Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Liberté, égalité … austérité? Sarkozy Clamps Down on French Ministers' Perks

THE GUARDIAN: No more cigars, flights or luxury hotels for politicians, says French president, after spate of expenses scandals

The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, cancelled his own summer party and has insisted his ministers tighten their belts. Photograph: The Guardian

Spare a thought – and perhaps a euro – for the poor French politician.

No more taxpayer-funded Cuban cigars, private jets, or even luxury hotels. And, if Nicolas Sarkozy has his way, no more overstaffed offices and unfettered use of the ministry photocopier.

Having cancelled the Elysée palace summer garden party, the French president has decided everyone else must "make an effort" to tighten their professional belts. Anxious to be seen wielding the austerity axe following a spate of scandals over official perks, not to mention a ballooning public deficit, he is demanding ministers' spending be "vigorously reduced".

Ministers have been told that their official visits will be "strictly curtailed" and they will be encouraged to take the train, not the plane, with a reduced retinue of advisers. Away from home they must only stay in a hotel if there are no bedrooms available in state-owned buildings, such as embassies and consulates.

The order came in a letter to the prime minister, François Fillon, in which Sarkozy warned that those defying his austerity measures would face "punishment". >>> Kim Willsher in Paris | Tuesday, June 29, 2010