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Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-04-02

Ségolène Royal, former partner and mother to French President François Hollande's four children, was named minister of the environment, sustainable development and energy in part of a major cabinet reshuffle announced on Wednesday.

Former Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici has left the government and the brief has been split between two Socialists: Michel Sapin will take charge of finance, and Arnaud Montebourg will be in charge of industry and economy.

Laurent Fabius and Jean-Yves Le Drian hold on to their jobs as foreign affairs and defence ministers.

On Tuesday, former Interior Minister Mauel Valls was appointed France’s new prime minister, replacing Jean-Marc Ayrault.

Wednesday’s reshuffle follows a poor showing for Hollande’s ruling Socialist Party (PS) in last month’s local elections in which the opposition conservative UMP party made big gains, while the far-right National Front won 11 mayoral seats in French towns and cities.

Big challenges ahead

The new government has a huge task ahead of it, with rising unemployment that reached a record 3.34 million in February and stagnant growth.

Hollande has charged Valls with implementing his much-vaunted package of pro-business policies known as the ‘Responsibility Pact’, which will cut the high business taxes blamed for hampering growth and employment which are to be financed by spending cuts of 50 billion euros. He also asked him to set in motion a new ‘Solidarity Pact’ that would include steps to boost spending on education and health, and to reduce personal income taxes.

But many within the Socialist Party are unhappy with the nomination of 51-year-old Valls as prime minister.

The former interior minister is popular with voters across the political spectrum, but his style and politics, often compared to those of former British premier Tony Blair, have alienated more left-leaning members of the party.

Already, the Green EELV party jumped ship, announcing late on Tuesday that "EELV refuses to participate in a Valls government", despite the fact that the new premier offered to create an enlarged ministry overseeing the ecology, energy and transport that they could head up.

Royal returns

Royal, who takes the environment brief instead, split with Hollande shortly after she ran unsuccessfully against former president Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2007 presidential election. She and Hollande had four children together, although they never married.

Royal, 60, was reportedly prevented from entering Hollande's first cabinet in 2012 by Valérie Trierweiler, who was at the time the French president’s partner. 

Trierweiler split with Hollande after revelations in January that he was having an affair with actress Julie Gayet.


Date created : 2014-04-02


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