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Sylvie Goulard, Minister for the Armed Forces. Why ?

(B2) Everyone was able to question and discuss the reasons for the new name of the Minister of Defense, who became Minister of the Armed Forces, and his scope of action.


Minister of War, Armies, Defence?

This name is actually quite old and has a more Pompidolian tone than modern. The title of Minister of the Armed Forces is rare in recent French ministerial history. The former Ministry of War has become in modern times, Ministry of Defense, thus taking on a more general assertion, then covering the Air and Navy. It was only during a few intermittent periods that he took the name of Minister of the Armed Forces. The first to hold this title was Edmond Michelet, for a brief period, following the Second World War. In the Fifth Republic, the ministers bearing this title were mainly at the beginning of the Fifth and especially during the Pompidou era. The last to hold this title was Robert Galley in 1974, after Pierre Messmer.

The minister of “armies” is no longer minister of defense?

But we must be right, the decrees are clear on the issue, today's Minister of the Armed Forces has the same scope of action as a Minister of Defense of yesterday (as defined by the Defense Code) .

Who has the capacity to define national defence?

From a constitutional point of view, it is the President of the Republic who is “the head of the armies” and “chairs the councils and higher committees of national defense” (article 15). Even if it is the Prime Minister who is “responsible for national defense” and appoints civil AND military positions” (article 27), this assertion applies more to questions of civil protection than military defense. In fact, the practice has been that the question of the direction of the armies as well as the conception of national defense is the responsibility of the President. A practice that dates back to Royalty and the Empire.

What is the Minister's room for manoeuvre?

What gives weight to a Minister of Defense next to a President is not so much in the title as in the way the President sees his role, in the confidence he has in his minister... and the events. A “Le Drian” who had all the confidence of Hollande is not a “Morin” who did not really have the confidence of Sarkozy. It is a certain fact that in France, it is the President who has a primordial role in matters of defense.

What is the particularity of the post of Defense at the political level?

It is one of the sovereign positions (along with that of Foreign Affairs) over which the President of the Republic keeps control, or a certain control (in the case of cohabitation), and over which the Prime Minister has nothing (or little ) to say. In a government where women do not, despite everything, have any major position, having a woman in this position is also, and first of all, a political signal.

Why Sylvie Goulard in this position?

Sylvie Goulard is a devotee, one of the first to rally around Emmanuel Macron. She has, moreover, a rigor, a certain rigidity some would say, an operation which will perhaps acclimatize. She is also a convinced European, good knowledge of European life in Brussels, and known in Berlin or Rome. This in itself is a very clear signal of the priorities that the new president wants to give. . Certainly she is not a Defense specialist (she is more interested in the Euro Zone and the economy than in strategic questions, it's no secret). But she is an intelligent woman, able to understand a file very quickly.

Germany in the sights?

After Mali and NATO, in the footsteps of Emmanuel Macron, the new minister's first trip abroad will be... to Berlin. An almost obligatory passage for any minister in the Macron I government. A necessity if we want to move the Europe of defense even a little further. Because between Germany and France, even if there seems to be agreement on the words, there are numerous disagreements on the substance, particularly on permanent structured cooperation. Germany has been waiting for months for a more deliberate commitment from Paris to this project.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).