Veteran diplomat Catherine Colonna takes the helm at France’s troubled foreign ministry

When French President Emmanuel Macron unveiled his new government this week, the list included well-known veterans, newcomers and personalities from both left and right. Among them was career diplomat Katherine Colonna – a former ambassador to the UK and only the second woman to carry a foreign ministry dossier – to respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, from deteriorating relations with the former French colony Mali to a host of complex issues. Inherited. ,

As his newly-elected administration faces several challenges on the world stage, French President Emmanuel Macron has chosen 66-year-old Catherine Colonna as the country’s top diplomat, replacing another outgoing veteran, Jean-Yves Le Drian. May, who headed the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2017). -2022) after a five-year stint as Defense Minister. Colonna is best known in France as the spokeswoman for former President Jacques Chirac, a position she held for nearly a decade.

Only the second woman to hold the position, Kolona is a career diplomat with a wealth of experience, having inherited several complicated dossiers in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, deteriorating relations with former colony Mali, and frequent post-Brexit negotiations. I have met. With the UK in addition to pressing global issues such as climate change and COVID-19.

A pro-european himselfis colona Served as Ambassador of France to London During a particularly rocky time for Franco-British relations since 2018 due to Brexit, tensions over fishing rights and immigration. In a highly unusual move, she was called off by the British government in October 2021 as Paris and London clashed over fishing rights in the Channel.

in his last official tweet As ambassador to the UK on Friday, she said she would like to thank “everyone who understood that we are friends of this country and will continue to work for a better future”.

A ‘country woman’ at heart

Prior to London, Colonna served in various positions in Washington and Brussels before being appointed as representative to UNESCO and then to France Ambassador to Italy (2014-2017).

A source close to her told Reuters she is “simple, hardworking and very demanding” when it comes to human relationships.

Born in the Centre-Val de Loire region, Colonna grew up on a farm run by her Corsican father. in 2004 Interview with the French daily Liberation She heartily called herself “a country woman” who is “practical and who loves to work on the ground”.

Left-leaning publications described him as “a fine little soldier of the republic”.

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a ‘left-leaning heart’

Colonna is best known as the spokeswoman for the late President Jacques Chirac, a job she held for nine years (1995–2004) – an unusually long term for such a position – in which France defeated the 2003 American in Iraq. opposed the war led. According to LiberationVisitors to the Elysee Palace will occasionally see Chirac looking for him when he forgets a name or description.

Although she worked under the conservative Chirac from 1995 to 2004—a nomination that “stunned” her, as she told Liberation—she has a “rather left-leaning heart.” She returned to government from 2005 to 2017 as deputy minister for European affairs under then prime minister (and decades-old friend) Dominique de Villepin.

Then-President Jacques Chirac speaks to spokesman Catherine Colonna during the official visit of Egyptian President Hosni Moubaraq to Paris on July 3, 1999. © Georges Gobet, AFP

the anger of the diplomatic corps

However, for now, she is tasked with facing the wrath of the diplomatic corps, whose unions have called for a strike – only the second in his history – on Macron’s proposals to reform the diplomatic service, starting on June 2. His reforms include abolishing a special status for senior officials of the Ministry of External Affairs that would integrate them into a wider pool of civil servants.

Colona’s appointment may indicate that Macron is trying to please the people of the Foreign Ministry. During a power transfer ceremony with his predecessor Le Drian on Saturday, the new foreign minister assured diplomats he had “full confidence” in him.

“We need each of you. You can count on me to never forget who I am or where I came from… You have all my confidence,” she said in a brief speech. Let’s go to work together.”

“He will be appreciated in the Ministry of External Affairs. She will reassure him at a time when the ministry is facing doubts and uncertainty about the end of the diplomatic corps,” former Russia ambassador Jean de Glinisti told AFP.

“The Ministry of External Affairs is not in good shape psychologically.”

As France’s top diplomat, she will work closely with centre-right MP Sebastian Lecornu, a close aide of Macron, who will take over as defense minister.

In his farewell speech on Saturday, his predecessor Le Drian at the Quai d’Orsay summarized some of the challenges ahead for the foreign ministry: war in Ukraine, the jihadist threat and an increasingly “brutal” world.

For his part, Colonna said that he took on his new mission “with humility, determination and conviction”, while noting that much effort would be needed to “reduce the world’s woes” about which I spoke to Le Drian.

Newly appointed Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna hugs former French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian after the handover ceremony at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris, Saturday, 21 May 2022.
Newly appointed Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna hugs former French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian after the handover ceremony at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris, Saturday, 21 May 2022. © Christophe Petit Tesson, AP

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