INTERNATIONAL: Cope named top PR official in French govt

PARIS: France's newly appointed government, headed by Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, has named Jean-Francois Cope as its chief media spokesman and top PR official.

Cope took on the role of secretary of state in charge of relations with Parliament last week, following President Jacques Chirac's 5 May re-election to a five-year term as French head of state.

The government spokesman also holds the title of Mayor of Meaux in France and is considered a close Gaullist aide of Chirac.

Cope is a graduate of Ecole Nationale de l'Administration (ENA) and is a specialist in finance.

Speculation suggests Cope was also hoping for the role of Minister of the Budget in the new government.

In his communications role, he will hold responsibility for all official statements to be made by the Government and Raffarin.

He is also understood to be providing ad hoc communications advice to President Chirac.

Prime Minister Raffarin is expected to place added emphasis on communications within the Government due to his background in marcoms and PR.

Prior to his career in politics, Raffarin worked as director of marketing for French coffee brand Cafes Jacques Vabre.

He also worked for a number of years at French PR agency Bernard Krief Consulting, headed by president Louis Petiet.

The agency is known for its political lobbying work and communications strategies among a range of PR offerings.

Raffarin is widely speculated to have become an unofficial image counsellor to Chirac in recent years and is believed to have helped provide behind-the-scenes advice for the President's recent winning campaign.

Chirac, who defeated far-right leader Jean Marie Le Pen in the elections nearly two weeks ago, is starting his second term as France's head of state at the age of 69.

He has served twice as Prime Minister in his lengthy political career and for 18 years held the influential post of Paris mayor.

Chirac also founded his own party, the Rally for the Republic, in 1976.

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