Europe leapfrogs foreign affairs in new French government

ALDE MEP Marielle de Sarnez will become France's Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs. [European Parliament]

France’s new Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has set the tone of his leadership by reshuffling the country’s foreign ministry, much to the ire of the Eurosceptics. EURACTIV France reports.

Philippe announced yesterday that his government would rename the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, which manages France’s relations with the EU, baptising it the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs.

Topping off the statement of intent, Emmanuel Macron’s new head of government created a full ministerial position specifically for European affairs.

Under both François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, EU affairs were managed by a secretary of state – a junior minister.

MEPs promoted

This insistence on the importance of Europe is no doubt a response to the anti-European campaign run by Macron’s presidential rival Marine Le Pen, among others.

To head this new ministry, Philippe has appointed one of the heavy hitters of Manuel Valls’ government, Jean-Yves Le Drian. Defence minister during Hollande’s entire five-year term, the socialist came out in favour of Macron during the election campaign.

In his previous role, Le Drian sent the French army to the Sahel, the Central African Republic, Iraq and Syria to fight the terrorist group Islamic State, as well as deploying soldiers domestically as part of anti-terror operation Sentinelle.

He will be replaced by a politician better known in Brussels than in Paris: liberal MEP Sylvie Goulard. Once tipped to lead France on European affairs, Goulard will now take the helm at the defence ministry, renamed the Ministry of the Armies.

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Her European Parliament colleague Mariella de Sarnez takes the position of minister for European affairs. The deputy leader of the French liberal party (MoDem) is well versed in the dossier, having served as an MEP since 1999.

Gender balance

Philippe’s first government has delivered on its promise of gender parity but the PM has not managed to put together as tight a team as he had hoped. 22 ministers have been named, well above the promised 15.

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But already, difficulties are beginning to emerge. The Socialist Party pointed out the disappearance of ministers for women’s rights and housing in the new government.

The absence of development and international solidarity portfolios also set alarm bells ringing among NGOs.