Thursday 26 April 2018

Germans tell Carla Bruni-Sarkozy told not to use 'celebrity status' for charity plea

Henry Samuel

German MPs have criticised a plan by Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the French first lady, to issue a charity appeal to the country's parliament saying it would be unfair for her to use her "celebrity status" to gain such privileged access.

Officials in German Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling coalition have said that President Nicolas Sarkozy's wife wanted to appear before the budget committee of the Bundestag lower house to plead for more funding for the fight against Aids.

As ambassador for the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the first lady is said to want Germany to give an extra €200m for the Fund, to which other countries promised more aid at the Millennium Summit in New York.

However, lawmakers slammed the move, saying it would open the door for other lobbyists seeking preferential treatment.

"I can't imagine she'll be given an official invitation, because that would break the committee's rules," said Norbert Barthle, budgetary spokesman for Mrs Merkel's conservative CDU party in parliament last week.

Otto Fricke, a budget policy specialist from the Free Democrats, or FDP, who are junior partners to the CDU, agreed.

"We mustn't give the impression that celebrity status ensures access to the budget committee," he said.

The plan, however, received last-minute backing from Mrs Merkel, whose relations with Mr Sarkozy hit new lows two weeks ago over the French President's expulsion of Roma.

Clearly wary of sparking a fresh diplomatic spat, her spokesman said: "The Chancellor found this a good idea because Mrs Bruni-Sarkozy could deliver important arguments."

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