Childhood & Early Life
De Villepin was born into an influential family on November 14, 1953 in Rabat, Morocco. His father represented French industry abroad before securing a seat in the French Senate.
As a young man, Villepin studied at one of his country's prestigious colleges that train the political, cultural, and economic elite of France. His college was the Institutd'EtudesPolitiques de Paris, or Paris Institute of Political Studies, and he went on to the Écolenationaled'administration, a near-obligatory stop for any future government bureaucrat.
Villepin also earned degrees in law and literature before beginning his first job with the French foreign affairs department in 1980.
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Villepin’s first job was with the French foreign affairs department in 1980, as a member of an advising committee on Franco-African relations.
Four years later he was posted to the French embassy in Washington, D.C., where he served as a media spokesperson for five years.
Between 1989 and 1992 he lived in India as an officer with the French embassy in New Delhi, and then he returned to Paris, becoming head adviser at the Foreign Ministry on African Affairs.
In 1993 the French foreign minister, Alain Juppé, appointed him to serve as his chief of staff.
Juppé became a leading figure in the Rassemblement pour la Republique (Rally for the Republic, or RPR), the right-wing political party founded by Jacques Chirac in 1976. Villepin was tapped to run Chirac's 1995 presidential campaign, which resulted in a victory for Chirac and the party.
After the election, Villepin was appointed secretary-general of the Élysée Palace, the official residence and office of the French president.
Two years later, the RPR lost a general election that Villepin had urged Chirac to hold somewhat ahead of schedule. The RPR lost some of its seats in the French National Assembly to the Socialists, and Villepin was widely blamed for the setback. When he tried to submit his resignation, Chirac refused to accept it.
Villepin remained secretary-general of the Élysée Palace until 2002, when Chirac was re-elected for a second term.
Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, appointed Villepin as the country's foreign minister. He survived his first major challenge in the role, when a crisis in Ivory Coast, the West African nation, erupted soon afterward. Religious-fueled unrest led to an attack on French troops stationed in the country, and Villepin ordered a swift military response that decimated the rebels' air-strike capabilities.
Villepin soon had a more threatening crisis to manage at the Foreign Ministry. The U. S. President George W. Bush was attempting to gather international support for a U. S.-led invasion of Iraq, but three of the four other permanent members of the United Nations (UN) Security Council—France, China, and Russia—were opposed to the plan.
In January of 2003 Villepin warned that Europe would unite and oppose any unnecessary aggression toward Iraq. A month later he delivered an impassioned speech before the Security Council, reiterating the Chirac government's opposition to the use of force against Iraq. Germany, Russia, and China supported France.
By now, Villepin's RPR had merged with two other parties to become the Union pour un MouvementPopulaire (Union for a Popular Movement, or UPM). His main rival within the party ranks was the equally young and charismatic French politician Nicolas Sarkozy.
In a cabinet reshuffle in March of 2004, Sarkozy switched jobs from Interior Minister to Finance Minister, and Villepin was made the new Interior Minister. His year-plus tenure in this post was a controversial one, highlighted by his stance against radical Muslim clerics who headed mosques or organizations among France's five-million-strong Muslim community. Villepin claimed some of these sites or groups served as part of a secretive support network for international Islamic terrorism. As Interior Minister he issued a controversial law that required all Muslim clerics in France to take mandatory courses in moderate Muslim theology and French secularism -offered only in the French language, though only a third of them spoke it fluently.
On May 29, 2005, France held a referendum on adopting the European Constitution, the next step in a fully integrated European Union. French voters rejected it. Raffarin resigned as prime minister, and Chirac appointed Villepin as the new Prime Minister.
In May 2007 de Villepin submitted his resignation to Chirac after an unemployment law he supported led to mass protests. Chirac had himself decided not to seek a third term.
Villepin is well-known for his poetic speeches. He has written a number of political articles, essays, and books, including Les Cent-Jours; ou, l’esprit de sacrifice (2001; “The Hundred Days; or, The Spirit of Sacrifice”), which centres on Napoleon’s return from exile on Elba. He also published a volume of politically motivated poems, Le Requin et la mouette (2004; The Shark and the Seagull), while serving as foreign minister.