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Francois Hollande in Berlin on Tuesday Michael Sohn/AP/Press Association Images

New faces: Hollande unveils a half-male, half-female cabinet

The cabinet is notable for being half-male, half-female although most senior positions in the government have gone to men.

FRANCE’S NEW SOCIALIST-led government are taking office and preparing for their first Cabinet meeting with President Francois Hollande.

New Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, a moderate longtime legislator valued for his knowledge of Germany, named the Cabinet on Wednesday night.

The ministers take office today in ceremonies bidding farewell to their conservative counterparts who served under former President Nicolas Sarkozy as the former president did himself with Hollande on Tuesday.

The new Cabinet meets later today and is notable for being the first time that it is half-male, half-female with figures who reflect the country’s ethnic diversity.

The cabinet includes allies, veterans and some new faces. Neither of France’s new president nor the prime minister has previous experience in government. But Ayrault denied this would be a handicap.

Two key positions are in finance and foreign affairs with Hollande selecting former prime minister Laurent Fabius, 65, as his new foreign minister with his campaign head during the race against Sarkozy, 54-year-old Pierre Moscovici coming in as finance minister.

Fiscal Compact

Already Moscovici, who speaks fluent English, has caused a stir by saying the new government will not ratify the Fiscal Compact treaty, which Ireland is voting later this month, until it has provisions for growth.

“What has been said quite clearly is that the treaty will not be ratified as is and that it must be completed with a chapter on growth, with a growth strategy,” BBC News reports him as saying.

The Guardian reports that of the 34 posts that have been filed, 17 have been taken up by women including Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, 34, who will be the minister for women’s rights. She holds dual Moroccan-French citizenship which has drawn criticism from the right.

Other female appointments include Aurélie Filippetti, a former ecologist and novelist, as culture minister. The government also includes the leader of France’s Green Party, Cécilie Duflot, who has been appointed as housing minister.

AFP reports that prime minister Ayrault has indicated that the first order of business at today’s cabinet meeting with be a 30 per cent pay cut for the president and all ministers, a promise Hollande made during his campaign.

“This is about setting an example. I will also propose a code of conduct. Everyone must sign this commitment on conflicts of interest, holding more than one office and not carrying out any other activities,” Ayrault is quoted as telling France 2 television.

After the Cabinet meeting, Hollande heads off on a trip to the United States to meet President Barack Obama and attend G8 and NATO summits.

- additional reporting from AP

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