France's new govt announced

Monday, November 15, 2010

Paris - The Secretary-General of the Elysee Palace, Claude Gueant, announced the formation of a new government in France - still headed by Francois Fillon - on Sunday night.

The reshuffled Cabinet was streamlined from a total of 37 members to 22 ministers and eight secretaries of state, embracing several new faces such as ex-premier Alain Juppe and Michele Alliot-Marie.

Alain Juppe replaced Herve Morin as Defence Minister while Alliot-Marie took over Bernard Kouchner's post of Foreign Minister and another new comer Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet will be Ecology Minister.

Both Defence Minister and Foreign Minister are also state ministers.

Former Ecology Minister Jean-Louis Borloo who was a hot candidate to replace Fillon's Premier post left Sarkozy's administration for good.

Except for Borloo, four other ministers were shed from the new government: Bernard Kouchner (Foreign Minister), Eric Woerth (Labour Minister), Rama Yade (Sports Minister) and Fadela Amara (Minister for City Policies).

Xavier Bertrand, former secretary-general of the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), was nominated to Minister for Labour, Employment and Health, while Jean-Francois Cope took his place to lead the ruling UMP.

Some members such as Economy Minister Christine Lagarde and Budget Minister Francois Baroin secured their posts in the reshuffle. Baroin will also act as the spokesman of the government.

The smaller Cabinet, which ended four months of speculation of a reshuffle, may suggest that President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to save public expenditure, as he aims at driving down the soaring budget deficit.

Sarkozy's reappointment of Fillon as Prime Minister has been decried by critics as a meaningless change which breathed little fresh air into French politics at a time when the President is determined to go ahead with major reforms.

Left-wing and centrist politicians have meanwhile criticised the re-shuffle as lacking practical change, which they say could disappoint those who are eager to see the government change course and place greater emphasis on social cohesion.