Pierre Pflimlin

(b. 1907)

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(b. Roubaix, 5 Feb. 1907; d. Strasbourg, 27 June 2000)

French; Prime Minister 1958 Born in Roubaix (Nord), Pflimlin moved as a young man to his future political fiefdom Strasbourg, where he practised law and was active in right-wing politics. Like many other inter-war European conservatives, he switched in 1945 to the more politically respectable cause of Christian Democracy, which in France was embodied by the Mouvement Républicain Populaire. He was an MRP representative in both Constituent Assemblies and in 1946 became a deputy for the Bas Rhin. His political hero was Robert Schuman, the champion of European integration, who appointed him Minister of Agriculture in 1947. He subsequently held senior posts in a number of governments and became Prime Minister in May 1958, just as the events in Algeria boiled over into a full-scale crisis of civil-military relations and thus of the future of the Fourth Republic. Pflimlin was unable to persuade the army commanders in Algeria to accept the supremacy of the civil power and his proposals for constitutional reform were lost in the excitement produced by de Gaulle's reappearance. A secret meeting between the two men failed to produce a solution to the constitutional crisis and had barely finished before de Gaulle announced that he was forming a government. Pflimlin resigned on 31 May. The following day he became Minister without Portfolio in de Gaulle's new government, where he intervened in the drafting of the Fifth Republic constitution to protect the parliamentary nature of governmental power. This was one indication of the limits of his acceptance of the Gaullist project for France. Another, more fundamental, disagreement emerged over the future shape of Europe. Pflimlin had been re-elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1958 and the following year became mayor of Strasbourg, the city which was a symbol of the cause of European integration. In April 1962 he was appointed Minister of Co-operation in the new Pompidou government. Four weeks later, he led the walkout of the MRP ministers in protest against de Gaulle's derisive rejection in a press conference of the cause of European integration. He then voted the censure motion against Pompidou's government which followed the announcement of a referendum on the direct election of the presidency. Unlike many of his MRP colleagues, he retained his seat in the 1962 parliamentary elections but gave it up five years later to concentrate on his two principal interests, Strasbourg (where he was mayor until 1983) and the European parliament, of which he was a member in 1962–7 and 1979–89 (Vice-President 1979–84 and President 1984–7).

Pflimlin's career, like that of Lecanuet, demonstrated the persistence in France of a Christian Democratic family which could not accept the nationalist, and anti-parliamentarian, elements in Gaullism.

Subjects: Politics.

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