Macron on the lookout for France’s first ‘climate’ prime minister

It seems unlikely that Mélenchon will be picked as he and Macron disagree on European issues. EPA-EFE/LUDOVIC MARIN / POOL MAXPPP OUT [EPA-EFE/LUDOVIC MARIN / POOL MAXPPP OUT]

Re-elected President Emmanuel Macron will, as promised, soon name his new Prime Minister in charge of “ecological planning”, though with the legislative election just around the corner, the cards could soon be reshuffled. EURACTIV France reports.

In a few days, Macron will freely appoint his prime minister, according to the constitution.

However, this time, the new prime minister would be in charge of “ecological planning”, the president told a rally in Marseille on 16 April, in the run-up to his re-election on Sunday (24 April). An “energy planning” minister, as well as a minister in charge of “territorial ecological planning” will also be appointed, he added.

On top of directing the government’s overall policy, the prime minister under Macron’s leadership would thus steer the ecological transition strategy by feeding it into all the thinking and actions of his ministries. The aim is to go twice as fast in reducing greenhouse gases.

“As Emmanuel Macron said, ecological policy must become ‘the policy of policies’,” Thierry Pech, director-general of the Terra Nova think tank, told EURACTIV France.

“That is, it must invite itself into all government discussions to ensure that any decree, any law and of course any budget is in line with our climate and ecological commitments,” he added.

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Mélenchon and Jadot unlikely

Radical-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who came in at a close third with 22% of the vote in the first election round, could be a possible candidate.

The radical-left leader who has attracted the green electorate due to his ambitious climate programme made the call on Twitter to be “elected” prime minister during the legislative elections just after Macron’s victory.

“Another world is still possible with the legislative elections. You can show it by electing a majority of insoumis deputies and electing me Prime Minister,” he tweeted on 25 April.

Already, on 19 April, on broadcaster BFM-TV, Mélenchon declared: “I will be the Prime Minister, not by the favour of Mr. Macron or Ms. Le Pen, but by the French who elected me.”

Such an appointment may even make sense as his programme is considered “close” to the objectives under the Paris Climate Agreement, according to the so-called Shifters, a group of volunteers from the Shift Project think tank, who analysed the candidates’ manifestos on energy and climate issues.

However, it seems unlikely that Mélenchon will be picked as the two men disagree on European issues.

Mélenchon has made it clear that he “intends to disobey the European treaties, whereas Emmanuel Macron scrupulously respects the rules of the European game,” said Pech, recalling that European affairs “are traditionally an area shared between the president and the prime minister.”

Green leader Yannick Jadot who obtained only 4.63% of the vote in the first round, also made it clear that he would not be up for nomination.

Asked about a possible nomination in an interview with France Inter on 26 April, Jadot said “the poaching, it is useless”.

“What I believe in politics is the relationship of strength; we need a powerful ecological group in the National Assembly if we want the ecological voice to be carried,” he added.

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Competence and public approval

Other names are already being floated, like current Labour Minister Elisabeth Borne and current European Central President Christine Lagarde.

However, according to Pech, the choice should be based on competence and the post will now require a strong knowledge of both environmental and economic issues. Ecology, “is often a very technical issue and we have to act very quickly. We can’t afford a running-in period,” warned Pech.

For the prime minister to be successful at his job, backing from the French people is also needed, Pech added. It will therefore be necessary to “bring together many economic, social and territorial players” and “build consensus and compromise in order to move forward, namely to transform without fracturing,” he also said.

The next prime minister will have to “have a high level of competence on ecological issues, an obsession with concrete results and a high level of concern for social cohesion,” Pech also said.

However, with legislative elections in June, Macron’s pick for prime minister may well end up being reshuffled.

Without a majority in the National Assembly, Macron could face a so-called “cohabitation” situation that will force him to appoint a prime minister from the newly appointed majority, or capable of rallying enough deputies to form a majority.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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