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Thursday, 21 March 2013

The French government's love for European affairs

Guess how many ministers France has had for European affairs over the past decade.

Go on guess.

Give up?

The magic figure is 11 after the appointment on Monday of Thierry Repentin to the job.


Thierry Repentin
(screenshot TSI TV interview, February 2012)

All right so he had to step into the shoes of his predecessor Bernard Cazeneuve who was promoted to the post of budget minister in a mini-reshuffle following Jérôme Cahuzac's resignation after being placed under formal investigation for tax fraud and money laundering (now there's a suprise, a government minister accused of alleged financial impropriety, but that's another story)

But Repentin's er..."elevation" to the job, is surely very telling of consecutive French governments' attitude to the position.

Just look at the list of those who've been where Repentin is about "to boldly go" and how long they've spent in a post which, given the  nature and complexity of "Brussels" cannot be an easy one to grasp.

Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres - just over one month in 2002, Noëlle Lenoir - almost two years, Claudie Haigneré - 15 months, Catherine Colonna - just under two years, Jean-Pierre Jouyet - just over one-and-a-half years, Bruno Le Maire - six months, Pierre Lellouche - just under one-and-a-half years, Laurent Wauquiez - seven months, Jean Leonetti - 11 months, Bernard Cazeneuve - 10 months and Thierry Repentin - ?

Crikey, not even Britain with its somewhat ambivalent approach to European affairs has had such a high turnover rate in the same period - eight in the past decade.

It surely indicates one of two things (or both at the same time perhaps); firstly that the ministry doesn't really count for much and the job isn't really important and secondly France doesn't give European affairs much priority.

The best that can perhaps be said is the it's "only" a junior ministry and the top job (under whose umbrella it comes) of foreign minister over the same period has been slightly less...er...volatile.

There again given the nature of French politics and the tendency of successive presidents to take over the reins when necessary, the job of foreign minister has also been something of a musical chairs with seven politicians, including the incumbent Laurent Fabius, holding the post.

So how long will Repentin last as minister for European affairs? Well on past form around 13 months - but don't hold your breath.

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