• France's news in English
France hands UK €200m for ghost warship
France gave the UK €214 million for research into building a companion boat to its aircraft carrier de Gaulle, which is shown here. Photo: Pascal Subtil/Flickr

France hands UK €200m for ghost warship

Joshua Melvin · 11 Feb 2014, 11:03

Published: 11 Feb 2014 11:03 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

France poured over €200 million down the drain on an aircraft carrier that never saw the light of day. This was the type of wasteful government spending that was highlighted by France's national auditors said on Tuesday.

In its annual report the Cour de Comptes said France must do more to cut profligate spending and that the country runs a "significant risk" of overshooting its budget deficit target for 2013.

One seemingly simple way of saving money would be not to hand over €200 million to the UK as part of a project to build a new aircraft carrier, as France did, only for it to be ditched at a later date.

The Cour de Comptes dedicated a chapter of its report to the aircraft carrier fiasco that dates back to 2006.  

France agreed to pay the UK €214 million in order to consult British research, with the aim of building a partner to its only carrier the Charles de Gaulle.

The idea was that a partnership with the UK would generate savings, but in 2008 former President Nicolas Sarkozy decided to suspend cooperation with Britain on the project.

It was finally abandoned for good in 2013 with no ship to show for it, research that was unusable and only a huge whole in the state's pocket, Le Parisien reported. 

"From the outset this agreement was burdened by uncertainty and was unbalanced to the detriment of France," the auditors said in their report. "It was clear that British industry did not wish to share in the construction of aircraft carriers, or even the direction of the project, with the French."

Worse yet, the expenses constituted "an undiluted French contribution to the financing of British of aircraft carriers," the auditors wrote.

On Tuesday the president of France's highly influential Cour des Comptes, Didier Migaud, said in a speech on its annual report that efforts to cut public spending had to be "pursued and increased in the next three years."

The report from the auditors, which each year gives an overall assessment of the state of public finances and also highlights selected cases of mismanagement and waste, comes just as the government begins work on how to cut a further €50 billion from spending in the next three years.

Here are a few of the report's of other recommendations on how France can reduce the most egregious examples of government waste:

  • Reconsider certain perks. Workers at France’s state-owned railway SNCF get train tickets for themselves and their families that are nearly free. In 2010 840,000 people took advantage of this benefit to the tune of €140 million. The agency has just barely started a rethinking of the practice

  • France’s national teaching support centre is obsolete. The National Centre of Pedagogical Documentation (Centre national de documentation pédagogique) which is supposed to provide materials to help teachers, is “inefficient and ineffective.” It’s materials, created by 31 different committees, were largely unknown to teachers and only 12 percent were of a digital nature.  

  • Story continues below…

    Get rid of the chancellor’s office at the public universities in Paris. With its 60 workers and €14 million budget, the office is mostly responsible for managing a real estate portfolio that includes 15,544 square meters of property in Paris. The office has been charging below market rates, notably to 10 or so renters with ties to French education authorities.

  • Better management of the social welfare institutions. The fund that pays pensions to newly retired architects, surveyors and some self-employed workers is frequently late with payments. About 25 percent of checks were three to six months late while 27 percent arrived more than six months past the due date.

  • Better handling of government investment. The purchase of France’s stake in the arms brand Manhurin was “poorly handled” in part because the audits that preceded the investment were “rushed.” As a result the audits failed to notice that a private company, even though its a minority stakeholder, is in charge of the arms maker. 

The Cour des Comptes also warned that France was at risk of overshooting its target of reducing the public deficit to 3.6 percent of GDP this year

France is EU's second-largest economy and the state of its finances and efforts to turn around its anaemic economy are closely watched across the bloc, in particular in its economic powerhouse Germany.

Joshua Melvin (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Millionaire Riviera hotel boss kidnapped in broad daylight
The city of Nice where the millionaire was bundled into a car infront of shocked onlookers. Photo: AFP

The millionaire head of a luxury hotel in the French Riviera resort of Cannes was kidnapped in front of shocked onlookers in the middle of the day on Monday.

Where exactly in France are Calais migrants being sent?
Photo: AFP

Here's where the 8,000 migrants in Calais are heading.

The annoying questions only a half French, half British person can answer
Photo: Beery/Flickr/AFP

Being half French, half British is means you get asked a lot of questions (and some of them can be a little annoying.)

Migrants bussed out of Calais Jungle to all corners of France
All photos: AFP

Hundreds of migrants are being bussed across France on Monday ahead of the demolition of the Jungle camp.

The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
A Prophet. Photo: YouTube Screengrab

Looking for something to watch?

The must-see French films of the millennium - Part Two
Rust and Bone. Photo: YouTube Screengrab

The newest French films you need to see before you die (or alternatively when you get some spare time).

Election Watch
Presidential hopeful reckons a pain au chocolat is 10 cents

So France happily takes the pastry out of him.

French ministry of defence officials die in plane crash
Screengrab: eddydeg/Twitter

The French Ministry of Defence officials were killed on Monday when a light aircraft went down on the island of Malta.

Revealed: The ten most stolen cars in France
A Smart car in Paris. Photo: JR_Paris/Flickr

Thieves in France are getting a taste for luxury cars, it seems.

Analysis - France migrant crisis
Migrant crisis won't end with Calais 'Jungle' closure
All Photos: AFP

The Jungle camp may be being cleared but this won't be the end of the migrant crisis in France.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available