Key ministers in new French government

PARIS Wed May 16, 2012 3:25pm EDT

France's Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault takes part in the broadcast news of French TV channel France 2 on May 16, 2012 in Paris. REUTERS/Bertrand Langlois/Pool

France's Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault takes part in the broadcast news of French TV channel France 2 on May 16, 2012 in Paris.

Credit: Reuters/Bertrand Langlois/Pool

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PARIS (Reuters) - French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault's new government includes a mix of Socialist party stalwarts and ambitious young party members.

Ayrault, the former leader of the Socialists' parliamentary group, was appointed by French President Francois Hollande on Tuesday.

Below are the key cabinet ministers:

FINANCE MINISTER: PIERRE MOSCOVICI

Moscovici, 54, Hollande's campaign manager, was a junior European affairs minister in the 1997-2002 left-wing government that shared power with conservative President Jacques Chirac. He has also been a member of the European Parliament.

He was a late convert to the Hollande camp, having initially backed Dominique Strauss-Kahn to run for president until the then IMF chief was arrested in New York last May on charges, later dropped, of attempted rape.

A graduate of the elite ENA school for civil servants and the son of French-Romanian intellectuals, Moscovici joined the Socialist Party in 1984 after a youthful stint as a Trotskyist, and soon rose to become the party's youngest national secretary.

FOREIGN MINISTER: LAURENT FABIUS

Fabius, 65, is a veteran heavyweight of French Socialist politics. He became prime minister at just 37 under President Francois Mitterrand, after serving as budget and industry minister. In 2000, he became finance minister under former Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

A graduate of the elite ENA school, he competed against Segolene Royal and Dominique Strauss-Kahn in 2007 to run as the Socialist Party's candidate in that year's presidential election. He has had a testy relationship with Hollande, calling him a "wild strawberry" who hid in the undergrowth in contrast to his own nickname as a party "elephant".

Fabius clashed with Hollande in 2005 when he campaigned for a "no" vote in a referendum over a European Union constitutional treaty that Hollande supported. Last year he backed Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry against Hollande in the party's presidential primary contest.

INTERIOR MINISTER: MANUEL VALLS

Spanish-born Valls, 49, is on the right wing of the Socialist party. His tough line on law and order irked some of his comrades but made him a natural fit for the interior ministry, where he aims to dispel the party's image as soft on crime.

He competed in this year's Socialist presidential primary contest and quickly adapted to defeat to become a vital aide to Hollande as communications director in his campaign team.

Valls is relatively scar-free compared to many party veterans. One blemish he does bear is that he advocated shifting welfare costs from payrolls to VAT sales tax, a move that Sarkozy adopted as president but Hollande has vowed to reverse.

Becoming interior minister would give Valls control of the police and a position of power that served Sarkozy well in his time before running for president in 2007.

LABOUR MINISTER: MICHEL SAPIN

Sapin, 60, is one of Hollande's oldest and most trusted friends. The two attended the elite ENA university together and shared a barrack room during their military service.

His appointment as labor minister came as a surprise - he had been expected to become finance minister, a post he held two decades ago at the end of President Francois Mitterrand's term and at the height of speculative attacks on the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) in 1992-93.

Architect of Hollande's election manifesto, Sapin is a moderate left-winger and pragmatist who believes in European integration.

An archaeologist by training and a collector of ancient coins, he has said he wants to make it easier to do business in France while increasing the role of unions and involving them more in wage negotiations, on the German model.

The OECD has recommended France review its rigid labor market regulation, but Hollande has avoided the topic during his campaign.

BUDGET MINISTER: JEROME CAHUZAC

Cahuzac, 59, advised Hollande on financial and economic affairs during his election campaign.

A plastic surgeon by trade, Cahuzac joined the Socialist Party in 1977 and gained a reputation for acuity on budgetary questions, becoming a spokesman for the party on financial affairs and leading the parliament's finance committee from 2010. He has never held a post in government.

DEFENCE MINISTER: JEAN-YVES LE DRIAN

Le Drian, 64, has been a close friend of Hollande for more than 35 years. The former university history teacher has spent 30 years in politics and is president of the Brittany region, but only briefly held a junior ministerial role in the 1990s.

Le Drian has been meeting with U.S. and NATO officials for several months to try and ensure Hollande's campaign pledge to pull French troops out of Afghanistan by end-2012 is kept to.

EDUCATION MINISTER: VINCENT PEILLON

Former philosophy professor Peillon, 51, will be in charge of Hollande's key campaign promise to hire 60,000 more school staff in the next five years and shake up the education system.

A member of the European Parliament since 2004, Peillon has led discreet talks with teacher unions during the campaign about how to reform the school system, a perennially sensitive subject in a country where it takes little for students to hold strikes.

HEALTH AND SOCIAL AFFAIRS MINISTER: MARISOL TOURAINE

Touraine, 53, will have the delicate task of reforming France's health and pensions systems. The daughter of French sociologist Alain Touraine and wife of a French ambassador, she has worked in several left-wing ministerial cabinets and first became a member of parliament in 1997.

INDUSTRIAL REVIVAL: ARNAUD MONTEBOURG

Montebourg, 49, is an outspoken critic of globalization who advocates European protectionist measures. He favors using massive state-directed investment to revive France's stagnating industry. A lawyer by training, he is part of a new generation of Socialists who denounced sleaze in the party's old guard.

Media-savvy and a good public speaker, he did surprisingly well in the primary, placing third behind Hollande and party chief Martine Aubry with nearly 18 percent of the vote.

CULTURE MINISTER: AURELIE FILIPETTI

Filipetti, 38, is part of an up-and-coming young generation of Socialists too young to have served under Mitterrand. The daughter of an immigrant Italian miner, Filipetti was a Greek and Latin professor and a novelist before going into politics first as a Green and then as a Socialist.

A parliament member since 2007, she has fought to try and save a steel plant in her constituency, owned by Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal, from the threat of closure. She is known as a feminist who speaks out on womens' rights.

(Compiled by Elizabeth Pineau, Sophie Louet, Daniel Flynn, Nicolas Vinocur and Catherine Bremer; editing by Geert De Clercq)

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