Blog AnalysisEuropean history

Edgard's fate

(credit: European Commission)
(credit: European Commission)

(B2) 97 is a good age to die, especially after having lived like Edgard Pisani. A man with many facets.

Presumed to be the father of the Common Agricultural Policy, he is not just that. He is also an apostle of French nuclear deterrence, and a specialist in the defense budget. This was also his “specialty” at the start of his political career. In 1958, he also opposed General De Gaulle's state of emergency. Among Europeans, he is known for having been the champion of a “true” European development policy (he was European Commissioner from 1981 to 1984). In France, he is better known for his report (with L. Fabius) written in 1985, advocating a status of independence – association for New Caledonia. Much criticized report but which ultimately was quite visionary since the self-determination referendum is planned… next year (Pisani would have been 100 years old).

Born British turned French

Born British in Tunis on a certain day in October 1918, a month just before the armistice, his career was interrupted by the war. A graduate of the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, the Sorbonne and the Institute of Advanced Studies in National Defense (IHEDN), his destiny seems set: high administration. The war interrupts him. Demobilized, he joined the “renegades”… In other words, the Resistance.

Renegade turned prefect of police and dir. ministerial cab

Upon liberation, he was appointed chief of staff of the police prefect in 1944, then two years later chief of staff of the Minister of the Interior. After a short stint in the Haute Loire prefecture (the youngest prefect, at 28 years old), he held the position of director of the cabinet of the Minister of Defense, François Billoux, for almost a year (January – December 1947). He was then named prefect of Haute-Marne, which he would make its capital as senator.

A specialist in national defense issues

Elected in 1954, then re-elected, he sat (in particular) on the national defense commission and was passionate about the question of the national defense budget. He is rapporteur for a bill on reform of army recruitment. He will be rapporteur for the National Defense Commission on several projects (the general organization of national defense, reservists, etc.). He defends a defense budget that can “  reflect the capacity for anticipation » on major future issues, considering it more important to define hierarchies and responsibilities than to accumulate military equipment. NB: Edgard Pisani will not only have these subjects in his bag as senator, social housing, the finances of local authorities and especially agriculture and the income of farmers, rural territory obliges. What will be important for the future...

nuclear deterrence power factor

In 1956, he co-wrote, with his colleague de Maupeau, a report which highlighted the prospects of atomic energy for National Defense and pleaded for France to equip itself with'a policy of nuclear deterrence in order to remain among the great powers ". A convinced European, he voted in 1957 for the creation of the common market and Euratom. In May 1958, Edgard Pisani voted against the state of emergency, believing that the government already had full powers. And argues for a North African confederation solution. But in June 1958, he voted for full powers to General De Gaulle and the constitutional revision.

The father of the CAP and an “other” development policy

A Gaullist, he was a minister several times from 1962 to 1967 in the governments of Michel Debré as Minister of Agriculture (this is where he designed what would become the CAP, the common agricultural policy), and of Georges Pompidou. , as Minister of Equipment. He broke away from Gaullism to join the Socialist Party in 1974. Returning to the Senate under Giscard in 1974, he resigned after the election of François Mitterrand in May 1981 to go to Brussels as European Commissioner in charge of Development, replacing Claude Cheysson called as minister .

The father of a more modern development policy

The Commission of the European Communities was then headed by Luxembourger Gaston Thorn. There we find some “mythical” names like the Italian Lorenzo Natali for Mediterranean policy and Enlargement, the Belgian Etienne Davignon for Industry, the Dutchman Andriessen for Competition. In Brussels, Pisani will leave a certain mark. He is the author of the report on development policy of 1982 (2), a prelude to the renewal of the Lomé III agreements which will be signed in 1984 and which introduce an important innovation: moving from the financing of scattered projects to the financing of more integrated policies. He had previously participated in the commission led by Willy Brandt which resulted in 1980 in a investigation report advocating the redefinition of North – South relations.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

NB: He is the father of the economist Jean Pisani-Ferry, director of Bruegel.

(*) Which all European affairs students worked on… at the time

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

One thought on “Edgard's fate"

  • Jolyon Howorth


    Thank you for having greeted Edgard Pisani: a great state clerk, a great man and a great personal friend.


Comments closed.