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Macron names 1st French female PM in 30 years; her father was Polish Jewish refugee

Elisabeth Borne is only the second woman in the history of French politics to hold the position

France's newly appointed Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne delivers a speech during a handover ceremony in the courtyard of the Hotel Matignon, French prime ministers' official residence, in Paris on May 16, 2022. (Ludovic MARIN/POOL/AFP)
France's newly appointed Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne delivers a speech during a handover ceremony in the courtyard of the Hotel Matignon, French prime ministers' official residence, in Paris on May 16, 2022. (Ludovic MARIN/POOL/AFP)

Elisabeth Borne was appointed on Monday as France’s new prime minister, the second time a woman has held the office.

Borne, 61, was appointed by Macron after Jean Castex resigned from the post earlier in the day. It is common for French presidents to have several prime ministers serve under them throughout their time in office.

The last time a woman held the office was in 1992, when Edith Cresson served briefly under then-president Francois Mitterrand.

“I know Mrs. Borne is a remarkable person with a lot of experience…I think it is a very good choice,” the former prime minister told BFM news.

Borne took to Twitter to thank Macron and Castex. “The challenges before us are great. I fully appreciate this responsibility,” she wrote.

Borne was born in Paris in 1961 to Joseph Bornstein and Marguerite Lecesne, who together managed a pharmaceutical lab. Her father was a Polish Jew who escaped to France after the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939.

Bornstein became a member of the French resistance, and was eventually captured and deported to Auschwitz in 1944. He survived and returned to France, gaining citizenship in 1950.

Borne’s father died in 1972. She gained “pupil of the nation” status, qualifying for educational benefits that are given to children of parents who were injured as a result of war, terrorism, or providing public services.

Her new role as prime minister is not the first time she has achieved a first as a woman: In 2013 she was appointed Prefect of Vienne and the Region of Poitou-Charentes.

In 2015, she was appointed CEO of RATP, a state-owned company that runs Paris’s transportation system.

A successful career bureaucrat, Borne served in multiple positions under Socialist party ministers before joining Macron’s centrist En Marche party in 2017.

In this photo from June 27, 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron and Minister Elisabeth Borne (L) at the Elysee Palace in Paris. (Julien de Rosa/Pool/AFP)

In Macron’s first government, she served briefly as transportation minister. In 2018, she weathered a union strike, passing a bill opening the SNCF railway company to competition. She then served as minister for ecological transition for a year, and has been serving as labor minister since 2020, presiding over France’s lowest unemployment rate in 15 years.

Borne is a left-leaning technocrat who has never been elected to public office. According to France 24 news, Macron sought to appoint someone with a strong background in the environment and social policy in the lead-up to parliamentary elections in June, when he will face challenges from left-leaning parties, led by Jean-Luc Melenchon.

Melenchon assailed the appointment, citing Borne’s alignment with the president’s plans to raise the retirement age. “Ms. Borne is against raising minimum wages and for retiring at 65. Here we go for a new season of social mistreatment,” he said, according to the BBC.

Former prime minister Cresson said that Borne “will need lots of courage, claiming that French politics is still very “macho.”

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