Dominique de Villepin
|Prime Minister of France|
31 May 2005 - 15 May 2007
|Minister of the Interior|
31 March 2004 - 31 May 2005
|Minister of Foreign Affairs|
7 May 2002 - 31 March 2004
|Secretary General to the President|
17 May 1995 - 6 May 2002
Dominique Marie François René Galouzeau de Villepin
14 November 1953
|Political party||Rally for the Republic (before 2002)|
Union for a Popular Movement (2002-10)
United Republic (2010-present)
|Spouse(s)||Marie-Laure Le Guay|
|Children||3 (including Marie)|
|Relatives||Xavier de Villepin (Father)|
|Alma mater||Sciences Po|
École nationale d'administration
Paris Nanterre University
Dominique Marie François René Galouzeau de Villepin (French: [d?minik d? vilp] ; born 14 November 1953) is a French politician who served as Prime Minister of France from 31 May 2005 to 17 May 2007 under President Jacques Chirac.
A career working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, De Villepin rose through the ranks of the French right as one of Chirac's protégés. He came into the international spotlight as Minister of Foreign Affairs with his opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, one year after his appointment to the office, which culminated with a speech to the United Nations. Before his tenure as Prime Minister, he also served as Minister of the Interior (2004-2005).
After being replaced by François Fillon as Prime Minister, De Villepin was indicted in connection with the Clearstream affair, but was subsequently cleared of charges of complicity in allowing false accusations to proceed against presidential rival Nicolas Sarkozy regarding bribes paid on a sale of warships to Taiwan. De Villepin enjoyed a modest return to public favour for his public critique of President Sarkozy's style of "imperial rule."
He has written poetry, a book about poetry, and several historical and political essays, along with a study of Napoleon. Villepin is an honorary member of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.
Villepin was born in Rabat, Morocco, and spent some time in Venezuela, where his family lived for four years. He then lived in the U.S., and has said that he "grew up in the United States." During his teenage years, "the 'Beat generation' movement left its mark on me, so did the hippie movement." He was inspired by Jack Kerouac and other American poets. He graduated from the Lycée Français de New York in 1971. He has three children: Marie (b. 1986), Arthur, and Victoire (b. 1989).
Contrary to what his surname suggests, Villepin is not from an aristocratic background but from a middle-class family. His ancestors added the particle "de" to the family name. His great-grandfather was a colonel in the French army, his grandfather was a board member for several companies, and his father Xavier de Villepin was a diplomat and a member of the Senate. Villepin speaks French, English and Spanish.
When his mother died, Villepin gave a eulogy "full of the grandest and most sonorous cadences of the French language," wrote The Independent (UK) in 2010. He "spoke of his mother's passionate belief in the greatness and the destiny of France, and, implicitly, the greatness and destiny of her son." One mourner stated that he seemed to speak "of France and of himself as being the same thing."
Villepin studied at the Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po) and went on to the École nationale d'administration (ENA), 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 Panthéon-Assas and Paris X Nanterre. At the end of his studies, he completed his military service as a naval officer on board the Aircraft Carrier Clemenceau. Villepin then entered a career in diplomacy. His assignments were:
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, who was 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 Chirac's 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 it was turned down. Villepin's flawed advice on the election increased the perception among many politicians on the right that Villepin had no experience or understanding of grassroots politics, and owed his enviable position only to being Chirac's protégé.
Villepin has had an uneasy relationship with the members of his own political side. He has in the past made a number of demeaning remarks about members of parliament from his own party. In addition, the mutual distaste between Villepin and Nicolas Sarkozy, head of the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) majority party, is well known.
He was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs by Chirac in the cabinet of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin at the beginning of Chirac's second term in 2002.
Villepin's most famous assignment as Chirac's foreign minister was opposing the U.S. plan to invade Iraq, giving France a leading role in the grouping of countries such as Germany, Belgium, Russia and China that opposed the invasion. The speech he gave to the UN to block a second resolution allowing the use of force against Saddam Hussein's regime received loud applause.
During mid-2003 Villepin organized the Opération 14 juillet that attempted 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.
His actions against radical Islam included mandatory courses for Muslim clerics, notably in the French language (as indications were that one-third of them may not have been fluent in the national language), 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 Orthodoxes, Villepin would have preferred a "Muslim foundation", in which mosque-based representatives would be balanced by secular Muslims.
