|Author (Person)||Coss, Simon|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.8, No.24, 20.6.02, p2|
JUST days after France's interim EU affairs minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres was forced to stand down amid sleaze allegations, questions are being asked about his replacement, Noëlle Lenoir.
The appointment of Lenoir, following last weekend's landslide victory for the centre-right, has raised eyebrows because the 54-year-old worked closely with the government of Socialist Prime Minister Michel Rocard in 1988-91.
Lenoir is a former member of France's Constitutional Court, which last year ruled that Jacques Chirac could not face sleaze charges while he was president. The decision was controversial and there have been suggestions this week that the EU affairs job is Lenoir's 'payback'.
In an interview with France's RTL radio station on Tuesday, Socialist deputy Arnaud Monteberg openly questioned Lenoir's appointment.
'Is it normal that a former member of the constitutional court can have a kind of reward with a ministerial nomination a few years after their departure?' he asked.
'The suspicion is there. I am asking the question and I would like the person concerned to give us the answers as quickly as possible,' he added.
Raymond Forni, former speaker in the French National Assembly, described Lenoir's nomination as 'pitiful'.
'When there is treachery in political life I hope it won't be forgotten,' he added.
Lenoir, however, is remaining tight-lipped. Her office told European Voice the new EU affairs minister 'was giving no interviews and had no comment to make about her nomination'.
Despite the questions being raised, there is no doubt that Lenoir has a sound grounding in EU politics.
For several years, she headed a European Commission-backed advisory group on bioethics. 'She has a very consensual approach to most issues and has excellent links in Brussels. The interim minister really didn't have a clue about Europe and you can't say that about Mrs Lenoir,' says political analyst Guillaume Durand of the European Policy Centre.
Indeed, the new government as a whole is one of the most EU-savvy administrations in France in decades.
Aside from Lenoir it also includes six former MEPs, among them Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, Defence Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie and Industry Minister Nicole Fontaine, who was president of the European Parliament from 1999-2002.
But European Commission officials have cautioned against any presumption that the new government will be particularly pro-EU. 'Their background is one thing. I'd like to see them in action before making an assessment,' one high-level advisor told this paper.
Meanwhile, former EU affairs minister Pierre Moscovici looks set to keep his seat on the European Convention.
'We haven't been informed of any changes and I don't see why there should be any,' one of his aides said yesterday. 'Mr Moscovici was picked by President Chirac for the post,' she added.
The Convention's official spokesman, Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, said: 'There is no obligation to change anyone. Member states don't have to send ministers,' he said.
Moscovici stood down as EU affairs minister in May following the resignation of ex-Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's government.
He subsequently lost his seat in Doubs as a member of the National Assembly in last weekend's parliamentary elections.
Just days after France's interim EU affairs minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres was forced to stand down amid sleaze allegations, questions are being asked about his replacement, Noëlle Lenoir.
|Countries / Regions||France|