Borlo becomes France's new environment minister

19th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 19, 2007 (AFP) - Jean-Louis Borloo, named France's superminister for the environment on Tuesday, is a political maverick who earned a reputation as the social conscience in the government of former president Jacques Chirac.

PARIS, June 19, 2007 (AFP) - Jean-Louis Borloo, named France's superminister for the environment on Tuesday, is a political maverick who earned a reputation as the social conscience in the government of former president Jacques Chirac.

He takes over from Alain Juppe, a former prime minister and right-wing heavyweight who was forced to stand down after failing to win a parliament seat on Sunday, dealing a major blow to President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Borloo, who was finance minister in Sarkozy's initial government line-up announced a month ago, has came under fire for floating the idea of a hike in value-added tax to fund healthcare costs.

That was a red rag for the Socialist opposition and was blamed for the right's disappointing showing in last weekend's parliamentary elections.

Far from a demotion, however, the 56-year-old Borloo's new job brings a higher status as government number two with a vast portfolio covering the environment, sustainable development, transport and energy policy.

Charged with leading the government's promised "green revolution," his first task will be to organise a major conference in October to map out a five-year plan to combat global warming, save biodiversity and improve eco-friendly management.

Unmistakable for his unkempt look and shaggy mop of hair, Borloo -- who is married to the French television presenter Beatrice Schoenberg -- has a ruggedly independent streak.

A former high-flying lawyer, Borloo started politics in the short-lived Ecology Generation party before joining the centrist Union for French Democracy (UDF).

In 2002 he defected with many other UDF deputies to Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP). He is now head of France's oldest political party -- the Radical Party -- which is affiliated to the UMP.

Borloo studied law and finance and in his early 30s ran a legal practice that specialised in buying up failed businesses, reputedly becoming the best-paid lawyer in France.

His next venture was to take over Valenciennes football club in the north of France, which he rescued from bankruptcy, going on in 1989 to be elected mayor of Valenciennes -- a town reeling from the effects of deindustrialisation.

Borloo's experiences there as mayor and then member of parliament prepared him for his subsequent work in government.

When Jacques Chirac was re-elected president in 2002, Borloo was named junior minister for urban planning and launched a nationwide plan to overhaul delapidated social housing.

As minister of labour and social cohesion from 2004 until this year, Borloo instituted a social action programme which he claims played a large part in a recent fall in unemployment.

He conditioned his support for Sarkozy's presidential bid on the promise of a "Marshall Plan" to help job creation and urban regeneration in poor, high-immigration suburbs.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French News

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