2024 was kicked off with the presidential announcement of a new era: big projects to respond to the growing criticisms the government had been facing. A new era could only mean a new Prime Minister, but while that transition was fairly brisk the rest of the government didn’t follow. More than three weeks later, France is waiting for the appointment of a full government with many projects stuck in a state of limbo.
The newly appointed Prime Minister, Gabriel Attal, the youngest in French history, chose to name a small cabinet, 11 Ministers with very large portfolios, such as both Employment and Health — or Education and Sport. This new format without specialised deputy Ministers has left many cabinet advisors wondering whether they still have a job. France no longer has a Secretary of State for European affairs, for Energy or for Transport, and both they and their teams continue to face uncertainty as to whether there will be room for them in the new government.
Beyond the problem of unemployment in the political class lies the problem of how a country, so used to function with specialised ministries, suddenly copes. Businesses but also civil servants have lost their points of reference, their figure to turn to in a time of crisis. Consultancy firms have found a new niche market, advising on who not to contact because they no longer have a job, spotting which emails are being read even though the recipient is technically out of a job and finding creative solutions to answer their clients needs even without a strong governmental presence.
Patience is what is being asked of France’s politicians and society alike. A quality which many of our European friends would not usually attribute to us. For they also are being asked to be patient, whether it be in the European parliament where the Renew party waited a few weeks for its new leader, or at the European council where French seats are sitting empty as they wait for their counterpart : the government’s credibility and ability to work in such a small format is being questioned.
And while some in government and across France are likely grateful that the Ministry for Agriculture is fully operational to deal with the pressing farmers’ crisis, it only highlights how catastrophic another situation would be if a crisis arose in a sector without its dedicated Ministry. As we slowly approach the one-month mark since the new Prime Minister was appointed and as the European elections inch ever closer, it is essential for the government to put itself in complete working order.
The Prime Minister has promised a new government after his speech to parliament setting out his agenda for his time in office on the 30th of January. This deadline is good news as it brings a level of certainty back to politics but it still leaves unanswered the question of why it has taken so long and what the Prime Minister has been waiting for.
Melissa Amroun from French agency Kairos Public Affairs wrote this contribution. Contact any of our United Government Affairs network members to analyse the threats and opportunities behind this initiative and engage in policymaking.