Sarkozy slips into Geneva for charity gala

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy paid a discreet visit to Geneva on Thursday night to attend an annual fund-raising gala for Keren Hayesod, the United Israel Appeal charity.

Sarkozy slips into Geneva for charity gala
Photo: World Economic Forum

Sarkozy arrived in the Swiss city earlier in the day in a private jet without his wife, Carla Bruni, but accompanied by armed guards, the Tribune de Genève reported.

The politician, who was voted out of office last year, was the guest of honour at the evening event held at the Hotel President Wilson, a five-star luxury hotel overlooking Lake Geneva.

Sarkozy, whose maternal grandfather was a Greek Jew who converted to Catholicism, met with Dan Jillerman, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, the Tribune said.

He also reportedly met with Charles Tamman, owner and general manager of the President Wilson, as well as Lily Safra, the widow of billionaire Jewish banker Edmond Safra.

The press was excluded from the event, which was restricted to invited guests and members of Keren Haysod.
Sarkozy formally announced that he would not be talking to the press, the Tribune reported.

His visit was unannounced apparently to avoid any hint of trouble.

For its Geneva annual gala in February 2011, Keren Hayesod was forced to change plans after word got out that its guest of honour and keynote speaker was to be former US president George W. Bush.

Human rights activists filed criminal complaints in Geneva against Bush for alleged torture.

The former president ended up cancelling his appearance amid security concerns.

Swiss authorities were being pressured to arrest him and open a criminal investigation if he set foot on Swiss soil.

The complaints were linked to the alleged mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, the US naval base in Cuba where captives from Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries were detained as part of Bush’s “war on terror”.

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Macron promises to axe France’s TV licence if he is re-elected

In his first campaign rally, Emmanuel Macron has laid out his re-election campaign, including a promise to end the TV licence fee (albeit without explaining how France's public service media will be financed in future).

Macron promises to axe France's TV licence if he is re-elected

Macron has already axed the taxe d’habitation (householders’ tax) for most households, axing the TV licence fee as well would mean the end of the autumn tax bill entirely for many, although some communes have an additional charge for rubbish collection.

“We will remove the taxes that remain, the fee is part of it,” Macron said during his first candidate rally, a low-key town hall event with 200 residents of Poissy in the outer suburbs of Paris.

He said abolishing the licence fee – currently €138 a year – is consistent with the abolition of the taxe d’habitation, which has already been scrapped for 80 percent of householders and will eventually be scrapped for all, with the exception of second homes.

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: Who has to pay France’s TV licence?

The fee is used to finance the TV and radio channels of the public sector, such as France Télévisions, Radio France, Arte – and France Médias Monde, which includes channels such as France 24, and RFI.

Macron presented the measure in the middle of a series of proposals to support purchasing power, such as tripling the “Macron bonus”, without charges or taxes.

This tax-free bonus that he introduced in 2020, “we will triple it”, because “this is purchasing power,” he said.

He did not go into detail about how public service broadcasting would be financed in future. But the pledge is in line with rival candidates in the 2022 election race.

READ ALSO The 2022 French tax calendar

Valérie Pécresse, Marine Le Pen and Éric Zemmour have already announced their intention to abolish the TV licence – but while some have said they intend privatise some or all of France’s public service broadcasters, this does not seem to be in Macron’s plans. 

“Privatising public broadcasting is in no way the project that is ours, the project of candidate Emmanuel Macron,” LREM MP Aurore Bergé told France Info after Macron’s town hall event had ended. 

“The French were paying it at the same time they paid their housing tax. From the moment you abolish the housing tax, it was necessary in any case to find another mechanism, another lever of financing of public broadcasting,” Bergé said.

“The question is to manage to secure a perennial financing, probably on the State budget.

“There are those who privatise and those who, like us, on the contrary, perpetuate it.”