Ministry of Foreign Affairs: what assessment for Annick Girardin?

Appointed in 2017 to the Overseas Ministry, Annick Girardin, the first Saint-Pierraise to enter a government, remained in that position for three years. From the Overseas Conference to the first wave of Covid-19 in overseas territories, what to remember of these three years?

End of Emmanuel Macron’s first five-year term, and while awaiting the future government for its second term, Abroad the 1st takes stock of the two overseas ministers under the current president. After Sébastien Lecornu’s assessment, we are interested in the one who was, for three years, one month and 19 days, the Overseas Minister in the government of Edouard Philippe, Annick Girardin.

Like his successor in the face of the Covid-19 crisis, a social crisis in the West Indies or even the third Caledonian referendum, Saint-Pierraise had an eventful passage through the rue Oudinot. The only survivor with Jean-Yves Le Drian of François Hollande’s term, she was appointed Minister of Overseas in the first government of Edouard Philippe. Post that she maintains after the legislative elections she won in Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, in the second government of Le Havrais. This is where she really begins her ministry action.

It was a campaign promise by candidate Emmanuel Macron in 2017, the “Assises des Outre-mer”. Launched in July 2017, it is a multi-month consultation in overseas territories, aimed at raising local needs and projects. The objective according to the minister: “give voice to those who no longer have it and have lost confidence in public action, (to lead to) concrete projects that meet real needs, diagnosed territory by territory”.

From his “Assises”, emerged in June 2018, the Overseas Blue Book, which defines the government’s foreign policy. With 200 pages and 28 topics (safety, health, education, etc.), this book takes into account the specific risks of overseas France, ecology, support for agriculture and cost of living. However, these “Aid Abroad” will quickly be overshadowed by current events, although according to the government, as of September 2019, 85% of the measures contained in the Blue Book have been implemented.

A few months after taking office, Annick Girardin faced a major natural disaster in the Lesser Antilles: Hurricane Irma. On 6 September 2017, the latter devastated Saint-Barthélemy and, to a greater extent, Saint-Martin. On this island, ten people died on the French side, 95% of the houses were affected and 60% became uninhabitable.

The minister arrives at the scene the day after the disaster and imposes her style, the “Girardin style”. In contact with the population, close to the people, in guards and uniforms, she crosses the island amidst the rubble. Most of all, as another hurricane, “José”, approaches, she stays with the residents. Fortunately, this hurricane will not cause any additional damage. But these images of a minister on the ground have stunned the media. Liberation newspaper described her as a “roots” minister.

A few months later, a social movement broke out in Mayotte. This follows school violence. Very quickly, the protesters demanded measures to put the department on a par with other French departments, the fight against illegal immigration and against insecurity. On February 27, 2018, a “dead island” day is organized.

It is in this electric and almost hostile atmosphere that the minister arrives in Mayotte on March 12, as the inter-union and the citizens’ collective believe that her arrival is “unwanted”. However, as soon as she arrived, Annick Girardin initiated dialogue with the protesters at the barriers. But despite her always frontal approach to dialogue, obstacles are still in place when she leaves.

She will return to the island two months later to announce the state’s measures regarding Mayotte’s future. The minister will detail the 53 commitments assumed by the State and group 125 actions in health, education or even security.

Another social crisis, but this time national, the crisis of the yellow vests. In the Overseas Territories, it is in Réunion that the yellow vests have been the most mobilized. The “roots” minister, to calm the situation, travels to the island ten days after the start of the mobilization. Barely set foot, Annick Girardin finds himself in contact with a first dam made by yellow vests.

“You will all have the opportunity to discuss with me. I have come to speak directly to the people of Reunion. I have come to discuss with you. I am by your side to find solutions for employment. I am by your side to find solutions for dear life. .”

Booed by the protesters, she listens to the grievances of the Reunionians present. Since her second day at the site, the Overseas Minister has made announcements, namely about employment, with a reform that foresees, among other things, zero charging around the minimum wage, but also the creation of a free zone of activity. During these ads, she doesn’t forget to accuse”a minority that sows chaos”.

Annick Girardin returned to Reunion in March 2019 to take stock of the yellow vest crisis and commitments made a few months earlier. A big difference from your previous visit, no welcome committee. The calm before the storm. She started by taking stock of the measures that had been taken. According to the Minister:a good part of the commitments has already been fulfilled, others are in progress, others took longer and this will have to be explained”.

The last day of your visit is busy. On your journey, a demonstration. She goes to meet the protesters, but the dialogue, far from being cordial, was short-lived. Under the boos he started, under the boos he will end. Annick Girardin will end his three-day visit to the island with a speech in the presence of 300 local institutional actors. The yellow vest crisis will wear off, as far as she is concerned, with time.

Although she only has a few months ahead of her ministry, a major challenge awaits the minister, the Covid-19 pandemic. On March 1, 2020, the first cases were recorded in overseas France, in Saint-Barthélemy and Saint-Martin. So, very quickly, cases are discovered everywhere. In Guyana on March 4th, in Martinique on March 5th, March 11th in Réunion, March 12th in Guadeloupe and March 13th in Mayotte.

On March 15, Annick Girardin announced the closure of all “non-essential” stores to the public. On March 17, as in France, containment measures abroad began. During the pandemic, it remains active and announces on April 19, a support system for families in overseas departments and regions. On May 19, 2020, the minister traveled to Mayotte, hit hard by the first wave of the virus.

“I am here to support those who are fighting on the front lines. Half of the (coronavirus) cases in the overseas territories are here in Mayotte. »

Annick Girardin

His last trip as Overseas Minister will be in Guyana, at the end of June 2020, as part of the fight against Covid-19, where the pandemic is strong.

After remaining in government after the change of president, Annick Girardin is still there, but changing cabinets. However, he remains close to the Overseas Territories, as under Jean Castex, he becomes Minister of the Sea. It is the first time since 1991 that it has been a full-fledged ministry elsewhere.

This appointment is a kind of twist of fate for those who have never stopped claiming the link between this ministry and the Overseas Territories. Saint-Pierraise à la Mer, the daughter of a fisherman turned baker, is a pretty designated choice knowing that 90% of the French Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is located in the overseas territories.

It was to Normand Sébastien Lecornu that she left her seat in the Overseas Territories after three eventful years. A place he still occupies. The question that arises now, when a new government is at hand, will Annick Girardin stay there? She has now been there for eight years, starting as Secretary of State for Development and La Francophonie, then becoming Minister of Public Service before moving to the Overseas Territories. But the list she recently topped in territorial elections in Saint-Pierre and Miquelon lost 38.1% of the vote. This raises the question of Annick Girardin’s political future.

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