Thursday 23 November 2017

Muslim immigrant to be face of new French government

John Lichfield in Paris

THIRTY years ago, a four-year-old Moroccan girl emigrated to France to join her father. Yesterday, she became the official "face" of the new French government.

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem (34) is the youngest member of the cabinet which assembled yesterday under the chairmanship of President Francois Hollande. She is the minister for women's affairs and will be the official spokeswoman for the government and, therefore, the mouthpiece for "Hollandism".

The first Socialist French government for 10 years is the first government in France, or any large democracy, to be perfectly gender-balanced -- 17 men and 17 women. Mr Hollande and his prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault have also reached out to racial minorities, youth and the Eurosceptic wing of the French left.

Ms Vallaud-Belkacem, beautiful, eloquent, ever-smiling, was one of the stars of the Hollande campaign.

She has enjoyed a rapid rise in a political system and a party, which is generally ill-disposed towards youthful politicians.

A married mother of twins, Ms Vallaud-Belkacem is a "non-practising Muslim". She insisted yesterday, however, that she wanted to be judged on her abilities, not on her "triple symbolism" as a young female of North African origin.

President Hollande and Mr Ayrault also made pointed choices in their diplomatic and European team. Both the new foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, and the Europe minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, campaigned for the 'non' side in the referendum in 2005 which rejected the proposed European constitution. Mr Hollande campaigned for a 'oui' vote.

Heal

By placing two 'nonistes' in the foreign ministry, he hopes to heal an open wound on the French left. He is also warning his European partners that the new Socialist administration will seek to steer the EUaway from free-market dogmatism towards a more interventionist approach to industrial policy and world trade.

President Hollande has balanced these choices by putting a convinced European and "liberal" Socialist, Pierre Moscovici, in the finance ministry. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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