France buries women's rights icon Simone Veil
Dozens of French and foreign dignitaries are expected to attend the ceremony today for the Simone Veil, the women's rights icon and holocaust survivor who was hailed as "the best of France". Veil (89) died last Friday.
Several heads of state, including Belgium’s Charles Michel, Luxembourg’s Xavier Bettel, and Bulgaria’s Boiko Borissov will attend the funeral, which is open to the public.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron will also be there as will some of his predecessors, including Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande, while Jacques Chirac will be represented by his wife Bernadette.
Members of Veil’s family are due to give a eulogy, before Emmanuel Macron, as French president, will in turn give a eulogy on behalf of the French people.
Simone Veil will be buried in Montparnasse cemetery in Paris after the ceremony.
However, more than 200,000 people have signed two French petitions calling for her to be interred in the Pantheon.
Located in Paris, the Pantheon houses the remains of many great French figures, including Voltaire, Victor Hugo and Emile Zola.
Until now, only three women have been interred there: scientist Marie Curie, and two resistance fighters Genevieve de Gaulle-Anthonioz and Germaine Tillion.
Veil died at her home in France on Friday at age 89.
Current EU parliament president Antonio Tajani described her as "one of the great figures of our time, who marked the history of Europe and made a notable contribution to the development of our parliament".
After surviving Auschwitz, Veil went on to become one of France's most respected politicians, serving as health minister under President Valery Giscard d'Estaing.
Veil's standout achievement as a politician came when she shepherded a 1974 abortion law through parliament after a 25-hour debate during which she endured a torrent of abuse, with some lawmakers likening pregnancy terminations to the Holocaust.
The legislation -- named the "Loi Veil" (Veil Law) -- is today considered a cornerstone of women's rights and secularism in France.
After a second term as health minister under Socialist president Francois Mitterrand, Veil last held major public office between 1998 and 2007, when she was a member of France's Constitutional Council.
She served as EU Parliament president for three years.