On air
  • RFI English Live
  • RFI French Live

France France and the world Spain Catalonia Berlin Germany Turin Football Austerity Airplane

Issued on • Modified

French PM Valls under fire for jetting to Berlin for Barca-Juve football match

Jet-setter - French Prime Minister Manuel Valls at the Socialist Party congress in Poitiers on Saturday 6 June Reuters/Regis Duvignau

France's Prime Minister Manuel Valls was under fire on Sunday after jetting to Berlin on Saturday evening to see a football match between Turin's Juventus and Barcelona, the team of the city where he was born. Opposition politicians accused him of wasting public money during a time of budgetary rigour.

A "form of indecency" and a "political and moral error", was how Thierry Solère, an MP for the mainstream right Républicains party, formerly the UMP, described Valls's return trip.

Valls, a Barca fan, had the satisfaction of seeing his team win 3-1, but is probably less

Background reading: Previous French scandals

pleased with the publicity his flight in a government-owned airplane has attracted.

In the afternoon he was applauded by members of his Socialist Party at the annual congress but on Sunday he was under fire in the media and on Twitter.

"Public money is precious in a time of crisis and you have to pay attention to symbols and this has sent a very bad signal," Solère said on Europe 1 radio.

"The real question is who is paying?" the vice-president of the far-right Front National, Florian Philippot, said on France Inter radio.

Earlier in a tweet he had stressed that Valls had flown to see "two foreign teams" playing.

"Remind us which French team was playing?" tweeted traditionalist Catholic politician Christian Boutin.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Another Républicain, Euro-MP Nadine Morano, tweeted "Red card for Manuel Valls, who forgets he is prime minister of France."

Valls's Socialist allies defended him, although not with that much enthusiasm.

"It's not inappropriate, given the number of French people who watched the match," Socialist Party First Secretary Christophe Cambadélis declared, adding that the congress had no business that evening and that the prime minister had discussed the trip with him before going.

Paris Socialist MP Pascal Cherki called the right-wing's criticisms "ridiculous and out of place" but urged Valls to take notice of Barca's "offensive and creative" game, a hint that the government could benefit from those qualities.

Valls himself dismissed the row as a "false debate" even before it, and he, had taken off.

"I am going to Berlin at the invitation Michel Platini, who is the president of Uefa," he told reporters.

The two would discuss the Uefa European football championship, which France is hosting next year, he said, "and afterwards I will attend a beautiful football match".

As for his means of transport.

"I'm prime minister. You know what forms of transport I use," he declared.

On Sunday he was back at the Socialist congress in Poitiers, western France.