New team faces huge task of cutting debt, jobless rate and austerity

Thu, May 17, 2012, 01:00

NEW FINANCE minister Pierre Moscovici takes charge of a stagnant economy lumbered with a jobless rate of almost 10 per cent and the challenge of cutting heavy debts as François Hollande launches his campaign against excessive austerity in Europe.

Laurent Fabius (65) is the oldest and most experienced minister in Mr Hollande’s new government, having served as budget, industry and finance minister under past socialist administrations and as a modernising prime minister from 1984 to 1986.

Bald with a sombre and statesmanlike demeanour, he led the No campaign that defeated a European Union constitution in a 2005 referendum amid bitter infighting in the Socialist Party.

He has softened his stance on the EU since then. Manuel Valls (49), the closest thing the party has to a right-winger, was named interior minister.

Arnaud Montebourg, an outspoken lawyer and member of parliament who has made a name for himself as a vociferous critic of globalisation, was put in charge of industrial revival.

Marisol 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.

Christiane Taubira, from French Guiana, was named justice minister, making her the highest-ranking woman in the new cabinet.

A lawmaker since 1993, she wrote a French law in 2001 making slavery a crime against humanity.