Economy Minister Christine Lagarde, Budget Minister François Baroin and Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux were among proven heavyweights who kept their jobs.
The new cabinet, which puts old-school lynchpins of the ruling centre-right UMP party in charge of key ministries, is not expected to result in major policy shifts.
Defence Minister Hervé Morin and Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner were replaced by Alain Juppé, a former prime minister and protégé of former President Jacques Chirac, and Michèle Alliot-Marie, justice minister in the last cabinet.
Baroin was also appointed government spokesperson, Sarkozy's office said in a statement.
A couple on power
As the French press notes, Michèle Alliot-Marie’s life partner also takes a ministerial job. Indeed, Patrick Ollier, a UMP MP who was briefly president of the National Assembly in 2007 and has chaired the Economy Committee since then, becomes minister in charge of relations with parliament.
The fact that the Alliot-Marie and Ollier couple will sit in the same government is unique in France's political history, the online edition of weekly Le Point writes.
Sarkozy said in June he would rejig his cabinet after passing flagship pension reform, which was signed into law last week, as he tries to rally his core support base, address voters' gloom over the economy and improve his dismal ratings.
After dangling the idea of a shift to the centre by possibly making his Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo prime minister, Sarkozy ended up opting for traditional conservatives to man the new cabinet, whose success will be key to his chances of re-election against a resurgent left in the 2012 election.
His choices may please conservative voters, but leave Sarkozy running the risk that centrists like Borloo and Morin could break away and run against him in 2012.
Morin, a centrist, accused Sarkozy of having set up "an electoral campaign team" for the ruling UMP party.
Juppé and Alliot-Marie were also named ministers of state, the highest government role below the prime minister. Labour Minister Éric Woerth, linked to a political funding scandal involving France's richest woman, was dropped from the cabinet (see 'Background').
Back to basics
Fillon, who has proved a steady and capable aide to Sarkozy and has much higher popularity ratings, said after his reappointment that he would focus on jobs and the economy.
He said in a statement that he was starting "a new phase with determination which will allow our country to strengthen the growth of the economy to help jobs, promote solidarity and safeguard the security of all French people". Notably, Fillon is seen as well-qualified to run national affairs while Sarkozy focuses on an ambitious reform of the global monetary system as part of his plans for France's presidency of the Group of 20 major economies. Among other minor switches, Éric Besson, a former socialist, was moved to be head of the industry, energy and digital economy department from his former post as immigration minister.
Fourth European Affairs minister
Sarkozy named Laurent Wauquiez as state secretary for European affairs, replacing Pierre Lellouche, who, together with Éric Besson, had spearheaded France's response to the European Commission's moves to investigate France for discriminating against the Roma.
Wauquiez becomes the fourth holder of the European affairs post since Sarkozy became president. Jean Quatremer, French daily Libération's long-serving correspondent in Brussels, writes on his blog that instead of making relations between Paris and Brussels easier, Lellouche was famous for "pouring oil on fire".
Opposition Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry criticised the new cabinet, saying the president had failed to understand that the French people were impatient for political change. "The president has brought back the same prime minister to carry on the same politics," Aubry said in a statement. "Mr Sarkozy announced this reshuffle six months ago. Since then, the ministers have been more interested in the future of their posts than the future of the French people," she said. Sarkozy, who has just returned from a G20 summit in Seoul, emerged victorious from a long battle with unions over pension reform but remains deeply unpopular, with approval ratings below 30%. Fillon, on the other hand, got a positive rating from 47% of respondents in a Viavoice poll on Sunday.
The president hopes to claw his way out of the doldrums with figures like Juppé, who remains popular with conservatives despite a fall from grace in 2004 over a party financing scandal.
After a brief flurry of speculation among commentators that Fillon might be replaced, it became clear in recent days that Sarkozy would reappoint the man behind the campaign that swept him to power more than three years ago.
(EurActiv with Reuters.)