President Charles de Gaulle nominated Barre for membership in the European Commission in Brussels, a position that Barre held from 1967 to 1973. In January 1976 he was named minister of external trade. In August of that year he was asked by President Valéry Giscard d'Éstaing to replace Jacques Chirac as premier, occupying that post until May 1981.
As premier, Barre's main priority was to revitalize the French economy after the 1973–1974 oil crisis and the attendant stagflation of the mid-1970s. His package of austerity measures was an economic success but highly unpopular with French voters. While usually deferring to the president on matters of defense and foreign policy, Barre did play some role in these areas. In September 1977 he traveled to the Soviet Union for talks with Premier Alexei Kosygin and the following year went to China. Barre was elected to the French National Assembly in 1978.
With the defeat of Giscard and the election of François Mitterrand in 1981, Barre returned to academic life. He was reelected to the National Assembly in 1981, 1986, 1988, 1993, and 1997. In 1988 he ran for the presidency but placed a distant third behind Mitterrand and Chirac in the first round of the elections.
John Van Oudenaren
Frears, J. R. France in the Giscard Presidency. Boston: Allen and Unwin, 1981.