French President Macron's Cabinet: 11 men, 11 women cross political spectrum

By Associated Press  |   Published: 18th May 2017 11:04 AM  |  

Last Updated: 18th May 2017 12:54 PM  |   A+A-   |  

Newly elected French president Emmanuel Macron (AFP)

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron has chosen from the left and the right, an equal number of men and women, for his new cabinet.

A glance at some of the key figures he picked Wednesday to help steer France out of economic stagnation and chronic unemployment:

INTERIOR MINISTER GERARD COLLOMB

Gerard Collomb has been a prominent Socialist since becoming mayor of Lyon, France's third biggest city, in 2001. He remains one of the longest-running mayors in France, but has never held a top government post.

The 69-year-old represents the moderate, centrist wing of the party and was elected to the French National Assembly aged 34 in 1981, when Macron was a toddler.

He's been seen as a behind-the-scenes mentor for Macron, pledging his support even before he launched his presidential campaign.

He has won praise for implementing an influential system of video surveillance to fight crime, and for a successful bicycle sharing initiative in Lyon that was aimed at reducing congestion and pollution.

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FOREIGN MINISTER JEAN-YVES LE DRIAN

Popular Socialist Jean-Yves Le Drian had barely left his post of defense minister under President Francois Hollande when he was handed the vital portfolio of foreign affairs and Europe.

Le Drian, who had been defense minister since 2012, is considered a political heavyweight and is best known globally for successfully leading the military campaign to take back Northern Mali from Islamic extremists

The 69-year-old is also considered France's super salesman — selling Rafales fighter jets to Egypt, India, Qatar and submarines to Australia.

Le Drian's weakness could be his links to the unpopular Hollande.

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ARMED FORCES MINISTER SYLVIE GOULARD

Sylvie Goulard is the highest-ranking woman in the new government.

The 52-year-old German-speaker is a prominent pro-Europe politician and was elected a member of the European parliament in 2009.

Goulard's appointment signals that Macron wants to follow through on his calls for deeper European cooperation and intelligence-sharing following recent extremist attacks on European soil.

She had never been a lawmaker in the French parliament and has no government experience — both attributes that could be either a strength or weakness for Macron's fledgling government.

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JUSTICE MINISTER FRANCOIS BAYROU

Before Macron's rise, Francois Bayrou was France's most well-known centrist politician and a three-time failed presidential candidate.

Like Macron, Bayrou has a penchant for the literary and is the author of over a dozen books on history and politics, including one on French King Henry IV, who was famed for his contribution to the arts.

In 2007, Bayrou's unexpected popularity — winning nearly 7 million votes in the first round — took the French establishment by surprise. The 65-year-old came close, but ultimately failed, to destabilizing the battle that was fought between the Socialist's Segolene Royal and future President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Like Macron — but with less success — he launched a new centrist party, the MoDem. He backed Macron earlier this year.

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ECOLOGY MINISTER NICOLAS HULOT

Nicolas Hulot is a prominent environmental campaigner and documentary journalist whose television series promotes environmentalism while showing off beautiful landscapes.

The 62-year-old worked as an adviser to Hollande to prepare for the historic Paris climate agreement in 2015.

Hulot launched a failed bid to be "Green" party candidate in France's 2012 presidential elections.


French president's Cabinet mixes old and new, left and right 

French President Emmanuel Macron named a mix of prominent and unknown figures from the left and the right Wednesday to make up the government tasked with pushing through his plans to reduce labor protections, tighten European unity and boost military spending.

The most senior Cabinet job — the post of interior minister — went to Gerard Collomb, 69, the long-time Socialist mayor of Lyon who played a key role in Macron's presidential bid. Collomb said his duty will be to protect the French people, to fight terrorism and to prevent youth from falling "in the grip" of the Islamic State group.

A few hours after taking office, Collomb made an unexpected visit to Paris' grand Champs-Elysees avenue, where a police officer was shot to death by an Islamic extremist last month.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, 69, who led France's military operations abroad as former President Francois Hollande's defense minister, will stay on in Macron's government as foreign minister and also be in charge of European affairs. Le Drian, another Socialist, brings deep experience that could prove valuable to the untested 39-year-old president.

Le Drian vowed to promote the country's "key role" in the international community, noting continuity between his previous position and his new diplomatic job.

The armed forces will now be led by Sylvie Goulard, the most senior woman in the government. Goulard, 52, is a European Parliament member and strongly pro-European centrist politician who will be expected to champion Macron's push for joint European military operations.

In an important gesture to the right-wing Republicans party ahead of parliamentary elections next month, the crucial Economy Ministry will be run by prominent conservative Bruno Le Maire, 48.

The Cabinet includes 18 ministers and 4 junior ministers, half of them women and half men. Center-right Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, whom Macron tapped named Monday, is to lead the government at least until the elections.

Members of civil society without government work on their resumes were appointed to some ministerial posts. Nicolas Hulot, the well-known host of a television show focusing on nature and the environment, was named minister for environment transition. His portfolio includes energy and transportation.

Muriel Penicaud, the new labor minister, previously worked for food corporation Danone and French telecommunications group Orange. Since January 2015, she led Business France, a public agency in charge of promoting French companies abroad and attracting foreign investments.

Penicaud will have the daunting task of supervising the reform of labor protections, a part of Macron's agenda that already has prompted outcries from unions.

Culture minister Francoise Nyssen is CEO of French publishing house Actes Sud. Macron is known as a passionate literature lover.

The youngest person selected to work in Macron's government was Mounir Mahjoubi, 33, who was named junior minister for digital economy. As Macron's campaign digital chief, Mahjoubi was responsible for cybersecurity.

The announcement initially planned for Tuesday was pushed back a day while authorities dug more deeply into candidates' tax records and financial assets for signs of potential conflicts of interest.

Macron has pledged to fight corruption after tax evasion and other scandals hit the previous government.

The new government may only serve for a few weeks. If Macron's party doesn't win a majority in the June 11 and 18 parliamentary elections, he might have to form a coalition and adjust the makeup of the government. He also could end up with a government led by an opposition party.

Macron hosted European Council President Donald Tusk at the Elysee Palace for a private dinner on Wednesday night, a sign of his determination to shore up European unity. Before their meeting, Macron said he wants a Europe that is both more conducive to investment and more protective of workers.

Macron wants European militaries to join efforts and for eurozone countries to share a budget and tax rules. He has also promised a tough line on Britain as it negotiates its departure from the EU, to deter others from trying to leave

Speaking with Tusk by his side, Macron said he's advocating "a less bureaucratic and a more political Europe" and relying on Tusk to "go even further in this work of re-shaping and setting in motion again a European ambition."

Tusk approved the goals proposed by Macron and said "words such as security, protection, dignity and pride must return to our political dictionary."

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