New French Liberal Cabinet

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Ivan Blot, Former member of French and European parliament; “Rethinking Russia” expert

Former president Ronald Reagan once said that he sought a coalition of economic conservatives, who advocated low taxes and the market economy, and social conservatives, who stood in defence of Christian values and patriotism. Mr. Macron also needs economic conservatives, including Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, and Budget Minister Gerald Darmanin, a trio of ministers who have defected from Les Républicains. The name of Mrs. Muriel Pénicaud, Labour Minister and former senior executive for human resources in Groupe Danone, should be added to the list. These ministers will be tasked with reforming the economy, taxation and labour while trying to withstand the pressure from the left, socialists and the Communist-backed party of Mélenchon.

Macron also needs the libertarian left to draw the support of leftist bourgeois residing in cities and metropolises, also known as “bobos” (BOurgeois BOhemians). He decided against nominating a Minister of State for Family or Minister of Youth Affairs. Instead, he set up the Ministry of State for Gender Equality, attached to the Prime Minister, and picked Marlène Schiappa, a lobbyist for feminists’ and gays’ rights, to run it. The President does not seem concerned about the declining native population and the growing number of migrants. The post of Minister of Justice was filled by François Bayrou, whose term in office – he is former Minister of Education – was characterized by inertia and torpor. Meanwhile, comprehensive reforms are much needed in this realm. Take building more prisons, for instance.

Who will assume responsibility for the foreign policy and defence? Sylvie Goulard, a member of the European parliament, was appointed Minister of the Armed Services, who will be in charge of the defence policy. She created the Spinelli Group think tank in cooperation with her German colleague Daniel Marc Cohn-Bendit, who favours European federalism and enjoys an unsavoury reputation for being an alleged paedophile. With Sylvie Goulard out of her depth militarily, it is Martin Briens, her chief of staff, who will play a prominent role. Moreover, he served as the Strategy Director in the General Directorate for External Security (DGSE), which has strong links with American and British intelligence services. Generally, France’s chiefs of staff are equally important as ministers.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, Defence Minister under François Hollande, was appointed to head up the Europe and Foreign Ministry. A former university teacher, Le Drian is a leading member of the Grand Orient de France (GODF), France’s largest Masonic organization. He will share Macron’s priorities, namely a revived Franco-German axis and the Middle East. Besides, Emmanuel Bonne, Le Drian’s chief of staff, is a close friend of the former head of state. Thus, Macron’s policy abroad will differ little from Hollande’s one.

In addition, President Macron calls for root-and-branch reform in Eurozone governance and for a centralized system to tackle the migrant crisis and social problems. At the same time, he seeks to establish a solid dialogue with Russia. In this context, Macron and Le Drian look willing to pursue hard-headed or pragmatic policies. However, they will be torn between industrial and economic circles striving for better cooperation with Russia and the commitment to the Atlantic community.

Securing a majority constitutes the immediate task at the upcoming parliamentary elections, otherwise the Prime Minister will have to resign. Yet a parliamentary majority looks to be within reach for the centrist president. Just as he destroyed the Socialist Party, Macron is doing his utmost to crush Les Républicains by winning over a number of their parliamentarians. At home, Emmanuel Macron turned out to be a real political assassin. As for foreign policy, it remains to be seen whether he will fail or prevail.

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