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Marielle de Sarnez: the strength of commitment

Marielle de Sarnez Maidan

Marielle de Sarnez is the figure of the committed woman. Independence, loyalty, Europe, these are the key words that have traced Marielle de Sarnez's path. She was the embodiment of the European ideal of the centre: democratic, humanist, strong.

Daughter of the Resistance fighter and Gaullist MP Olivier de Sarnez, she very quickly asserted her independence, taking an active part in the Parisian high school revolt in May 1968. After obtaining her baccalaureate in 1970, she left the family home and then the university. She then took on a series of "odd jobs" in the carefree atmosphere of youth. The school of persuasion and negotiation, these were a few years selling professional directories to craftsmen and shopkeepers who were often suspicious of a frail 20-year-old blonde woman.

In 1973, she joined the team of the Young Independent Republicans to support the work of Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, as much out of centrist conviction as out of defiance towards her father. An indispensable leader during the Giscard years, she met friends for life and especially Philippe Augier, the father of her two children, Justine and Augustin.

Marielle was the reforming demanding nature. An outstanding organiser, she devoted her life to building an independent and strong centre in France, becoming the cornerstone of the UDF and then the Democratic Movement. During the 1980s, she met François Bayrou and forged a duo that would withstand all the storms of politics. She followed him to the Ministry of National Education from 1993 to 1997, becoming the first non-ENA graduate woman Principal Private Secretary. Together, they fought tirelessly to make the original voice of the centre heard. In a political world where friendships are often betrayed, the feeling that binds them forces admiration. An unalterable friendship, a true affinity that forms the heart of our Movement.

For a long time, Marielle chose not to move out of the shadows into the limelight. But her passion for Europe - which she "feels with every fibre of her being" - took her to the European Parliament in 1999. To bridge the divide, she founded the European Democratic Party with François Bayrou, Romano Prodi and Francesco Rutelli and became its Secretary General. In the hemicycle of Strasbourg, her voice defends with strength and energy the European trade interests, the protection of minors, the students with the Erasmus Mundus project; she supports the Ukrainian revolutionaries in 2004 and 2013, the Arab springs and multiplies the initiatives with the refugees risking their lives in the Mediterranean.

Marielle stands for Paris too. From the maids' rooms to the gilded rooms of the ministries. From the 5th to the 14th arrondissement, via the 18th, 2nd or 7th ... Marielle lived in Paris and Paris lived in her. She knew Paris better than she knew her own pocket.

In a world dominated by men, Marielle de Sarnez is a pioneer. With a simple glance, she gained the respect of those with short ideas who would have been tempted to take her down. There are "solar" people, who have the gift of attracting and dragging others along with their energy. Marielle de Sarnez was one of these rare, singular, deeply original beings. She passed on this strength of commitment to her children, both of whom are humanitarian activists.

Behind the resolute demanding nature lies a profound humanism. She did not like superficial politeness, preferring to be called "Marielle" rather than "Madame": deeply, she loved politics and the human, sincerity. She will be sorely missed.

Tribute initially published on the website of the Mouvement Démocrate