France’s former minister for energy transition, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, has been appointed ‘minister delegate’ to the Agriculture Ministry to support Marc Fesneau, the minister already in place, in the midst of a major crisis in the sector.
The government is under pressure to make new commitments to farmers ahead of the Salon International de l’Agriculture from 24 February to 3 March, and it is hoped Pannier-Runacher will be able to help strengthen food sovereignty and the competitiveness of the agri-food industry.
Pannier-Runachér “will be responsible in particular for ecological planning in the agricultural sector, energy issues and in particular the production of biomass, the agri-food industries, as well as innovation and research”, the Ministry of Agriculture explained on Saturday (10 February), following last Thursday’s announcement.
Pannier-Runacher, for her part, wrote on X that “after five years devoted to strengthening our industrial and energy sovereignty, I will devote all my energy to our farmers and our food sovereignty”. A ‘minister delegate’ in France denotes an equivalent to a deputy minister in charge of a specific issue within a ministry.
A crisis manager
Pannier-Runacher joined the government in 2018 as minister for industry before becoming minister for energy transition in 2022, amid the energy supply crisis, rising electricity prices and falling output from France’s nuclear fleet.
Her role in the EU was primarily to help reach an agreement on the reform of the European electricity market.
She also battled for two years to safeguard and impose the French vision, based on the recognition of the advantages of nuclear power, to achieve the EU’s decarbonisation objectives set out in the Green Deal.
She quit the post of energy minister following a reshuffle in the French government in mid-January.
“I’m leaving the Ministry of Energy proud of the results we’ve achieved. Relaunching nuclear power and renewable energies, sobriety, lower emissions, European successes, COP28: I fought to make France stronger and more sovereign”, she wrote on X at the time.
National and European issues
In her new role, she will support the agriculture minister on issues that “echo her former duties”, including energy issues and biomass production, agri-food industries, innovation and research.
Above all, as Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau said, her arrival is designed to “meet the major challenge of ensuring our food sovereignty and the ecological transition”.
The government needs to make progress on a major national ‘farm bill’, which has been postponed many times and is due to be submitted to parliament in the spring, according to a timetable laid down by farmers following the initial measures announced by new Prime Minister Gabriel Attal on 1 February.
“If all this is just a flash in the pan, we’ll do it again”, Arnaud Rousseau, chief of the majority union (FNSEA), told AFP in reference to the January demonstrations and road blockades.
He voiced hope that, following the arrival of Pannier-Runacher as delegate minister, the proposals would arrive “twice as fast”.
[Edited by Angelo Di Mambro/Alice Taylor]