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Ethics Concerns Delay French Cabinet Announcement

French President Emmanuel Macron has delayed the announcement of his first cabinet by 24 hours until Wednesday, with his office saying extra checks had to be made on the tax affairs of potential ministers.

Although the extra background checks on ministers' "tax status" and possible conflicts of interests were the reasons given for the delay, it is also possible 39-year-old Macron needs more time to complete a delicate balancing act.

Macron, a centrist, has promised to include faces from the left and right as well as political newcomers.

On Monday, his first day in office, he named center-right MP Edouard Philippe as prime minister and traveled to Berlin for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on reforming the European Union.

On Tuesday, he and Philippe had been expected to finalize and announce a government which Macron says will bridge France's entrenched left-right divide and breathe new life into the country's jaded political landscape.

But Macron's office said the government line-up would not be unveiled until 3:00pm (1300 GMT) on Wednesday.

A statement said the president was going above and beyond what is required by law in scrutinizing his ministers' financial affairs.

The delay was to allow checks to be made on their tax status "whereas the law stipulates that this check only needs to be done after they are named", the presidency said.

Macron has said half his ministers will be women and that some will be high achievers in business, academia, the civil service or the NGO world.

Some could be replaced after next month's parliamentary election, depending on how many seats Macron's fledgling Republique En Marche (REM) party wins.

So far his appointments to his presidential team have all been men under 50, most of them graduates like him of France's elite ENA college for senior public servants, which has turned out generations of French politicians.

His choice of 46-year-old Philippe for prime minister was seen as a strategic pick by Macron, who is trying to woo modernizers of all stripes to his side.

He needs to win over part of the left and the right to deliver on his promise of a cross-party approach and weaken his opponents ahead of the two-round June 11-18 parliamentary vote.

Philippe -- a moderate member of the Republicans party -- is seen as Macron's Trojan horse on the right.

While some in the Republicans fumed at Philippe's appointment, seeing it as a betrayal, others urged the party to accept Macron's "outstretched hand."

- Sole surviving Socialist minister? -

Among people tipped for cabinet jobs are conservative ex-agriculture minister Bruno Le Maire, centrist MEP Sylvie Goulard, Lyon's Socialist Mayor Gerard Collomb and the veteran popular outgoing Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Le Drian is expected to be the only survivor from Francois Hollande's little-loved Socialist government. 

Among the non-politicians to be offered roles is well-known environmentalist Nicolas Hulot, a source in the presidency said.

- 'Historic' EU reform -

A day after his inauguration, the fervently pro-EU Macron made his first trip abroad to Germany, the other half of the power couple driving European integration.

Merkel warmly welcomed the fourth president to occupy the Elysee Palace since she came to power 12 years ago.

Macron, who trounced far-right anti-EU leader Marine Le Pen in the election, urged a "historic reconstruction" of Europe to battle the populism sweeping the continent and widespread disillusionment with the bloc.

Merkel said they had "a common understanding that we can't just focus on Britain leaving the EU."

"We have to think about how we can deepen and crisis-proof the European Union, and especially the eurozone," she said.

Ahead of his visit, Macron's ideas on reforming the eurozone -- including giving it a separate budget and minister, moves that would require a treaty change -- had sparked skepticism in Berlin.

Merkel, however, seemed keen to give Macron's proposals consideration.

"From the German point of view, it's possible to change the treaty if it makes sense," she said.

Source: Agence France Presse


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