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Ministers should holiday in France

After scandals over flights to Tunisia and Egypt, President Sarkozy says ministers should explore their own country

MINISTERS should take their holidays in France, President Sarkozy has demanded.

After Interior Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie and Prime Minister François Fillon found themselves defending holidays to Tunisia and Egypt at the expense of foreign governments, the President said ministers should spend more time in their own country.

PM Fillon spent Christmas in Egypt, with flights and accommodation paid for by its embattled leader, Hosni Mubarak.

Mr Sarkozy has not commented on his recent use of a long-haul jet to fly from Paris to Brussels. Nor on the flights directly after the European summit, which saw him take the government's smaller Falcon Falcon 7X to New York for a family visit.

The President says he has paid commercial rates for use of the plane for himself and his wife.

A spokesman for Air Charter Service said a return flight from Brussels to New York would cost between €230,000-280,000 for use of the whole plane.

The president's salary was raised to €19,000 a month gross in 2008; it would therefore take him six months to pay off the trip, assuming he travelled with a team of seven other people.

Even on private visits, the President must be accompanied by government staff, who would travel at government expense.

Ministers must have all their foreign invitations vetted by the Prime Minister and the diplomatic office of the President from now on.

"The expectations of the public are stronger than in the past. It is our duty to not disappoint them. The citizen is right to expect transparency from all those in government or in a position of public responsibility. What was commonplace in the past can outrage today and this must be stopped," he added.

President Sarkozy will take part in a discussion programme on TF1 tonight at 20.30.

It is the second time he has tried the format in the Paroles de Français. The themes of the evening will be spending power, employment, crime and education.

Photo: Medef

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