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Jean-Pierre Jouyet, Sarkozy's Mr. Europe

Latest update : 2008-06-30

Jean-Pierre Jouyet, 54, a former head of cabinet for Jacques Delors, now junior minister for European affairs in the Sarkozy government, has criss-crossed Europe to sell the French presidency.

View our special report on The French Presidency of the European Union.



A junior minister in charge of European affairs, Jean-Pierre Jouyet is President Nicolas Sarkozy’s best asset as France takes over the presidency of the EU.


The polished 54-year-old is popular in Brussels and appreciated by EU officials.


“If Jouyet didn’t exist, we’d have to invent him,” a high ranking European Commission official said.


The former Jacques Delors’ head of cabinet in Brussels is making a niche for himself in the government, in the shadow of President Sarkozy and Foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, who are both as flamboyant as he is reserved.


To those who argue that he is little known from the public, he answers that he sees himself more like a teacher and less like a star. ‘I’m here to serve the European cause,” he said. “My own degree of notoriety has little to do with it.”


Since he arrived in the government, he has spent more time in Brussels and the other European capitals than in Paris. Rarely before had a French junior Minister enjoyed as much autonomy. Kouchner gives him free rein in Europe to focus almost exclusively on international politics.


Freedom of speech


But Jouyet isn’t silent and keeps his freedom of speech for European affairs


On his blog and in the media, he has had some harsh words for certain presidential advisers who sometimes tarnished the Franco-German relations. And German officials are full of praise for the man who managed to defuse the polemic on the Mediterranean Union between Paris and Berlin.


Whereas the initial plan limited the participation to countries neighboring the Mediterranean Sea creating a North-South divide inside the EU, the junior minister succeeded in convincing President Sarkozy that all European members should be involved.


For this Europhile at heart, the Irish’no’ to the Lisbon Treaty on June 12 was a serious blow. He initially said he was ‘in pieces’ upon hearing the result, a term he then took out from his declaration under the pressure of the Elysee.


An unusual curriculum


The former finance official calls himself a Socialist “by friendship.”  Sarkozy “doesn’t have anything to do with the caricature people make of him, Jouyet often lamented during the presidential campaign.


The son of a notary, Jouyet is a committed catholic who grew up in Normandy. He has managed to develop a wide-ranging social network since leaving the prestigious public administration school Ena in 1980.


In 1998, he joined Jacques Delors, one of his mentors, first as his adviser in Brussels then as his head of cabinet after Pascal Lamy’s departure. ‘I enjoy giving advice,” he said. “Power is only moderately fun to me.”


Enjoying the rank of director of the General Inspection of Finance, he would have become the vice general director of French utility company EDF last year, if Sarkozy hadn’t called him.


Date created : 2008-06-28