Europe

French PM Valls scorned for Uefa jet trip to Berlin

Manuel Valls (R) with Michel Platini Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Valls (right) met the Uefa president to discuss the Fifa scandal and France's Euro 2016 tournament

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has come under fire for using a government Falcon jet to fly to the Uefa Champions League final in Berlin at the weekend.

His initial explanation was that he had to meet Uefa President Michel Platini, however it has since emerged that he took two sons on the flight.

Born in Barcelona, Mr Valls is a known supporter of the European champions, and his trip prompted a public outcry.

Officials insisted his sons' presence added nothing to the cost of the trip.

But the row surrounding Saturday's round trip from Poitiers to Berlin threatens to overshadow major reforms aimed at softening labour laws for small and medium-sized businesses and adding tens of thousands of jobs to the labour market.

Under the "Small Business Act", businesses with no employees would be granted €4,000 (£2,920; $4,500) for giving their first worker a year-long contract.

Unemployment in France is at 10% and Mr Valls also proposed that employers should be allowed to extend temporary contracts up to a maximum of 18 months.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Opposition MPs called on Mr Valls to pay back the cost of the flight

Former centre-right Justice Minister Rachida Dati gave a curt response to Mr Valls's job plans, as the prime minister faced a chorus of criticism from opposition Republicans.

"The reality is that the Paris-Berlin family flight really did take off. But employment, still hasn't!" Ms Dati tweeted.

Image copyright Twitter

Several Republicans demanded to know the cost of the trip and urged him to pay the money back.

President Francois Hollande had tried to head off the row at the G7 summit on Monday, insisting that Mr Valls had a meeting planned with Uefa, and important subjects to discuss, such as the corruption scandal surrounding football's world governing body, Fifa, and France's Euro 2016 tournament.

Jibes

But the use of a government plane to transport both him and his sons to see his team Barcelona beat Juventus 3-1 prompted disbelief.

Image copyright Twitter
Image caption One tweet mocked the use of a government jet: "Look, Manuel Valls is off to buy some bread"

Political satire magazine Le Canard Enchaine cited Fifa suggesting that no meeting with the Uefa president had even been arranged before the flight.

But officials insisted the pair had met at 19:00 (17:00 GMT) on Saturday, almost two hours before kick-off.

France's Euro 2016 committee chairman Jacques Lambert said he and the ambassador to Germany had also been there and Uefa issued a statement saying that Mr Valls had gone to the match to discuss Euro 2016.

Faced with a series of jibes from opposition MPs in the National Assembly, Mr Valls appealed to his detractors to drop the attacks and focus on what was important.

"Sport has a very important role to play, thanks to major international events that we are going to host here in France - and the role of the head of government is to support these big events for France," he said.

But French media said further revelations in the affair were expected to come out in the next 24 hours, and one correspondent pointed out that Mr Valls himself said last September that anyone who had failed to reach the ethical standard expected of them should be dismissed.

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