Emmanuel Macron has ordered a swimming pool to be built in the grounds of the French president’s Riviera retreat to avoid prying paparazzi, sparking opposition claims he is dishing himself perks at the expense of the poor.
Mr Macron, 40, has already let it be known that he intends to holiday at the Brégançon fort, a 17th-century fortress overlooking the Mediterranean. Used by Charles de Gaulle and successive presidents, it had fallen out of favour of late - notably because its private beach is easy prey for paparazzi from the sea.
François Hollande, Mr Macron’s predecessor, stopped using Brégançon after he and then-girlfriend Valérie Trierweiler were snapped in their swimwear. She sued French media for invasion of privacy after reportedly complaining the photos made the presidential couple “look fat”.
Mr Macron, who wants to turn Brégançon into a French Camp David for summer meetings with foreign dignitaries, had already ordered the fort to be upholstered with a new kitchen.
Now he wants a swimming pool to avoid, say Elysée sources, paparazzi prying on the president, his wife Brigitte, and her three children. Due to the expense of digging a hole in the fort’s rocky grounds, he has opted for an aboveground pool, with presidential aides saying the estimated €15,000 (£13,000) cost will come from the retreat’s €150,000 annual maintenance budget.
However, the opposition slammed the move as insensitive at time when Mr Macron’s government is reducing housing allowance for the poor and days after he was filmed complaining about the “crazy amounts of dosh” France pumps into welfare benefits that trap some people in a cycle of poverty.
Regularly forced to deny claims is “the president of the rich”, Mr Macron, 40, came under fire last week over reports the Elysée had spent around €500,000 on new crockery for the presidential palace. He came in for yet more flak over reports he had taken a costly private Falcon jet to travel just 110 km.
Reacting to news of the pool, Olivier Faure, head of the French Socialist Party, said it constituted a “cruel symbol”.
Mr Macron, he said, “further whittles away housing benefit for the poor and at the time time builds a swimming pool in Brégançon fort. His pool will be offshore, like his politics.”
On the Right, Lydia Guirous, spokeswoman for the Republicans, stuck in the knife saying: “The president’s profligate behaviour is shocking at a time when he is asking ever more efforts from the French.”
The pool is by no means the first time opposition feathers have been ruffled over the cost of presidential perks.
Predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy sparked howls of complaint after it transpired he had spent €75,000 on two ovens for his presidential plane, dubbed Air Sarko One.