Édith Cresson

Édith Cresson (French pronunciation: ​[edit kʁɛsɔ̃]; née Campion; born 27 January 1934) is a French politician. She is the first woman to have held the office of Prime Minister of France. It took until May 16, 2022 to see the appointment of Élisabeth Borne. Other than her breakthrough gender role, Edith Cresson term was uneventful. Her political career ended in scandal as a result of corruption charges dating from her tenure as European Commissioner for Research, Science and Technology.

Édith Cresson
Edith Cresson2.png
Prime Minister of France
In office
15 May 1991 – 2 April 1992
PresidentFrançois Mitterrand
Preceded byMichel Rocard
Succeeded byPierre Bérégovoy
European Commissioner for Research, Science and Technology
In office
23 January 1995 – 12 September 1999
PresidentJacques Santer
Manuel Marín (Acting)
Preceded byAntonio Ruberti
Succeeded byPhilippe Busquin
Personal details
Édith Campion

(1934-01-27) 27 January 1934 (age 88)
Boulogne-Billancourt, France
Political partySocialist Party
Spouse(s)Jacques Cresson
Alma materHEC Paris

French Prime MinisterEdit

Cresson was appointed to the prime ministerial post by President François Mitterrand on 15 May 1991. She soon became strongly unpopular among the electorate and had to leave office after less than one year, following the Socialists' poor showing in 1992's regional elections. Her premiership is one of the shortest in the history of the Fifth Republic. Her strong criticism of Japanese trade practices, going so far as to compare the Japanese to "yellow ants trying to take over the world", led to charges of racism.[1][2][3] Discussing the sexual activities of Anglo-Saxon males, she said: "Homosexuality seems strange to me. It's different and marginal. It exists more in the Anglo-Saxon tradition than the Latin one."[3]

In social policy, Cresson's government enacted the Urban Framework Act of 1991,[4] which sought to ensure a "right to the city" for all citizens. The Act required "local bodies to provide living and dwelling conditions which will foster social cohesion and enable conditions of segregation to be avoided."[5] The Cresson Government also placed considerable emphasis during its time in office on facilitating the international competitiveness of firms with under 500 employees.[6] A law was passed in July 1991 which included several measures aimed at improving access of people with disabilities to housing, work places, and public buildings.[7] In addition an Act of July 1991 on legal aid "gave the public (above all, foreigners who are lawfully domiciled in France) wider access to the courts."[8] In January 1992, housing allowances were extended to all low-income households in cities with more than 100 000 inhabitants.[9] Under a law of 10 July 1991, access to legal information “was also included as part of the legal aid system.”[10] A water law was passed in January 1992 "to ensure the protection of water quality and quantity and aquatic ecosystems,"[11] and in February 1992 a law was passed to promote citizens' consultation.[12]

Cresson is a member of the Council of Women World Leaders, an International network of current and former women presidents and prime ministers whose mission is to mobilize the highest-level women leaders globally for collective action on issues of critical importance to women and equitable development.

European CommissionerEdit

While a European Commissioner, Cresson was the main target in the fraud allegations that led to the resignation of the Santer Commission in 1999. Subsequent to a fraud inquiry the European Commission said that Cresson in her capacity as the Research Commissioner "failed to act in response to known, serious and continuing irregularities over several years". Cresson was found guilty of not reporting failures in a youth training programme from which vast sums went missing.[13]

Appointing a friendEdit

When Cresson took up her functions, she intended to appoint dental surgeon Philippe Berthelot, one of her close acquaintances, as a "personal advisor". Because Berthelot was 66 years old, he could not be appointed as a member of a Commissioner's Cabinet. When Cresson took up office, her Cabinet was already fully staffed with personal advisors. Berthelot was instead engaged as a "visiting scientist" in September 1995.[14]

Berthelot worked only as a personal advisor to Cresson. His contract expired on 1 March 1997, and he was offered another visiting scientist's contract for a period of one year. EU rules specify a maximum duration of 24 months for visiting scientists, but Berthelot spent two and a half years in the position.[14]

On 31 December 1997, Berthelot requested the termination of his contract on medical grounds, and his application was accepted. A complaint was made by a member of parliament, and a criminal investigation concerning Berthelot was opened in Belgium in 1999. In June 2004, the Chambre du conseil of the Tribunal de première instance de Bruxelles (Court of First Instance, Brussels) decided that no further action should be taken in the case.[14]

European Commission vs. Édith CressonEdit

On 11 July 2006, in a judgment by the European Court of Justice on Case C-432/04 (Commission of the European Communities versus Édith Cresson), the Court declared that Édith Cresson acted in breach of her obligations as a European Commissioner. While the breach of the obligations arising from the office of Member of the Commission calls, in principle, for the imposition of a penalty, the Court held that, having regard to the circumstances of the case, the finding of breach constituted, of itself, an appropriate penalty and, accordingly, decided not to impose on Cresson a penalty in the form of a deprivation of her right to a pension or other benefits.[15][16][17]

Cresson claimed that where the conduct complained of in criminal and disciplinary proceedings was the same, the findings of the criminal court were binding on the disciplinary authorities. However, the Court held that it was not bound by the legal characterisation of facts made in the context of the criminal proceedings and that it was for the Court, exercising its discretion to the full, to investigate whether the conduct complained of in proceedings brought under Article 213(2) EC constituted a breach of the obligations arising from the office of Commissioner. Accordingly, the decision of the Chambre du conseil of the Tribunal de première instance de Bruxelles that there was no evidence of criminal conduct on Cresson's part could not bind the Court.

Political careerEdit

European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, 1995–1999.

Governmental functions

Prime minister, 1991–1992 (Resignation).

