New French government named: continuity with some surprises

Newly appointed Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne gestures towards Former French Prime Minister Jean Castex (unseen) leaving the courtyard of the Matignon Hotel, during the handover ceremony in Paris, France, 16 May 2022. Elisabeth Borne has been appointed as the new French Prime Minister prompting a government and cabinet reshuffle following the re-election of Emmanuel Macron as French President. Elisabeth Borne is the second woman in France to hold the position of prime minister, since Edith Cresson (May 1991 - April 1992). [EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON]

French President Emmanuel Macron appointed his new government on Friday (20 May), following the appointment of Elisabeth Borne as Prime Minister on Monday. His personnel choices signalled continuity with previous governments.

The new government, which includes several new faces and some outgoing ministers better known to the French, will meet on Monday morning in the Council of Ministers. Counting the Prime Minister, the government is gender-equal, composed of 14 men and 14 women.

Right-wing ‘régalien’ ministries

Interesting to note, however, is how the ‘régalien‘ ministers – those in charge of the main governmental ministries – are on the right side of the political spectrum, with the exception of the Ministry of Justice.

Some important ministers of the outgoing government have been reappointed. Bruno Le Maire will remain at Bercy, managing the ministry of “Economy, Finance and Industrial and Digital Sovereignty”.

Gérald Darmanin was confirmed to head up the Ministry of the Interior and the outgoing Minister of Justice, Éric Dupond-Moretti, a former lawyer, was also reappointed.

A new face was installed at the Quai d’Orsay with the appointment of Catherine Colonna, who will take over the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs. She had already been Minister Delegate for European Affairs between 2005 and 2007 when Jacques Chirac was the President, before being appointed French Ambassador to Rome and then to London.

Colonna will be assisted by Clément Beaune, who will become Minister for Europe – a sort-of promotion given that he was previously ‘only’ Secretary of State – and by Chrysoula Zacharopoulou.

The latter is an MEP, elected on the Renaissance lists in 2019, now appointed Secretary of State for Development, Francophony and International Partnerships.

As for Foreign Trade, the outgoing minister Franck Riester has been confirmed.

Sébastien Lecornu was also “promoted” as he moves from Overseas Territories to the Ministry of the Armed Forces, thus succeeding Florence Parly at only 35 years old.

Outgoing ministers promoted

Agnès Pannier-Runacher and Amélie de Montchalin are changing portfolios, becoming – respectively – the Ministers for Energy and Ecological Transition. The two women have a rather similar profile: they came from the private sector and are considered to be technocrats.

Gabriel Attal, who was previously a government spokesman, will be in charge of the budget at only 33 years old. Coming from the left, he is one of the heavyweights of the Macronists.

The Minister of Autonomy Brigitte Bourguignon has also been promoted and will be taking over the Ministry of Health and Prevention.

Former Socialist Olivier Dussopt, outgoing Budget Minister, was appointed to the Ministry of Labour, Full Employment and Integration, succeeding Elisabeth Borne, who became Prime Minister.

Marc Fesneau will move from Relations with Parliament to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Sovereignty. It is worth noting that the word ‘sovereignty’ appears twice in the titles of the various ministries.

Rehoused ministers

Olivier Véran, who has been Minister of Health and managed the COVID crisis since March 2020, will become Minister Delegate to the Prime Minister, as well as be responsible for Relations with Parliament and Democratic Life.

He could thus be in charge of organising the “transpartisan convention” that Emmanuel Macron promised during the election campaign to devise the institutional reforms to be implemented.

The Secretary of State for the Social Economy, Olivia Grégoire, has been appointed government spokesperson.

The new faces

At the Ministry of Culture, Rima Abdul-Malak has been appointed. She was in charge of culture in the Paris City Hall between 2008 and 2012 when the socialist Bertrand Delanoë was mayor of the French capital. Until today, she was Emmanuel Macron’s cultural advisor at the Élysée Palace.

Damien Abad, president of the right-wing party Les Républicains group in the National Assembly, has been appointed Minister for Solidarity, Autonomy and the Disabled.

Christophe Béchu, the right-wing mayor of Angers, was appointed Minister Delegate in charge of Territorial Communities.

A few MPs are joining the government, with Justine Benin being appointed Secretary of State for the Sea, Yaël Braun-Pivet to the Ministry of Overseas Territories and Stanislas Guerini, Director General of La République en Marche, being appointed Minister for the Civil Service.

And finally, a bit of civil society

Several personalities from civil society have been appointed, as Emmanuel Macron had already done in previous governments that supported him.

Sylvie Retailleau, an academic, physicist and president of the University of Paris-Saclay has been appointed Minister for Research, Higher Education and Innovation.

Magistrate Isabelle Rome becomes Minister Delegate for Equality between Women and Men, Diversity and Equal Opportunities.

Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, the current director general of the French Tennis Federation, will be the minister responsible for sport and the Olympic Games, which will be held in Paris in 2024.

The magistrate and director of the Judiciary Protection of the Youth, Charlotte Caubel, is appointed Secretary of State for Children.

One of the biggest surprises of this government is the appointment of Pap Ndiaye to the Ministry of Education and Youth, director of the Museum of the History of Immigration and historian specialising in left-wing minorities. He represents the “republican meritocracy,” according to the Elysée.

[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]

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