Europe

Berlin Uefa trip: PM Valls to repay 2,500 euros for sons

A picture taken on 6 June 2015 shows French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and UEFA President Michel Platini (R) talk prior to the UEFA Champions League Final football match between Juventus and FC Barcelona at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Valls (left) met the Uefa President Michel Platini before the Champions League final

France's prime minister says he will pay €2,500 (£1,825) for taking his children on a controversial trip to the Champions League final in Berlin.

Manuel Valls came under pressure after using a government Falcon jet to take two sons to the match on Saturday.

He insists he was on an official trip to discuss the Euro 2016 championship, which France is hosting.

But Mr Valls said he was sensitive to public reaction and agreed to pay the costs for his children.

Speaking on a visit to the French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean, the PM said the trip was "nothing out of the ordinary" and stressed that his sons' presence added nothing to the cost.

But he said France had "no need for a pointless controversy" and "to remove any ambiguity, I decided to assume the cost of the trip for my two children".

Disbelief

The whole cost of the journey is said to have been around €20,000.

Aides close to Mr Valls said the €2,500 payment was based on the average price of taking a commercial flight for the round trip from Poitiers to Berlin.

However some commentators said the cost of hiring the Falcon jet, along with the security provision required, would be much more.

French media reaction

Image copyright AFP
Image caption French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (second right) is on a two-day visit to Reunion
  • Le Nouvel Observateur says: "Manuel Valls has made a half-hearted, belated apology."
  • Le Figaro says: "The message is muddled… The prime minister has finally apologised for a trip that he has always described as completely legal and official."
  • Laure Bretton in Liberation writes: "[The announcement] allows him to contain the blaze as far as the family aspect is concerned but still does not offer a convincing justification for his presence in Berlin."
  • Michel Urvoy in Ouest-France says:"Sometimes it is better to settle a small bill in euros promptly than it is to spend a long time paying a heavy political price."

BBC Monitoring

The prime minister says he travelled to the Champions League final to meet Uefa President Michel Platini to discuss issues such as Euro 2016 and the Fifa corruption scandal.

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

Born in Barcelona, Mr Valls is a supporter of the European champions.

Earlier this week opposition MPs called on Mr Valls to pay back the cost of the flight, and he faced a series of jibes in the National Assembly.

The scandal sparked a storm of reaction on social media, with the hashtag #Vallsgate trending in France on Wednesday.

Image caption Some Twitter users expressed surprise that Mr Valls had agreed to pay 2,500 euros despite saying the children had added no cost to the journey

Correspondents say the row has threatened 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.

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