Sarkozy promotes loyalists in minor cabinet reshuffle

There were no sackings as the French president announced a small-scale government reshuffle Thursday. Former Socialist Eric Besson was promoted to the immigration ministry, while Brice Hortefeux took on the labour and social affairs portfolio.


AFP - French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday announced a small-scale government reshuffle, promoting two loyalists but keeping key ministers in place.

After much speculation that heads would roll, Economy Minister Christine Lagarde and Justice Minister Rachida Dati remained at their posts, despite recent criticism of their performances.

Immigration Minister Brice Hortefeux, one of Sarkozy's top lieutenants, took over the post of labour and social affairs minister from Xavier Bertrand, who will head the governing UMP party, a statement from the presidency said.

A former Socialist economic policymaker who sided with Sarkozy during his campaign for the presidency, Eric Besson, was named to replace Hortefeux as immigration minister.

Hortefeux, the 50-year-old immigration minister, will have responsibility for dealing with France's strong unions who have been increasingly vocal in their demands for action to address job losses from the global downturn.

Besson, the junior minister for the digital economy, also 50, is expected to put greater emphasis on integrating France's Arab and black minorities, a responsibility that falls under the immigration ministry.

The sole surprise in the package came when Sarkozy stripped Nathalie Kosciusco-Morizet, 35, of her post as secretary of state for the ecology and named her to replace Besson on the digital economy.

Another woman in the cabinet, Christine Boutin, remains housing minister but her portfolio was trimmed down, with responsibility for urban affairs given to Hortefeux.

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