He also cracked down on radical Muslim clerics, causing an uproar when he tried to expel Abdelkader Bouziane, an imam alleged to have said to the press that, according to Ancient Islamic texts, adulterous people could be whipped or stoned. When the decision to expel him was overturned by the courts, because of the journalistic reporting of LyonMag was deemed biaised, 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 party.
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.
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 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, rejected by France and the Netherlands in referenda.
After Pope Benedict XVI was widely chastized for appearing to criticize Islam in a speech on 12 September 2006, French author Robert Redeker came to the pontiff's defense, in response to which he received death threats that forced him and his family to go into hiding. Villepin commented that "everyone has the right to express their opinions freely - at the same time that they respect others, of course." The lesson of this episode, according to Villepin, was "how vigilant we must be to ensure that people fully respect one another in our society."
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 had also been stated by other prime ministers before him, albeit 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.
26 March 2007:
5 April 2007:
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 First Employment Contract (CPE). The law, intended as a response to the 2005 riots, was intended to stimulate job growth and reduce the country's high 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.
On 28 March, 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.
The CPE was withdrawn by Jacques Chirac on 10 April.
On 20 June 2006, during the questions to government in the National Assembly, Dominique de Villepin accused the head of the Socialist Party François Hollande of cowardice. 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 until they 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 Nicolas 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 whoever was behind the creation of the Clearstream list. Villepin was eventually acquitted in 2010 (see #Clearstream trial below).
There was speculation that Villepin might be a candidate in the 2007 Presidential election; 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.
On 15 May 2007, 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.
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 (assholes). 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.
On the first day of the civil trial for his part in the Clearstream affair, Villepin accused President Sarkozy of pursuing him for political reasons. Sarkozy has the status of a civil plaintiff in the case.
On Thursday, 28 January 2010, the judgement was finally handed down and Villepin was acquitted of every accusation against him in the affair. The following morning the prosecution announced that it would file an appeal against this verdict, thus further dragging out the affair another year. Villepin was finally cleared by an appeals court in September 2011.
Soon after his exit from daily political life, on 9 January 2008 de Villepin returned to legal practice. Since then, he has travelled on business to Iran, Argentina, Venezuela and Colombia. Over its first two years, the bureau had revenues of 4,65 million euros and earned profit of 2,6 million.Alstom, Total and Veolia and the Bugshan family conglomerate have all been clients. His main client for a time was Qatar, and he has a close relationship with Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani and her mother Moza bint Nasser. He advocated forcefully the Palestinian cause during the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, at the request of the Qataris, and protested the French legal ban on Islamic facial veils for women in 2014. De Villepin counsels the Qatar Investment Authority. He is president of the advisory board of Universal Credit Rating Group, a Sino-Russo-American bond credit rating agency, and international advisor to China Minsheng Bank.
From November 2008 until June 2009, de Villepin chaired a six-member panel of EU experts advising the Bulgarian government. Set up by Bulgaria's Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev, the advisory board was mandated to recommend ways to help the country adjust to EU membership.
In 2010, Villepin quit the UMP and set up a new party, République Solidaire, with the aim of running for president in the 2012 elections. He advocated the rewithdrawal of France from the NATO integrated military command. However, he failed to secure the 500 necessary "parrainages" endorsements from elected officials in the preliminaries to the presidential race, and his candidacy did not proceed.
In 2016, the French investigating judge Sabine Kheris requested that the case be referred to the Court of Justice of the Republic Dominique de Villepin, Michel Barnier and Michèle Alliot-Marie. These former ministers are suspected of having allowed the exfiltration of the mercenaries responsible for the attack on the Bouaké camp in 2004, killing nine French soldiers. The operation was allegedly intended to justify a response operation against the Laurent Gbagbo government in the context of the 2004 crisis in Ivory Coast.
Villepin enjoys traveling through the U.S., and has spoken of Route 66 as giving a feeling of the "wide open spaces of America" that signify "dreams and opportunities." He has said that the U.S. is a source of inspiration for "every lover of liberty and democracy."
| Secretary General to the President
| Minister of Foreign Affairs
| Minister of the Interior
| Prime Minister of France