PARIS — Emmanuel Macron has picked a fresh team but a lot of the key players look mighty familiar.
Following the choice last week of his new captain, Prime Minister Jean Castex, the French president’s office unveiled the rest of the line-up on Monday evening — with stalwarts from the last government still in central positions.
Rather than a wholesale revamp, Macron has opted for targeted reforms, such as beefing up the Finance Ministry, the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Environment to drive economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis.
Some two-thirds of the new Cabinet were part of the previous government. However, some important ministries have new bosses, notably those responsible for policing, justice and the environment.
Here’s all you need to know about the key members of the team who will likely play out the remainder of Macron’s first term until 2022.
Europe and Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is Macron’s left-leaning street cred. The French president is at pains to maintain his centrist brand after he appointed yet another conservative as prime minister. Le Drian has been a rather low-profile foreign minister with Macron dominating France’s foreign policy public positioning, but he remains an influential part of the team. He is at the heart of France’s controversial Libya policy and very close strategic partnerships with Middle Eastern and African allies such as the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. As defense minister under former President François Hollande, Le Drian built very close ties with these rulers. He did the same with several African leaders which Macron continues to build on, especially when it comes to the G5 Sahel anti-terrorism military framework. Le Drian has also weighed in on some domestic policy, especially when it comes to retaining jobs in his native Brittany.
Barbara Pompili, minister for the ecological transition, is an ex-member of the green party Europe Ecologie-Les Verts who joined Macron a few weeks before his election. She takes over from Elisabeth Borne to spearhead a broad portfolio that includes energy, transport and environment files. She is also the government’s number two in rank, an acknowledgment of the importance of environmental issues and an implicit nod to local elections results that gave the Greens a big boost.
Pompili until now was chairing the National Assembly’s sustainable development committee. She represents the green-conscious left wing of Macron’s party. She is a founding member of a recent alliance aimed at pushing for greener positions within the LREM group. As an MP, Pompili pushed for green strings to be attached to public bailout money.
As the new environment minister, she will be asked to deliver on Macron’s promise to give more prominence to green issues as part of his government’s recovery plan. A few days ago, before her nomination was known, Pompili said she wanted all ministries to adopt a “green roadmap” and even dreamt of a “green budget ministry” that would reform France’s taxation system to finance green investments.
Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer, a high-profile but divisive figure, has sometimes been at odds with the new prime minister, including on schools reopening after the lockdown.
Bruno Le Maire, minister for the economy, finance and recovery, stays on and is already into his fourth year in his powerful portfolio. In Europe, Le Maire has built a strong relationship with his German counterparts Peter Altmaier and Olaf Scholz, joining forces with Berlin on key dossiers such as pushing for a review of competition rules and the forming of European champions. Le Maire has also been on the front line to try to soften the economic blow dealt by the coronavirus crisis, announcing the country’s stimulus package and bailout plans. He will also have to prepare France’s broader recovery plan, expected in September. Eight weeks of lockdown have cost the French economy €120 billion, according to the French Observatory of Economic Conditions (OFCE).
Defense Minister Florence Parly was mentioned in political circles as a possible prime minister before Castex was nominated. She has served as defense minister since Sylvie Goulard stepped down in the early days of Macron’s term. A former Socialist, she started her political career as budget adviser to then-Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. She is one of the few remaining ministers who come from the left of the political spectrum. Before joining Macron’s government, she held executive positions in the private sector as deputy general director of Air France and director general of railway company SNCF. She also served on advisory boards of several French companies from the aircraft sector and elsewhere in industry.
Gérald Darmanin, the new interior minister, was one of Macron’s best catches on the right side of French politics and gets a big promotion by replacing Christophe Castaner, heavily criticized for his record on law enforcement during the Yellow Jackets crisis and the government’s response to recent protests against racism and police brutality. After serving as former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s campaign director during the conservative primary in 2017, Darmanin first joined Macron as budget minister in the previous government. Darmanin has shown a strong reformist drive, which proved successful when it came to changing the way taxes were collected in France or reducing the country’s budget deficit. Recently, the 37-year-old politician was reelected as mayor of Tourcoing, in Northern France, and made clear he had his eye set for a higher position in Macron’s government. Judicial troubles might stand in the way of his political ambitions: Two women accused him of sexual misconduct. Charges were dropped in one case, with the second being reopened recently. Darmanin denied both accusations.
Minister for Labor, Jobs and Insertion Elisabeth Borne moves from the ecological transition portfolio to a new one. The 59-year-old minister is described as a pragmatic civil servant. She served as a regional prefect, but also advised former socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin on transport and led the Cabinet of former socialist presidential candidate Ségolène Royal. After being criticized for her handling of a sensitive reform for the national railway company SNCF, opening it up to competition — which led to months of strikes — Borne will now be asked to protect workers’ jobs in the aftermath of the crisis, but also to deliver on a controversial file, namely the country’s pension system reform — which was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The new Justice Minister Éric Dupond-Moretti is France’s most famous criminal lawyer. He holds a record for acquittals (more than 145) and is known well beyond courtrooms for assisting defendants in highly publicized court cases over the last years. He has never been directly involved in politics but in 2011 he supported a candidate for the Socialists’ primary elections and in 2015 he said that Marine Le Pen’s National Rally should be banned.
Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot, who was one of the surprise nominations, has a long political career as a conservative politician and a minister under late President Jacques Chirac and former President Nicolas Sarkozy. A popular figure thanks to her outspoken personality, she recently made a political come back thanks to the coronavirus crisis after years of gigs as a TV commentator. During the 2009 swine flu pandemic, the then-Health Minister Bachelot was chastised for buying too many masks and vaccines. More than a decade later, she became the minister who “was right too soon” when it appeared obvious that the current French government did not have enough masks available for the population. A close ally to Prime Minister Jean Castex, she shares with him a passion for opera, according to Le Figaro. As culture minister, her first task will be to implement the controversial EU copyright reform into French law.
Unsurprisingly, Health Minister Olivier Véran is staying on after what is seen as a successful first tenure. The minister will have to continue to deal with the coronavirus crisis, but will also face legal proceedings related to the management of the country’s response to the pandemic, in which he participated by urgently resuming the work of his predecessor Agnès Buzyn, who had gone on to run for (and eventually lose) the Paris mayoral race. The minister will also be in charge of a much-discussed rescue plan for French hospitals, which is bound to make waves among health care workers who have been asking for a massive injection of cash.
Among other ministers are:
Minister for Overseas Territories: Sébastien Lecornu
Minister for Cohesion and Relations with Local Institutions: Jacqueline Gourault
Minister of the Sea: Annick Girardin
Minister for Higher Education, Research and Innovation: Frédérique Vidal
Agriculture and Food Minister: Julien Denormandie
Minister of Transformation and Public Function: Amélie de Montchalin
Among junior ministers are Franck Riester, in charge of trade under Le Drian; Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, in charge of transport under Pompili; Agnès Pannier-Runacher, in charge of industry under Le Maire; and Brigitte Bourguignon, in charge of autonomy (aging) under Véran.
Rym Momtaz, Elisa Braun, Laura Kayali, Louise Guillot, Giorgio Leali and Marion Solletty contributed reporting.
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