Laurence Boone, an internationally renowned economist, is appointed Secretary of State for European Affairs in France. She will work under Foreign and European Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna.The 53-year-old Boone was previously chief economist and, since January, deputy secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
She knows exactly how the EU works because she used to be ex-President François Hollande’s personal Europe envoy. As an economist, she understands the economic challenges that will become increasingly important in the EU this year. Inflation and concerns about gas supplies will keep Europe busy.
The choice of an economist for the post is rather unusual, but fits the times. Up to now, it was rather political experts who were responsible for Europe, from Michel Barnier to Pierre Moscovici to Bruno Le Maire. Boone’s predecessor was Clément Beaune, who was previously Macron’s European advisor and skillfully portrayed Europe and Macron’s commitment to it in the media. He was even frequently called “Monsieur Europe.”
Boone has big shoes to fill. But for some time now, Parisian circles have been saying that Beaune wants to do something different from Europe and is therefore now responsible for transportation. At least when it comes to the pronunciation of the last name, you don’t have to change much in Europe, many joked on Twitter and in France’s media.
Boone is seen in France as someone who is hard-working, diplomatic and educational, plus pragmatic and realistic. She shares with Macron a commitment to a strong Europe. Experts have no doubt that Boone is suitable for the post. Paul Maurice of the Ifri Research Institute for International Relations told Europe.Table, “She has a similar profile to Beaune, both were European advisers. The situation is just slightly different. For Macron, the Europe issue was important in the election campaign; Beaune had to highlight it. Boone now has to get a handle on the Ukraine crisis.” Choosing an economist was the right thing to do, he said, because “economic issues like inflation and the budget will become more important in Europe in the future.”
“Left-wing political leanings”
Nicolas Véron of the Bruegel Institute also stressed to Les Echos : “She is well prepared for the role because she has done many different things.” She is experienced in economic analysis at major banks, in international relations through the OECD and European policy alongside Hollande. She should have no difficulties on the international stage, she speaks perfect English, studied economics in London at the London School of Economics and in Nanterre near Paris.
Born in Boulogne-Billancourt near Paris, the mother of two has worked as chief economist for Europe at Barclays Capital France and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. She was at insurance company Axa before joining the OECD in 2018. She has also made a name for herself in politics. She became economic advisor to Hollande in 2014 – when she replaced Emmanuel Macron, who became economy minister.
From that time, she knows Macron well, who, like her, was also previously employed in the banking sector. The two remained in close working contact after that. Hollande also appointed her as his special advisor for European affairs, and she remained at the Elysée Palace for almost two years. She had campaigned for Greece to remain in the eurozone, opposing Germany and Angela Merkel. Boone is considered a representative of social-liberal policies and told “Le Monde” at the time that she had “left-wing political leanings.”
Convince France of Europe
Boone takes office at a difficult time, in the pandemic and Ukraine crisis. Energy security, a Europe of defense, EU enlargement, budget policy will be the priorities of Europeans in the near future. In the fall, the EU will discuss the Stability Pact. France is in favor of weakened budget rules to ensure more investment, such as in digital. Boone will have to defend France’s position in the EU together with Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire.
“She does not share Germany’s obsessions with a balanced budget,” commented the daily Liberation. She is in favor of more financial solidarity in the EU between the eurozone states, as started with the 2020 European Recovery Plan. According to the newspaper, she also gave up the post with Hollande because she found him too “pusillanimous” toward Germany.
Yet it’s not only in Brussels that it must become active. In France, too, there will be work to be done to convince people about Europe, because the right-wing extremists in the National Assembly under Marine Le Pen and the leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who has forged the Nupes alliance, are skeptical about Europe and could oppose European projects. Tanja Kuchenbecker