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Working holidays for French politicians

Matthew Warren · 2 Aug 2011, 08:15

Published: 02 Aug 2011 08:54 GMT+02:00
Updated: 02 Aug 2011 08:15 GMT+02:00

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At Monday's cabinet meeting, the last before the start of the summer holidays, President Sarkozy wished his team a "good rest" while reminding them to stay "particularly alert."

A spokesman for the Elysée palace, the president's official residence, said "ministers must be available 24 hours a day. They are able to rest, but not be on holiday."

Foreign minister Alain Juppé confirmed this, telling waiting camera crews as he left the meeting that the president had wished them "happy holidays, but stay in contact with your ministry morning, noon and night."

Nicolas Sarkozy has also instructed his team to stay in France this year. The president himself has been criticized in the past for foreign vacations, particularly in 2007 when he took a holiday in the US with his then wife Cécilia.

While most have obeyed the order, three members of his team have dared to flout it. 

Like his British counterpart, David Cameron, the prime minister, François Fillon, will be in Tuscany in Italy. Higher education minister Laurent Wauquiez will go to Belgium. He defended his choice by saying he is "a quarter Belgian."  

Industry minister Eric Besson was reluctant to say where he was going, writing on his Twitter account "I refuse to say where I'm going. Right to private life. Respect for those close to me." However, newspaper France Soir reported that he would be in Tunisia with his wife's family.

The president's more obedient ministers will be dotted around the country, with parliamentary party leader Jean-François Copé and health and employment minister Xavier Bertrand venturing off the mainland to visit Corsica.

The president and his wife are able to enjoy the luxurious surroundings of the presidential palace at Fort Bregançon, where they have already spent several weekends this summer. They are also expected to visit his wife's summer home in the southern resort of Cap Nègre.

For the Socialists, the summer is an important campaigning time as they gear up for primary elections in October to choose the contender for next year's presidential election.

Former party leader, Martine Aubry, is already in Brittany where she has been photographed several times making appearances at local markets. 

Her rival François Hollande is in the south-west town of Landes with his partner Valérie Trieweiler. 

Hollande's former wife and 2007 presidential contender, Ségolène Royal, will be in the region where she is president, Poitou-Charentes. "It will be a serious holiday as I need to read the proofs of the book I have coming out in September," she told France Soir.

On the right, Marine Le Pen's break in the family home of Trinité-sur-Mer in southern Brittany has already been disturbed several times as she deals with fallout from comments by party members about the recent killings in Norway.

Government ministers will all be expected back in Paris by August 24th for the next planned cabinet meeting.


Matthew Warren (news.france@thelocal.com)

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