by Christina Mackenzie and Nathan Gain
Sylvie Goulard, 52, has been appointed Minister for the Armed Forces in the new French government by President Emmanuel Macron. She thus becomes the second woman in the history of the Vth Republic to be handed the keys of this ministry, 10 years almost to the day after Michèle Alliot-Marie.
Goulard, considered by many as a potential prime minister (a job that finally went to Le Havre mayor Edouard Philippe), is now number four in the government, ahead of her predecessor in the job Jean-Yves le Drian who now stands fifth in the government at the helm of the foreign ministry.
Military analysts told FOB that Goulard’s appointment was “extremely surprising”, as is the change in the name of the Defence Ministry, returning to the name it held until 1958: “Ministry for the Armed Forces.”
Following Macron’s ride up the Champs Elysées in a command-car and his visit to the Percy military hospital on his inauguration day, this change in name is a very strong signal from the new president demonstrating a favourable attitude towards the armed forces.
Even if MEP (member of the European parliament) Goulard, author of seven books on Europe and an expert in economic and monetary affairs, has no experience of the military world, she does have privileged access to Macron and will doubtless know how to choose a cabinet of people well versed in the defence sector. That will be key.
Another crucial element is her long experience of Europe. President of the “France European Movement” from 2006 to 2010, Goulard has since dedicated herself entirely to her role as an MEP in the ADLE (Alliance of Democrats and Liberals for Europe) group.
Notably close to the German political world, she was responsible for organising the first meeting between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron. She is also a member of the European Parliament’s Delegation for relations with the United States.
Goulard was one of the first to support Macron when he launched his En Marche! movement a year ago.
In an interview last week with French weekly Le Point, former Italian premier Mario Monti said of Goulard, with whom he has co-authored a book on European democracy, that she is “tenacious and capable of great resilience in difficulties. Some would even say… opinionated. That said, she is open to discussion and can change her mind.”
Sylvie Grassi was born on 6 December 1964 in Marseilles and is married to Guillaume Goulard. The couple have three children. She obtained her law degree from the University of Aix-en-Provence, then continued her studies at the Institute of Political Studies (‘Sciences Po’) in Paris. Like Macron and Philippe she was admitted to the prestigious National School of Adminstration (ENA – Ecole Nationale d’Administration). She then joined the legal affairs department of the foreign ministry where she was part of the French team negotiating the reunification of Germany
In addition to her native French she is fluent in German, English and Italian.
Her appointment seems to be sending a strong signal at a time when the construction of Defence Europe is returning to centre stage.