PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron picked a political ally and a former swimming world champion to plug two holes in his government left by the unexpected resignations of the environment and sports ministers.
The presidential Elysee Palace announced the mini-reshuffle in a brief statement Tuesday.
Francois de Rugy, president of the National Assembly, parliament’s lower house, takes over at the ecology ministry. He replaces Nicolas Hulot, a high-profile and popular green campaigner who quit last week, lamenting that not enough is being done against environmental destruction.
The new sports minister, Roxana Maracineanu, was a backstroke world champion in 1998 and an Olympic silver medalist in 2000. She replaces Laura Flessel, a double Olympic gold medalist in fencing, who cited “personal reasons” for her unexpected resignation on Tuesday.
De Rugy will see oversee energy and transport policies as part of his environment brief. As such, he will be one of the public faces of Macron’s efforts to position France as a champion in the fight against climate change and as a counterweight to the environmental policies of President Donald Trump.
The loss of Hulot, who quit out of the blue last week during a live radio interview, deprived Macron of one of his most popular ministers and cast doubt on the strength of the French leader’s commitment to “make our planet great again.”
Hulot, a long-time environmental advocate, lamented France’s slow pace of progress on green issues and his own lack of power as minister to force change.
De Rugy is a former Green party member who backed Macron during his 2017 electoral campaign and became a member of his party, Republic on the Move.