PRIME Minister François Fillon will not be taking part in the debate on laicity, scheduled for next Tuesday.
The ruling UMP Party has ben planning for some time to organise a debate what the French Republic’s secular values mean in today’s society, in particular in relation to Islam.
The move follows developments such as France’s burqa ban (coming into force on April 11) or the rising popularity of the Front National under Marine Le Pen.
However the Prime Minister’s office has said he agreed some time ago with President Sarkozy that he would not take part.
A source close to Fillon said it was not the right place for the position of the government, which as Prime Minister Fillon represents, to be expressed.
This is despite the fact that the UMP’s general secretary, Jean-François Copé, had invited him, according to Le Figaro.
Fillon and Copé were supposed to have made peace earlier this week, after a split following Copé's comments that Fillon lacked team spirit because he was distancing himself from the laicity issue.
Copé has defended next week’s event, saying: “Once we have had this debate on April 5 we will finally have finished with the hysteria of the ‘debate about the debate’ so as to have some real answers.”
Photo: Bejamin Lemaire