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France

Sarkozy hails ‘unity’ of new government team

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-11-17

The new French cabinet, the third under the direction of PM Francois Fillon, held its first meeting on Wednesday, a day after President Sarkozy revealed to television audiences the challenges awaiting his new team.

A crowd of journalists and photographers gathered on Wednesday morning in the gardens of the Elysee presidential palace. Indoors, the new government cabinet led by Francois Fillon, the third cabinet under the French prime minister, met for its first official meeting and later posed for the traditional family portrait.

Eric Besson, junior minister of Industry, Energy and Digital Economy, said French President Nicolas Sarkozy had asked the new members of the government to pay close attention to what they said. At the meeting, Sarkozy reportedly told the ministers to form a very united team, “like a rugby squad”.

After their meeting and photo-op, the ministers appeared at the National Assembly in the afternoon for a traditional question and answer session.

A new look, a new strategy

Ahead of the meeting, President Sarkozy appeared on Tuesday on national television to defend the cabinet reshuffle and provide his new ministers with a governing playbook.

In an interview broadcast on the three major TV channels and watched by 12.2 million people, Sarkozy also touched upon an array of domestic and international policy issues.

On the issue of tax reform, the French president suggested he would support the abolition of the tax cap currently set at 50 percent of revenues, but also suspending the solidarity tax on wealth (ISF) brought in by the Socialist government in 1981.

The French president also stressed the issue of state assistance for handicapped and aid-dependent seniors, which he said would be one of the major reforms at the end of his five-year term.

'Lack of information'

On the sensitive issue of immigration, the president acknowledged that the national debate over French identity had led to "misunderstandings" but reiterated the need to control migration flows.

The controversial debate on French identity launched by Sarkozy last year was blasted as a political manoeuvre to steal away the electorate of the far-right National Front (FN).

During his television appearance, the president also mentioned unemployment, but avoided speaking in detail about the state of the French economy.

On Wednesday, the Socialist Party denounced the lack of information on the issues that are most important to French people.

"The only announcement made was the elimination of ISF, that is a tax cut benefiting 600,000 of the country’s wealthiest people,” criticised Francois Hollande, former leader of the Socialists.

The president’s new cabinet has been labelled as "a campaign team" ahead of the early 2012 presidential election, picked mostly to help the president rebound from record-low public approval ratings.

On Tuesday night Sarkozy argued his new cabinet was leaner but not partisan, despite the firing of more centre-leaning ministers.

Date created : 2010-11-17

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