Sarkozy appoints Francois Fillon as French PM

Francois Fillon has been appointed the new Prime Minister of France, taking over from Dominique de Villepin. President Nicolas Sarkozy made the appointment on his first day in office.

During a ceremony at Matignon, the Prime Minister's official residence, Dominique de Villepin handed over power.

“Naturally, I would like to wish Francois Fillon good luck and to give him my hopes and my trust. He has all of the talents to succeed at the service of our country. Thank you, Francois and good luck,” he said.

Mr Fillon is a moderate right wing reformer. As Minister for Social Affairs under Chirac, he pushed through a controversial pensions overhaul, despite mass street protests.

President Sarkozy plans to pass a series of reforms as soon as possible: to cut taxes, curb trade union power and make work contracts more flexible. Some of the reforms could face resistance and the President believes Francois Fillon will help to push them through.

“The presidential elections have brought in a new political path chosen by the citizens. It's my duty, and I will respect all of the commitments that we've taken because the renovation of political life is at stake. I will be listening to all of the French because as France is changing, it needs everyone,” said the new France’s Prime Minister.

Nicolas Sarkozy's promises to boost France’s stagnating economy appealed to French voters.

As concerns what the voters themselves think, one of them, Musher Papazian, used to run a Russian restaurant in Paris, but value added tax (VAT) in the catering business was too high and he was forced to sack his employees and close down his business. Instead, he opened a Russian grocery store.

“Many politicians promised to lower VAT, but no one actually did. We chose Sarkozy because he said he will create favourable conditions for small businesses by lowering taxes,” said Musher Papazian. 

He hopes Sarkozy will make running his business more lucrative, and that the empty promises of past governments won’t be repeated.

It's not only domestic policy that the new government wants to change. It's also expected to take a more pro-American foreign policy stance. But the new Prime Minister says relationships with other countries like Russia will also be important.

“We think Russia is a great country not only in the geographical sense of the word. It plays a huge role in the world’s politics. We respect Russia and want to develop our relations with it,” claims Francois Fillon.

Nicolas Sarkozy is set to announce the rest of his 15 member cabinet on Friday. However, Fillon's post is not yet set in stone.  First the President’s UMP party must win a majority in June’s parliamentary elections.