Jospin, Lionel Robert (zhôspăNˈ) [key], 1937–, French politician, premier of France (1997–2002). He studied at the elite École Nationale d'Administration (1961–65) and worked (1965–70) in the foreign ministry. He joined the Socialist party (1971), taught college economics (1970–88), and was elected to the National Assembly in 1981. That year marked the election of François Mitterrand as president; he appointed Jospin Socialist party leader (1981–88). After Mitterrand's reelection (1988), Jospin was named minister of education. In 1995 he ran unsuccessfully for president, narrowly losing to Jacques Chirac; the same year he again became Socialist party leader.
In the 1997 parliamentary elections, Jospin and the Socialists promised to create new jobs, soften the harsh economic reforms of the conservative government, and slow down the fulfillment of European Union obligations; the left swept into the National Assembly. With the cooperation of the Greens, Communists, and others on the left, Jospin became premier. He won passage of a cut in the work week to 35 hours, aided in settling two serious strikes, and worked toward French adoption of the euro without imposing further economic austerities. He also continued his conservative predecessor's policy of privatizing state-owned companies; he was criticized in 1999 by his coalition partners for being too pro-business. Although a supporter of the European Union, Jospin opposed moving toward a more centralized, federal EU. Expected to challenge Chirac for the presidency in the final round of the 2002 elections, Jospin placed third behind Jean-Marie Le Pen in the first round and subsequently resigned as premier and as party leader. He considered running again in the 2007 presidential election, but withdrew in 2006 when it became apparent he would not win the Socialist party nomination.