Dominique de Villepin

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Dominique de Villepin
Photo: David Mendiboure

Dominique Marie François René Galouzeau de Villepin (born November 14, 1953, in Rabat, Morocco), simply known as Dominique de Villepin Template:Audio, is a French diplomat and politician. He is the current Prime Minister of France, having served in that capacity since May 31, 2005.

A career diplomat, Villepin rose through the ranks of the French right as one of Jacques Chirac's protégés. He came under the international spotlight with his lyrical style in opposing the 2003 invasion of Iraq as Foreign Minister, and recently with his appointment as Prime Minister. Villepin has never run for elected office.

He is married, and has three teenage children.




Although it is largely believed that the French particle "de" is a sign of nobility, a large part of the people with such particle are in fact not nobility, mostly because of the habit of some families to add the particle to their name. The Galouzeau de Villepin family is among these, since the Galouzeau, a family of commoners originally from the Yonne département, added "de Villepin" to their name in the early 18th century by the marriage of a Galouzeau ancestor with a woman from a seemingly aristocratic de Villepin family of Lorraine. For the social practice behind this, see: Redorer son blason.

However, Villepin can be said to belong to the "Republican aristocracy" of families whose members graduate from the grandes écoles and go on to become high-ranking civil servants. Accordingly, Villepin's great-grandfather was a colonel in the French army, his grandfather was a board member for several companies and his father, Xavier de Villepin, now retired, was himself a diplomat and a member of the French Senate.



Villepin studied at the Paris Institute for Political Studies and went on to the Ecole nationale d'administration, France's highly selective post-graduate school which trains its top civil servants. Villepin also holds degrees in law and literature from the universities of Paris II Panthéon-Assas and Paris X Nanterre. At the end of his studies, Villepin embraced 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, then Foreign Minister in Édouard Balladur's cabinet, and 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 his 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 was turned down. This increased the perception among many politicians on the right that Villepin was aloof and had no experience or understanding of grassroots politics, and owed his enviable position only to being Chirac's protégé.

Villepin has an uneasy relationship with the members of his own political side. He has in the past made a number of demeaning remarks on members of parliament from his own party. In addition, his mutual distaste for Nicolas Sarkozy, head of the Union for a Popular Movement majority party, is well known.

Foreign Minister

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Villepin, then Foreign Minister, with Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber.

He was appointed Foreign Minister by Chirac in the cabinet of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin at the beginning of his second term in 2002.

A believer in the grandeur of France, Villepin is credited with nudging the French government's approach to the 2002 crisis in Côte d'Ivoire toward intransigence. As a result of this, French troops in Côte d'Ivoire became attacked by rebel mercenaries and retaliated, destroying their air force capabilities, but peace was eventually restored to the country under a cabinet uniting Laurent Gbagbo's ruling party and the rebels.

During the crisis in Haïti, Villepin once again showed himself to be a resolute decisionmaker, obtaining the backing of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in his bid to solve the crisis by ousting Jean-Bertrand Aristide from power.

However, Villepin's most famous assignment as Chirac's Foreign Minister was opposing the U.S. plan to invade Iraq, making France look like the leader in a coalition of countries such as Germany, Russia and China that opposed the invasion. The speech he gave to the United Nations to block a second resolution allowing the use of force against Saddam Hussein's regime is regarded by some as an historic moment, receiving the rare distinction of loud applause.

Interior Minister

During the cabinet reshuffle that made Nicolas Sarkozy Finance Minister, Villepin was appointed to replace him as Interior Minister on March 31 2004.

It was at this point that the rumours of Villepin being a favourite to replace the unpopular Jean-Pierre Raffarin as Prime Minister became insistent, as his combined experience of foreign affairs and home policy made him a most qualified candidate. It was also this assignment which highlighted the differences in views between Villepin and Sarkozy.

The main struggle at home for the interior ministers under Prime Minister Raffarin was the question of integrating France's five million Muslims, notably with regard to the fight against terrorism, and to the French doctrine of laïcité (secularism), which holds that religion should only be a part of one's private life and not have any influence on politics or public life.

