New French prime minister Jean Castex vowed on Friday to place ecological issues at the heart of his government’s revamp of a country emerging from an economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
During his first major TV interview on TF1, Castex said: “We have to relaunch the reconstruction of our country. We have to invest in sectors for the future. Ecological issues are not an option. They transcend all the political classes.”
Castex, 55, a former advisor to President Nicolas Sarkozy, took over on Friday from Edouard Philippe whom he hailed for his diligence
“I worked with him closely on the plan to come out of the lockdown,” said Castex. “What I saw was a man completely up to the task. He gave everything to do his job well for France.’”
Castex is expected to unveil his new cabinet in the middle of next week as part of President Emmanuel Macron’s demand to project vigour along what he has deemed a new path for the country following the pandemic that claimed nearly 30,000 lives, savaged the economy and exposed social faultlines.
“We’re in a new context,” added Castex. “The French have gone through difficult times. There are economic and social problems. I am not here as prime minister to bask in the limelight. I am here to get things done. I am here to confront the economic crisis and reconstruct our country.”
However Macron’s appointment of Castex has drawn criticism from across the political spectrum.
Christian Jacob, president of LR, said: “We were expecting a political turning but all we’ve got is a technocrat."
Olivier Faure, the leader of the Socialist party, added: “The president has revealed his leanings. The day after it is someone from the right just like the day before.”
Julien Bayou, one of the leaders of the ecology party, EELV, echoed Faure. “A man from the right takes over from a man on the right. What about the ecological issues? The president does not want competition. Rather than preparing the country for the future, he wants to prepare for the next presidential election. That is not a good project for our country.”
However, during his 25-minute interview on Friday night, Castex dismissed the barbs. “I am aware of the comments and I know the weight of the duties ahead.
"I will work as best as I can for the country and the citizens. I wasn’t a national figure, I was a local politician. But now I am prime minister and I am going to apply myself as I have always done.”