Newly elected French President Francois Hollande approved the new government cabinet appointed by Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on Wednesday, which includes a Jewish foreign minister.
Laurent Fabius, a former French prime minister, will replace Alain Juppe when he steps into the role of foreign minister. He faces the task of carrying out Hollande's pledge to withdraw French troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year.
Fabius, 65, is the son of Jewish parents who converted to Christianity. At the age of 34, he was appointed finance minister and at 37 he was appointed prime minister by former President Francois Mitterrand.
The current government is composed mainly of moderate socialists loyal to Hollande. Ayrault, who accepted his appointment on Tuesday, said his government will not waste time and will hold its first meeting on Thursday.
Europe is now focused on how Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will get along, since the relationship of the French and German heads of state is critical to Europe's strategy for tackling its debt crisis. Sarkozy and Merkel were said to be so close they were sometimes referred to as one person, Merkozy. The Franco–German relationship is more critical than ever, as European leaders try to contain a debt crisis that has dragged several countries into recession, and ensure that it never happens again.
After being sworn in, Hollande flew to Berlin to meet Merkel. The German chancellor said their differences had been overstated, and they committed Tuesday to work together.
Hollande fulfilled his promise relating to gender equality in government by including 17 women, half of his ministers, in his cabinet. Christiane Taubira, from French Guiana, was named justice minister, making her the highest ranking woman in the new cabinet. A lawmaker since 1993, Taubira authored a French law in 2001 making slavery a crime against humanity. In 2002, she was France's first black candidate for the presidency.
Hollande did not appoint head of the Socialist Party and his political rival, Martine Aubry, to any post, with some saying she would only accept the prime minister's portfolio.