Reversing France’s economic decline is high on the list of President Hollande’s priorities and his cabinet reshuffle means a more powerful role as economy minister for outspoken leftist politician Arnaud Montebourg.
Montebourg will work alongside Michel Sapin, the new finance minister, a long-time friend and political ally of Hollande’s who was promoted from employment minister.
The fiery Montebourg has accused the European Union of hurting growth with austerity measures he says are misguided and called the policies of German Chancellor Angela Merkel “dangerous and suicidal”.
As industry minister, he has been openly protectionist to secure French jobs, repeatedly sided with trade unions against bosses.
Montebourg told Lakshmi Mittal, the Indian-born chief executive of the ArcelorMittal steel group, that he was not welcome in France.
He also drew much attention in international media for his exchange of acerbic letters with Texan tyre executive Maurice Taylor.
He also launched a buy French campaign, even modeling a traditional blue-and-white hooped fisherman’s jersey on posters to promote that.
Michel Sapin gets promoted to finance minister despite his failure to cut French unemployment, now at a record 3.34 million.
He will have to push through further reforms to France’s labour market, cut business taxes to encourage companies to hire, and find 50 billion euros of spending cuts to slash the government deficit while persuading Brussels to delay its deadline for France to do that.
Sapin and Montebourg will share economic responsibilities but it is not yet clear exactly how their tasks will be divided as France has never split the finance and economy minister jobs in this way before.