Ousted French FM laments team's 'beheading'

3rd June 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 3 (AFP) - France's former foreign minister Michel Barnier, who was dismissed in the wake of the country's rejection of the EU constitution, on Friday hit out at what he called the "beheading" of his ex-ministry's team.

PARIS, June 3 (AFP) - France's former foreign minister Michel Barnier, who was dismissed in the wake of the country's rejection of the EU constitution, on Friday hit out at what he called the "beheading" of his ex-ministry's team.  

Barnier, who had been in his job for little more than a year, also urged the nation's political establishment to "stop acting as if Europe was alongside France".  

"The rejection of the European constitution and the changes that followed resulted in the beheading of the ministerial team at the Quai d'Orsay," Barnier told staff before handing over to his successor, Philippe Douste-Blazy.  

The 54-year-old outgoing minister, who earned a long round of applause from his staff, said France was "no longer alone in making decisions. Others do not decide for us. We decide with the others".  

Barnier was one of the main victims of this week's major government reshuffle following Sunday's defeat of the EU treaty in a national referendum, which saw Dominique de Villepin appointed as the country's new prime minister.  

Douste-Blazy, the health minister in the outgoing government, is a 52-year-old cardiologist with little experience in foreign affairs.  

Catherine Colonna, President Jacques Chirac's spokeswoman for nine years until last September, was on Thursday named junior European affairs minister.  

"I know the rules and the laws of politics. They're hard, but they don't however prohibit the expression of regret ... regret that we are leaving you so soon, much sooner than we thought," Barnier said.  

The outgoing minister was flanked by his junior European affairs minister Claudie Haignere, junior cooperation minister Xavier Darcos and state secretary for foreign affairs Renaud Muselier - all ousted from Villepin's government.  

Barnier said he was "proud to have campaigned for the yes camp" up until Sunday's referendum, noting that the text contained advances on the political, social and democratic fronts.  

But he admitted that Sunday's result - 54.67 percent of French voters cast "no" ballots - had proven that "we can no longer move the European project forward without the citizens".

© AFP

Subject: French News

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