Gaullist movement.
In 1974 Giscard D'Estaing defeated Francois Mitterrand to became President of France. A strong supporter of the European Economic Community, while in office he played a crucial role in several international initiatives including the creation of the European Council, the European Monetary System, the Disarmament Institute and the North-South Conference.
Other reforms introduced by Giscard D'Estaing included divorce and abortion law reform, reduction of the voting age to eighteen. During his period in office the French economy performed badly and was defeated by Francois Mitterrand in the 1981 presidential elections. He returned to the National Assembly and became one of the leaders of the centre-right group, Union for French Democracy.
Giscard D'Estaing served as President of the Commission of Foreign Affairs (1987-1989) and as a member of the European Parliament (1989-1993). He returned to the National Assembly in 1993 and once again became President of the Commission of Foreign Affairs (1993-1997).
In December 2001, Giscard D'Estaing was appointed by the European Council as Chairman of the Convention on the Future of Europe.