May 17, 2007 / 12:08 AM / 11 years ago

Sarkozy to unveil new French government

PARIS (Reuters) - New French President Nicolas Sarkozy will unveil his government on Friday, chair a cabinet meeting and visit plane maker Airbus to discuss its future.

France's new President Nicolas Sarkozy (R) shakes hands with his newly named Prime Minister Francois Fillon at the Elysee Palace in Paris, May 17, 2007. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Sarkozy has maintained a hectic pace since taking office on Wednesday, flying to Berlin that evening for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Europe and Airbus parent EADS, then appointing his prime minister the next morning.

After intense speculation over whom he would appoint to his slimmed-down, 15-member cabinet in which half the ministers are due to be women, the list will be announced at 0745 GMT on Friday, Sarkozy’s office said.

He named Francois Fillon as prime minister on Thursday, banking on the moderate conservative’s negotiating skills to push through sweeping reforms in the face of union resistance.

Sarkozy has pledged to cut taxes, slash unemployment and toughen sentences for repeat offenders, and has said he wants to act quickly to keep his electoral promises.

He has also tried to soften the tough image he built up as interior minister and is expected to name left-wing maverick Bernard Kouchner as foreign minister, the first time a president has picked someone from another camp for such a senior job.

Kouchner was among the politicians who held meetings with Fillon in the new prime minister’s office on Thursday afternoon, shortly after a brief handover ceremony with outgoing prime minister Dominique de Villepin.

Others included former labor minister Jean-Louis Borloo — who political sources said is likely to take a powerful new post overseeing economic strategy — and veteran Alain Juppe, tipped for a powerful new sustainable development ministry.

AIRBUS

Leading female contenders are former defense minister Michele Alliot-Marie, who is likely to switch to the interior ministry, and Sarkozy’s campaign spokeswoman Rachida Dati, tipped as the next justice minister.

A centrist, Herve Morin, is favorite for defense minister.

During his visit to Berlin, Sarkozy said he wanted to work urgently with Germany on the future of Airbus maker EADS, in which France has a 15 percent stake, and he is due to visit the plane maker in the southwestern city of Toulouse on Friday.

“He will visit Airbus and then have lunch with workers and will meet the company’s trade unions,” Sarkozy’s office said in a statement.

When EADS was plunged into a financial crisis during the French election campaign, 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.

Sarkozy has also said he does not feel bound by the company’s Power8 restructuring program, under which Airbus plans 10,000 job cuts in Europe, so staff and unions will listen closely to his plans for the firm.

EADS chief Louis Gallois met with Sarkozy at the presidential Elysee Palace on Thursday.

After his trip to the southwest, Sarkozy is due to return to Paris for an afternoon cabinet meeting, political sources said.

Additional reporting by Emmanuel Jarry

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