French President Nicolas Sarkozy has unveiled a slimmed-down government, giving half the jobs to women.
The 15-minister cabinet includes the left-wing human rights champion Bernard Kouchner who has been given the role of foreign minister.
Mr Kouchner, who is a socialist, is best known for founding the aid organisation Médecins Sans Frontières.
Prime Minister Francois Fillon's team of 15 also includes former Prime Minister Alain Juppé, who will handle environmental policy.
It is a dramatic comeback for the senior Chirac ally who was given a suspended jail sentence for his role in a hall funding scandal.
With the arrival of seven women ministers, France has now joined Chile, Finland, Spain and Sweden among countries seeking to end male domination of politics by creating gender parity in government.
France will also have its first ethnic minority figure in a senior cabinet post, with Rachida Dati named as justice minister.