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FRENCH FACE OF THE WEEK

MANUEL VALLS

French top cop’s wife ‘makes ticket vanish’

The wife of France's top cop, Interior Minister Manuel Valls, is a brilliant classical violinist but this week she wound up in the headlines for a different kind of fiddling. Find out what happened when she stepped in to quash a friend's parking ticket.

French top cop's wife 'makes ticket vanish'
Anne Gravoin met her now husband Manuel Valls in the 1980s but the couple only got together in 2004. File photo: Patrick Kovarik/AFP

Who is Anne Gravoin?

She’s a classically trained violinist who has toured with French rock star idol Johnny Hallyday. She also happens to be the wife of France's top law enforcement official and one of the most powerful men in the country: Interior Minister Manuel Valls, whom she married in 2010.

The couple first met in the 1980s but only got together in 2004 while Valls, a father of four, was newly divorced and working as mayor in the Parisian suburb of Évry. Valls was tapped to become Interior Minister in May 2012.

Why is she in the news?

Unfortunately  this time it has nothing to do with her musical talent.

On Wednesday, French magazine Le Point revealed Gravoin had used her proximity to the country's top cop to get a friend out of a parking ticket.

According to Le Point, the trouble started on January 28th at around 10:30am when a parking enforcement officer in Paris’s 11th Arrondissement noticed a car illegally parked outside Valls' residence.

A police officer stationed in front on the house stepped in and told the parking warden to let the car go without a ticket.

The officer had, it would seem, been forewarned of the friend’s visit and had been instructed to keep the woman's Toyota from getting a ticket if a wayward parking warden wandered down the street.  

Too bad for Gravoin and her friend, however, the warden wasn’t having any of it.

“Too late, it’s already been done!” the warden reportedly told the officer, who then had to explain to a rather displeased Gravoin what had happened.

But Valls' wife knew someone who could help. She reportedly said "I'm calling Manuel."

Within a few hours someone from the ministry contacted the rattled police officer to let him know he that everything was being taken care of and he wasn't headed to Siberia. 

Needless to say, the parking fine appears to have vanished.

Is this the first time Gravoin has allegedly used her husband's position to get what she wants?

Apparently not. According to satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné, in October 2012 Gravoin convinced Valls to use his authority to remove some homeless people outside their apartment.

A few weeks earlier the violinist had complained to her husband about being disturbed by a homeless person while out shopping, the paper said. 

The claim was however denied by the minister’s office which in a statement said “the minister made no private request,” and that “no order” was given to the local authorities.

Have these revelations affected their relationship?

This remains to be seen but judging from interviews with Gravoin their relationship is a very loving one, though they apparently lead very independent lives. 

“We are so in love, we adore each other, we miss each other,” Gravoin told Le Parisien in 2012.

And it would appear that lots of other French women would agree with Gravoin’s choice of husband.

Last year Gravoin admitted to being “delighted” with the results of a poll which revealed that a significant number of woman wanted to have a “torrid affair” with her husband.

“Manuel absolutely deserves it – and a lot more besides,” she said in a Paris Match interview. “A huge number of women want to sleep with my husband, the love of my life.”

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ROMANIA

Romania vows ‘total cooperation’ on Roma

Romania will provide "total cooperation" with France in its effort to deal with Roma migrants, President Train Basescu told visiting French ministers Wednesday.

"On the Roma problem, I assure you we are open to total cooperation, including sending police reinforcements to France," Basescu said as he welcomed Interior Minister Manuel Valls and Europe Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.

"But we cannot accept phrases like Romania 'persecutes' ethnic Roma populations," the president added, alluding to remarks made by Valls. "Romania does not persecute any citizen from its territory."

On Tuesday, Valls said France "cannot welcome all the misery of the world and of Europe.

"Today, we cannot afford to accommodate all these people who are often wretched of the earth, who are persecuted in their country, who are discriminated against," he added.

Romania has already sent police officers to help their French colleagues dismantle Romanian criminal networks operating in France.   

But the French policy of closing migrant camps and repatriating the Roma with a €300 incentive has been widely criticised. Critics have said the money Paris will give the Roma to return home will be used by them to buy bus tickets back to France.

And the visit by the French ministers comes two days after the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed concern over France's recent forced closures of Roma camps in France.

Romania, one of the two poorest countries in the European Union, has the biggest Roma minority in Europe: 620,000 according to the latest official census; more than two million according to local rights groups.

Many Roma have emigrated to escape the poverty in their country.

France hosts an estimated 15,000 Roma from Romania and Bulgaria – though that is far less than in Spain or Italy, according to figures gathered by the Soros Foundation

By the end of the month, Valls insisted, 7,000 Romanians and Bulgarians would be sent back to their home countries.

But Roma rights groups in France and Romania lashed at the French policy on Wednesday.

"Today, the French governement is at the forefront when it comes to persecuting an ethnic group" often living in very poor conditions, Romani Criss, the main Roma rights group in Romania said in an open letter written with eight other groups that was addressed to Valls.

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