French President Sarkozy names Cabinet

Last updated at 11:19 18 May 2007

Nicolas Sarkozy

French President Nicolas Sarkozy unveiled a broad-based cabinet today, naming popular leftist Bernard Kouchner and a centrist to key posts in a slimline government that radically reshaped various ministries.

Maintaining an election promise, Sarkozy appointed seven women to his 15-strong team, cutting back the number of posts and downgrading many other positions.

Sarkozy and Prime Minister Francois Fillon, who was appointed on Thursday, will hold their first cabinet meeting at 4:30 p.m. (1430 GMT), sending a signal to France that they are immediately getting to work on their reform programme.

Alain Juppe, a former prime minister, was made the de facto government number two at the head of a newly formed environment and sustainable development super-ministry.

Jean-Louis Borloo, the previous labour minister, becomes France's economy supremo, in charge of a new-look portfolio that includes economic strategy and employment.

He will be shadowed by Eric Woerth, the former treasurer of Sarkozy's ruling UMP party, who will be responsible for all aspects of public spending, including civil service costs - a new post aimed at rationalising government and saving money.

In a break with the past, Sarkozy reached out to the opposition camp, naming former Socialist health minister and human rights activist Bernard Kouchner as foreign minister.

He also appointed two disaffected leftists as secretaries of state, including Jean-Pierre Jouyet, who was always seen as close to Socialist chief Francois Hollande and takes charge of European affairs in the new line-up.

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The Socialists have accused Sarkozy of trying to destabilise their party, still struggling to absorb their presidential election defeat, and have belittled Kouchner's move saying key parts of his portfolio will be poached by Sarkozy's office.

Sarkozy plans to set up a foreign policy advisory body within his Elysee Palace that could limit any room for manoeuvre for Kouchner, a former U.N. governor in Kosovo and co-founder of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning charity Doctors without Borders.

Reaching out to centrist allies, Sarkozy appointed Herve Morin as defence minister. He will replace Michele Alliot-Marie, who switches to an interior ministry that has been stripped off responsibility for immigration issues.

Instead, Sarkozy has created a highly controversial new ministry for immigration and national identity, which he entrusted to his longest-standing ally, Brice Hortefleux.

One of the first tasks of the new government will be to campaign for legislative elections on June 10 and 17. If the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) loses the vote, Sarkozy will be forced to name a new government and work with the opposition.

However, opinion polls suggest the UMP will win the election and Sarkozy wants his ministers to prepare a raft of laws to present to the new parliament as soon as it sits this summer.

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juppe left borloo right

One of the priorities will be to draw up a new mini-budget and enact promised reductions in corporate and inheritance tax.

As the government list was being read out, Sarkozy, who only took office on Wednesday, was flying down to Toulouse to meet unions at troubled European plane maker Airbus.

Airbus parent EADS was plunged into a financial crisis during the French election campaign and Sarkozy vowed to dismantle the shareholder pact which guarantees Franco-German parity within EADS.

Germany has resisted repeated French attempts in recent years to seize greater control of the company, which was founded in 2000 with a merger of the two countries' top aerospace firms.

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