foreign help from France
(international news service)
Monday 28 February 2011
Sarkozy Names Juppe
Foreign Minister to Stem
Critics of Mideast Response
by Helene Fouquet
Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie quit yesterday following criticism over her Jan. 11 statement during the Tunisian revolt that her government was ready to provide advice to local police on crowd control.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy replaced top ministers and advisers in an effort to stem criticism of his foreign-policy management amid revolutions in the Arab world.
The cabinet shuffle was a "strategic act in face of an acceleration of history with consequences we cannot imagine yet on the global economy and on our countries," Prime Minister Francois Fillon told RTL radio today.
Sarkozy’s address last night and Cabinet shuffle follow a troubled month. His approval ratings fell to a record low and he was criticized by opposition parties, French diplomats and members of his own party for not firing Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie after it was revealed her Christmas holiday in Tunisia overlapped with the beginning of anti-regime protests.
Alliot-Marie quit yesterday following criticism over her 11 January statement during the Tunisian revolt that her government was ready to provide advice to local police on crowd control. Alliot-Marie, who served as a minister for the past nine years, was also criticized for accepting two flights in a private plane from an associate of then-Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
"France’s voice had to be heard in the world … and Michele Alliot-Marie’s voice wasn’t audible anymore," Fillon said. Polemics about Alliot-Marie "became dangerous for France," he said.
Opposition Socialist Party spokesman Benoit Hamon called Sarkozy’s management a "startling and humiliating failure for France," following the president’s address. The party criticized Sarkozy for "saluting the courage" of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak after his resignation.
"Our foreign policy is made of improvisation and a succession of impulsive choices that are often driven by domestic-policy reasons," French diplomats, who signed under the name Marly, wrote in an editorial in Le Monde newspaper dated 22 February. "Many mistakes could have been avoided, mistakes that came from amateurism, impulsiveness and short-term media considerations," they said.
Sarkozy’s new cabinet is the ninth since the May 2007 election and the fourth change in the past year, with the last shuffle in November. Fillon keeps his post as prime minister.
Alain Juppe, a former prime minister, will replace Alliot-Marie as foreign minister, a job he held between 1993 and 1995. Juppe will hand over his defense minister post to Gerard Longuet, a senator and an executive at the ruling Union for a Popular Movement party.
Sarkozy said yesterday European nations have a duty to help Arab countries that have overthrown their dictators. He said the protesters who shook Tunisia, Egypt and Libya share the same values as Western democracies. He said a poorly managed transition to democracy could lead to a return to dictatorships and to a wave of migrants to Europe.
"These Arab revolutions open a new era in our relationship to countries that are so close to us historically and geographically," Sarkozy said. "We should not be afraid. They bring an enormous hope because they are carried out in the name of values that are so close to us, democracy and human rights."
Fillon today said France will send two planes with doctors, nurses and medical equipment to eastern Libya as part of a relief operation it plans to expand. Fillon added that European countries will have to be ”very firm” against illegal immigration coming from the North African countries.
France is "evaluating" military options against Libya’s ruler Muammar Qaddafi who "must go, must quit power," Fillon said.
Sarkozy’s approval rating fell 5 percentage points from the previous month, with 66 percent of respondents saying they have a bad or rather bad opinion of the French leader, according to a survey by BVA, a Paris-based polling institute for L’Express weekly magazine, France Inter radio and the Orange mobile phone company, released 22 February.
BVA surveyed 982 people age 18 or older on Feb. 18 and 19. The Paris-based polling agency didn’t publish a margin of error.
To contact the reporter on this story: Helene Fouquet in Paris at Hfouquet1@bloomberg.net
To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at email@example.com