Minister of Agriculture, 1981–1983.

Minister of Foreign trade and Tourism, 1983–1984.

Minister of Industrial Redeployment and Foreign Trade, 1984–1986.

Minister of European Affairs, 1988–1990 (Resignation).

Electoral mandates

European Parliament

Member of European Parliament, 1979–1981 (Elected in parliamentary elections, and became minister in 1981). Elected in 1979.

National Assembly of France

Member of the National Assembly of France for Vienne (4th constituency), Elected in 1981, but she became minister in June / 1986–1988. Elected in 1981, reelected in 1986, 1988.

General Council

General councillor of Vienne, 1982–1998 (Resignation). Reelected in 1988, 1994.

Municipal Council

Mayor of Châtellerault, 1983–1997 (Resignation). Reelected in 1989, 1995.

Deputy-mayor of Châtellerault, 1997–2008. Reelected in 2001.

Municipal councillor of Châtellerault, 1983–2008. Reelected in 1989, 1995, 2001.

Mayor of Thuré, 1977–1983.

Municipal councillor of Thuré, 1977–1983.

Cresson's Cabinet, 15 May 1991 – 2 April 1992Edit

Édith Cresson – Prime Minister

Personal lifeEdit

Cresson is married and has two daughters.

Selected publicationsEdit

  • 1976: Avec le soleil, Paris: Éditions Jean-Claude Lattès
  • 1989: L'Europe à votre porte: manuel pratique sur les actions de la CEE intéressant les opérateurs économiques, Centre français du commerce extérieur (with Henri Malosse)
  • 1998: Innover ou subir. Paris: éditions Flammarion ISBN 2-08-035504-X
  • 2006: Histoires françaises. Monaco: Éditions du Rocher ISBN 2-268-06015-2 (autobiography)


  1. ^ News Week Japanese Edition, 30 May 1991
  2. ^ The Mainichi Daily News, 21 June 1991
  3. ^ a b Rone Tempest, Los Angeles Times, 23. Juli 1991: Edith Cresson's Answer to TV Spoof: Hush Puppet! France's brutally frank premier says her caricature on one of the nation's most popular shows is sexist, unfair Archived 2 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine (english)
  4. ^ "Policy and Regulation:- France Mega-sites". eugris.info. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  5. ^ oecd.org (PDF) http://www.oecd.org/gov/publicsectorinnovationande-government/2537279.pdf. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ "docs.google.com/viewer". Archived from the original on 5 December 2014. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  7. ^ "The Center for International Rehabilitation – International Disability Rights Monitor (IDRM) Publications >> Disability Rights Community >> – Compendium – France". ideanet.org. Archived from the original on 15 December 2013. Retrieved 8 June 2013.
  8. ^ "European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) - Homepage" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 21 August 2016. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  9. ^ http://www.eea-esem.com/papers/eea-esem/2004/702/Student-2004.pdf[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ Mittal, R.; Sreemithun, K.V.; Legal Aid Society (Delhi, India) (2012). Legal Aid: Catalyst for Social Change. Satyam Law International. p. 85. ISBN 9788192120423. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  11. ^ Water and Agriculture Sustainability, Markets and Policies: Sustainability, Markets and Policies. OECD Publishing. 2006. p. 95. ISBN 9789264022577. Archived from the original on 14 December 2021. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  12. ^ Hoffmann-Martinot, V.; Wollmann, H. (2007). State and Local Government Reforms in France and Germany: Divergence and Convergence. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften. p. 240. ISBN 9783531902715. Archived from the original on 3 January 2014. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  13. ^ Europe Cresson: The 'careless' commissioner Archived 26 March 2017 at the Wayback Machine, BBC News, 16 March 1999
  14. ^ a b c The Court declares that Mrs Edith Cresson acted in breach of her obligations as a European commissioner Archived 29 November 2010 at the Wayback Machine, 11 July 2006
  15. ^ See European Commission, Judgment of the Court of Justice in Case C-432/04 11 July 2006 Archived 12 June 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "Edith Cresson charged with fraud" The Guardian 25 March 2003 Archived 18 January 2017 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ "Court rules against ex-French PM Edith Cresson: Willing to extend benefits to personal friends The EU's top court has ruled that Edith Cresson, the former European commissioner and French prime minister, violated her official duties" BBC News 11 July 2006 Archived 8 August 2016 at the Wayback Machine,

Further readingEdit

  • Northcutt, Wayne, ed. "Cresson, Edith" in Historical Dictionary of the French Fourth and Fifth Republics, 1946–1991 (Greenwood, 1992) pp 114–16.
  • Perry, Sheila. "Gender Difference in French PoliticalCommunication: From Handicap to Asset?." Modern & Contemporary France 13.3 (2005): 337-352.
  • Schemla, Élisabeth. Édith Cresson, la femme piégée, Paris: Flammarion, 1993, ISBN 978-2080668400; argues her fate was largely due to the misogyny of the Socialist elites, the French political class, and the French media
  • Skard, Torild, "Edith Cresson" in Women of Power – Half a century of female presidents and prime ministers worldwide, Bristol: Policy Press, 2014, ISBN 978-1-44731-578-0

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Agriculture
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of External Commerce
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Tourism
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Industrial Redeployment
Succeeded by
Preceded by Prime Minister of France
Succeeded by
Preceded by French European Commissioner
Served alongside: Yves-Thibault de Silguy
Succeeded by
Preceded by Succeeded by
Preceded by European Commissioner for Research, Science
and Technology

Succeeded by
Order of precedence
Preceded byas Former Prime Minister Order of precedence of France
Former Prime Minister
Succeeded byas Former Prime Minister