• France's news in English

Transparency: 'France lags far behind UK, US'

Joshua Melvin · 22 Oct 2014, 16:00

Published: 22 Oct 2014 16:00 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Non-profit group Transparency International gave France a measly mark of 2.7 out 10 for its efforts -- or lack of -- in monitoring the lobbying of its political leaders.

France lacks controls on money, meetings and influence used by interest groups to press their message on decision makers, according to the report.

But the issues with lobbying are just the tip of the iceberg, Transparency International France's president Daniel Lebegue told The Local this week.

Here Lebegue explains how how the lack of transparency in the French political system needs to be dealt with.

Transparency is new in France

Lebegue: “France has taken up the question of transparency in political life only recently in terms of leaders and conflicts of interest. For a very long time, until very recently, there were no rules, not even a public debate in France, about transparency.

“In the past the state and the parliament were the only institutions allowed to look out for the public’s best interest. The public’s interest equaled the state.

“Accountability and transparency were not part of the French tradition. But things have started are changing recently."

France is far behind

“For political parties and election campaigns the legislation is more rigorous, more strict, in France than in Anglo-Saxon countries. In France it is forbidden for companies to finance political parties or electoral campaigns.

“There are limits for individual campaign donations that are very low. We have legislation that is both stiff and precise.

“But where France is behind is legislation on transparency. In the United States and the United Kingdom we know rather precisely who lobbyists are, how much their budget is and what they do in order to influence decision makers.

“American, British and Canadian businesses, and even those in northern Europe, declare their lobbying budget. They detail the lobbying actions they undertake. In this regard, France is far, far behind both in terms of rules for companies, lobbyists and decision makers."

Some improvements

In 2013 a new law came into effect that forced public financial disclosures from France’s elected officials. At the same time new ethics rules were enacted for lawmakers, which Lebegue sees as a tardy, but positive step.

“Prior to last year there was no limit for gifts given by companies or lobbyists to members of parliament. Now in the National Assembly and the Senate there are strict limits. In the National Assembly all gifts over €150 must be declared and in some cases they require authorization.

“Until 2013 there were legislative aides to MPs who worked part-time doing lobbying. At the same time they were working for an MP, they were also advisors to a company or an industry. We said, that cannot be allowed. It’s now forbidden.”

But Lebegue notes that one highly suspect practice is still very much alive among French lawmakers.

Unchecked nepotism

“According to a list we drew up 15 percent of MPs employ, and pay with public money, a member of their family. We say that practice has to be forbidden.

Story continues below…

“The problem is there are phony jobs in parliament. There is the famous case of the MP Patrick Balkany, who was paying his wife as an assistant. But in the National Assembly no one ever saw her come to work and she never did any work. That is fictitious job paid for with public money.”

Balkany has since been charged with corruption.

“We are not against leaders hiring family members, but there need to be checks. This type of thing must be declared and subject to some kind of control.”

Joshua Melvin (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France’s 'Jungle' children arrive in UK
Authorities will start to clear the ‘Jungle’ migrant camp on Monday. Photo: Denis Charlet / AFP file picture

The first group of children from the French "Jungle" migrant camp with no connection to Britain have arrived in the country, the Home Office said Sunday, ahead of the camp's planned demolition.

French FM calls for end to Aleppo 'massacre'
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault says the international community cannot ‘come to a negotiation under the bombs’. Photo: Dominick Reuter / AFP file picture

France's foreign minister urged the international community to "do everything" to end the "massacre" in the Syrian city of Aleppo on Sunday after fighting resumed following a 72-hour truce declared by Damascus ally Russia.

French cheer police, reviving Charlie spirit
French police officers on Saturday demonstrated for the fifth night in a row to protest mounting attacks on officers. Photo: Thomas Samson / AFP

Angry French police have taken to the streets for five nights in a row -- and Parisians have started to cheer them on, reviving scenes last seen following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in 2015.

Scarlett Johansson turns popcorn girl in Paris
US actress Scarlett Johansson greets customers at the Yummy Pop gourmet popcorn shop in the Marais district of Paris. Photo: Benjamin Cremel / AFP

Hollywood superstar Scarlett Johansson swapped the red carpet for a turn behind the counter at her new popcorn shop in Paris on Saturday.

US couple donates huge art collection to Paris
Marlene (centre) and Spencer (right) are donating their collection ‘for the benefit of art lovers’. Photo: Thomas Samson / AFP

A Texan couple who discovered their love for art during a trip to Paris in the 1970s are to donate the multi-million dollar collection they have amassed since to the French capital.

France to clear 'Jungle' migrant camp Monday
Migrants will be bussed from the camp to some 300 temporary accommodation centres around France. Photo: Denis Charlet/ AFP

The "Jungle" migrant camp on France's northern coast will be cleared of its residents on Monday before being demolished, authorities said Friday.

How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

London calling for Calais youths, but only a chosen few
Photo: AFP

Dozens of Calais minors are still hanging their hopes on help from the UK, but not all will be so lucky.

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
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
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available