Dominique Voynet, Green Mayor of Montreuil-sous-Bois

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Dominique Voynet:
Mayor of Montreuil and one of the
French Greens best-known figures

By Kevin Visdeloup

15 September 2009: As a co-founder of the French ecologist party Les Verts (The Greens), Dominique Voynet is considered one of the party’s most prominent figures. After having been a member of the European Parliament and a cabinet minister in Prime Minister Jospin’s centre-left administration (1997 to 2002) Voynet was elected French senator for the département of Seine-Saint-Denis in 2004 and mayor of Montreuil-sous-Bois in 2008.

Born 1958 in Montbéliard, to a family of teachers, Dominique Voynet's political ambitions first manifested themselves in her environmental activism in the late 1970s. At the age of 16, while attending medical school in Besancon, she fought against the building of nuclear power stations and deforestation. After graduation, Voynet practised as an anaesthesiologist at the Hospital of Dole from 1985 to 1989.

Throughout her years of study, Voynet pursued her political drive, joining Amnesty International and several other associations, eventually hitting her stride in 1984, when she became a founding member of French ecologist party Les Verts. In the 1980s the party was the first to focus on the social and environmental issues which Dominique Voynet stood for. She became the national spokeswoman for the Green party in 1991 two years after entering the European Parliamen.

In 1992 Dominique Voynet was elected conseil régional (local counsellor) of the French region Franche-Comté, a post she left after two years in office, to prepare for the French presidential election in 1995. In the first round of the election in April 1995, she collected slightly more than three  per cent of the vote.

From 1997 to 2001 Voynet was assigned Minister of the Environment and Regional Planning in the cabinet of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, which made her the first Green minister in a French government. During her time in office, Minister Voynet committed the government to the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and introduced a new law for long-term development. Her department’s new law on hunting introduced non-hunting days in France.

In late 2000, Voynet acted as head of the European delegation at the sixth Conference of Parties (COP6) in The Hague, which attempted to reach an agreement on the unsolved issues of the Kyoto Protocol, between the European Union on the one hand (insisting on tougher regulations) and the United States, Canada, Japan and Australia on the other (standing for a less demanding solution).

Elected senator for the Seine-Saint-Denis département in 2004, Voynet was also elected the Green candidate for the 2007 French presidential election by her party members.
She won also the support of various other environmental associations including the French environmental organization L'Alliance pour la planète, which groups together 71 green organizations including WWF, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace. Despite this support, Dominique Voynet only collected 1,57  per cent of the vote in the first round of the presidential election and theefore failed again to go forward to the second round.

In March 2008, during the second round of Municipal elections, Dominique Voynet was elected mayor of Montreuil-sous-Bois (Seine-Saint-Denis département), succeeding longstanding communist mayor Jean Pierre Brard (1984 – 2008).

Despite her election promise to be a ‘full time mayor’ Voynet eventually decided to keep her position as senator for Seine-Saint-Denis since that the Green Party would lose one of its five seats in senate, if she resigned.

World Mayor 20/21

The best Mayors for Stronger | Fairer | Greener cities. Elect your candidate for the 20/21 World Mayor Prize and Honours. The Prize has been awarded since 2004