As Interior Minister, Sarkozy advocated a loosening laïcité, proclaiming his Catholic faith in a book concerning the issue. Villepin is a staunch defender of laïcité and advocated a tougher approach than Sarkozy against radical Islam which, in Villepin's view, breeds terrorism.

His actions against radical Islam included mandatory courses for Muslim clerics, notably in the French language (a third of them do not speak it), 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 radicals, Villepin would have preferred a "Muslim foundation," in which mosque-based representatives would be balanced by secular and moderate Muslims. This foundation would also aim to bring openness to the financing of mosques, much of which comes from abroad, notably from countries and organizations which are known to finance terrorist activities.

He also cracked down on radical Muslim clerics, prompting a crisis when he tried to expel Abdelkader Bouziane, an imam who taught that adulterous women could be whipped or stoned. When the decision to expel him was overturned by the courts, Villepin pushed a change of the law through Parliament and Bouziane was sent home.

Prime Minister

With Alain Juppé barred from holding political office following a conviction of corruption, President Chirac is said to have turned his eye on Villepin as a possible successor, should he himself decide not to enter the 2007 presidential contest. However, Nicolas Sarkozy would probably be in a better position to secure the endorsement of the centre-right UMP party; a bitter rivalry is thus said to exist between Sarkozy and Villepin.

On May 29 2005, French voters in the referendum on the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe turned down the proposed document by a wide margin. This was generally regarded as a rebuke to Chirac and his government. Two days later, Raffarin resigned and Chirac appointed Villepin as Prime Minister of France.

Villepin's first cabinet

In an address to the nation, Chirac has declared that the new cabinet's top priority would be to curb the unemployment level, which consistently hovers above 10%, calling for a "national mobilization" to that effect.

Villepin's cabinet is marked by its small membership (for France), and its hierarchical unity: all members have the rank of minister, and there are no secretaries of State, the lowest cabinet member rank. The aim of this decision is for the cabinet to form a close-knit and more efficient team to combat unemployment.

One of the main promises of Jean-Pierre Raffarin as he became Prime Minister was to spur growth and that "the end of President Chirac's term would be marked by a drop of the unemployment." The French economy is growing sluggishly and a significant drop in unemployment is yet to be seen. Villepin's aim is therefore to restore the French people's trust in their government, an achievement for which he has publicly set himself a deadline of a hundred days from the appointment of cabinet, a statement which can be viewed as ironic from a man whose first published book is titled The Hundred Days or the Spirit of Sacrifice.

Another issue is the European Constitution which appears condemned after its rejection by France and the Netherlands in referenda, and the shelving of the planned referendum in the United Kingdom. Some have 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.



Delegate ministers


  • 2001 : Les Cent-Jours ou l'esprit de sacrifice (Perrin) about the end of Napoleon, won an award from the Fondation Napoléon.
  • 2002 : Le cri de la gargouille (Albin Michel)
  • 2003 : Éloge des voleurs de feu (NRF-Gallimard)
  • 2003 : Preface of Vers un nouveau monde ? (Stanley Hoffmann)
  • 2003 : Preface of Aventuriers du monde 1866-1914 : Les grands explorateurs français au temps des premiers photographes, a collective work.
  • 2004 : Le requin et la mouette
  • 2004 : Towards a New World (Melville House), a selection of speeches by Villepin as Foreign Minister.
  • 2005 : L'Homme européen (with Jorge Semprún), a pamphlet in favour of the Treaty establishing a constitution for Europe.


L'option de la guerre peut apparaître a priori la plus rapide. Mais n'oublions pas qu'après avoir gagné la guerre, il faut construire la paix. ("The option of war can appear initially to be the most rapid. But let us not forget that after winning the war, peace must be built." At the United Nations Security Council on February 14 2003, shortly before the US-led invasion of Iraq [1] (

"We need a strong policy to combat radical Islam. It is used as a breeding-ground for terrorism. We cannot afford not to watch them very closely." As Interior Minister, December 2004.

See also

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External links

Preceded by:
Hubert Védrine
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by:
Michel Barnier
Preceded by:
Nicolas Sarkozy
Minister of the Interior
Succeeded by:
Nicolas Sarkozy
Preceded by:
Jean-Pierre Raffarin
Prime Minister of France
Succeeded by:

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