PARIS (Reuters) – Catherine Colonna, France’s ambassador to Britain and former spokesperson for President Jacques Chirac, was named foreign minister on Friday, a move that may be aimed to win over diplomats after fractious relations with the presidency.
Colonna, 66, is the second woman to take the helm of France’s foreign ministry after a short stint by Michele Alliot-Marie in 2010.
The seasoned diplomat has held posts in Washington and Brussels, is a former ambassador to Italy and a former secretary of state for European affairs.
Her appointment may signal that President Emmanuel Macron is seeking to appease a diplomatic corps angered by his past accusations of civil servants at times working against the executive.
More recently Macron’s decision to reform the diplomatic career structure has led to their unions calling for a strike next month, only the second in their history. The reform will scrap a special status for senior foreign ministry officials meaning they would fall into a broader civil service pool.
“She will be appreciated at the foreign ministry. She will reassure at a time when the ministry is facing doubts, uncertainty and the end of the diplomatic corps,” said Jean de Gliniasty, former ambassador to Russia. “The foreign ministry is not in a good state psychologically.”
Colonna is best known as the late Chirac’s spokeswoman, a job she held for nine years, including when France opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
Her experience will also help with continuity regarding the conflict in Ukraine, given London’s active support of Kyiv.
She replaces Jean-Yves Le Drian, who had been a minister — first at the defence ministry and then foreign ministry for 10 years — and will work closely with former centre-right lawmaker Sebastien Lecornu, a close ally of Macron, who takes over as defence minister, after serving as overseas minister.
Clement Beaune remains as Europe minister.
(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Richard Lough and Alison Williams)