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Elisabeth Borne: Who is France's new prime minister and what's on her to-do list?

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By Euronews  with AP
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France's newly named prime minister Elisabeth Borne
France's newly named prime minister Elisabeth Borne   -   Copyright  Credit: AP

Centrist politician Elisabeth Borne was appointed France’s new prime minister on Monday, becoming the second woman to hold the post in the country.

Borne, 61, who was labour minister in the previous government, succeeds Jean Castex, who resigned earlier in the day.

"Ecology, health, education, full employment, democratic revival, Europe and security: together, with the new government, we will continue to act tirelessly for the French people," French President Emmanuel Macron said on Twitter shortly after Borne's appointment.

It comes after Macron was re-elected as French president last month, beating far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in a run-off vote

France is due to hold parliamentary elections in June. 

Who is Elisabeth Borne?

Borne spoke soon after her appointment, noting the emotions she felt at being selected for the highest office a woman has ever held in French political leadership.

“I would like to dedicate this nomination to all the little girls by telling them ‘Go after your dreams!’ Nothing should stop the fight for the place of women in our society,” she said.

Borne is the second woman to hold the position of prime minister in the country after Edith Cresson, who served from 1991 to 1992 under socialist president Francois Mitterrand.

As labour minister since 2020, Borne implemented changes that made it harder for jobless people to get benefits and reduced monthly payments for some unemployed people, prompting criticism from workers' unions and from the left.

In 2018, as transport minister, Borne faced a major strike from the SNCF railway company against plans to open the train network to competition and end newly-hired employees’ right to retain jobs and benefits for life. She ultimately managed to pass the bill.

Borne, who has never held an elected office, was at the beginning of her career close to the traditional left. 

She notably worked as chief of staff to Socialist politician Ségolène Royal, and then as ecology minister under President Francois Hollande.

Borne then became CEO in 2015 of the state-owned transport company RATP, which operates the Paris metro.

She joined Macron’s centrist party in 2017. She was first transport minister and then minister of ecological transition in Macron’s first government.

In her speech at Matignon, Borne dedicated her appointment to "all the little girls" and invited them to "follow their dreams".

"Nothing must slow down the fight for the place of women in our society," she added.

Why did Castex resign?

Castex resigned in an expected move after Macron's re-election last month.

Castex came to the Elysée presidential palace on Monday to formally offer his resignation, which the president “accepted”, the Elysée said in a statement.

In France, it's common for presidents to have more than one prime minister during their terms.

Castex said on Monday that he would "continue to serve the country" but would "take a step aside by leaving national politics".

What will Borne tackle first?

The new prime minister’s first mission will be to make sure that Macron’s centrist party and its allies do well in France's parliamentary election in June. 

The vote, scheduled for two rounds, will determine which group holds the majority of seats at the National Assembly, which has the final say over the Senate in France's law-making process.

Macron also promised a bill addressing the rising cost of living in France, where food and energy prices are surging. It will be prepared by his new government and is expected to be presented just after the parliamentary election.

If Macron’s party wins a majority in the Assembly, Borne will then need to ensure that pension changes promised by the president are put into law, including raising the minimum retirement age from 62 to 65. 

The proposed changes have been criticised by workers, unions and left-wing voters.

Macron also promised that the new prime minister would be directly in charge of “green planning,” seeking to accelerate France's implementation of climate-related policies. Macron vowed to go “twice as fast” in his second term to curb greenhouse gas emissions.