French president unveils new cabinet
French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday unveiled a 15-member-strong cabinet, with seven women appointed to key posts and socialist Bernard Kouchner as new foreign minister.
The president also appointed former Prime Minister Alain Juppe in charge of the environment, which Sarkozy says is a priority, and named former defense minister Michele Alliot-Marie as interior minister. Outgoing employment minister Jean-Louis Borloo takes up a new assignment heading the ministry for economy, finance and employment.
As he had promised during the presidential elections, Sarkozy reduced the number of ministers to 15, half of the previous government by comparison. The new team will set its goals at implementing the president's promises of change and reform to revitalize the sluggish French economy.
Long time friend of Sakorzy Brice Hortefeux was named to lead a new ministry of immigration, integration and national identity, which is devised by Sarkozy aiming to help unite the country amid rising ethnic diversities and tensions. Sarkozy's campaign adviser Rachida Dati will head the justice ministry.
In addition, Eric Woerth will head a new public accounts ministry that will draw up the state budget. Centrist Herve Morin will replace Alliot-Marie as the new defence minister and Christine Lagarde has been named agriculture minister.
Other members of Sarkozy's ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) Xavier Bertrand, Roselyne Bachelot, Xavier Darcos, Valerie Pecresse and Christine Albanel are appointed respectively as the labor, social affairs and solidarity minister, health, sports and youth minister, education minister, higher education minister, and culture and communications minister.
Sarkozy named his closest aide during his election campaign Francois Fillon, a 53-year-old moderate conservative of the ruling UMP party, as prime minister on Thursday. Fillon was a former social and education minister, and his crucial experience in pensions reform will be an asset to the new president's administration.