French First Lady Brigitte Macron has spent £44,000 on new plates for the Élysée Palace – sparking anger among critics.
Officials say the 1,200-piece set, chosen by President Emmanuel Macron’s wife was purchased because the existing collection was becoming old and was incomplete following years of use.
It replaces Élysée crockery dating back to Jacques Chirac’s time as president more than ten years ago while some items were from René Coty’s presidency in the 1950s.
The palace’s ceramics have traditionally been supplied by the Sèvres porcelain factory since the 1840s with designs on each plate showing the presidential building.
French First Lady Brigitte Macron (left) has spent £44,000 on new plates for the Élysée Palace sparking outrage among critics
Officials say the cost of the 900 plates and 300 side plates came out of the annual budget of the factory and that the €50,000 fee was for the artists who created the plate design.
Bosses at the facility – which is reportedly 60 per cent funded by the culture ministry – say the price has not yet been determined – though the final bill would not be charged to the presidential palace, the BBC reports.
It comes after French opposition parties called for a review of Emmanuel Macron’s campaign spending after reports showed he obtained huge discounts from venues and service providers during last year’s presidential race.
Macron’s critics have seized on the revelations given his emphasis on public integrity and accountability during his campaign.
The latest came Thursday after France Info radio reported that Macron’s campaign got 75 percent reductions on rentals at two theatres for campaign rallies.
Both theatres are owned by Jean-Marc Dumontet, whom the report described as being close to Macron and his wife Brigitte.
For another event, the campaign rented another Paris venue, La Bellevilloise, for an evening rally at a cost of 1,200 euros ($1,400).
But France Info reported that the arts centre charged Socialist rival Benoit Hamon 4,838 euros for a comparable event.
Such rebates usually draw the attention of France’s campaign finance watchdog, the CNCCFP, since excessive discounts can be considered illicit campaign financing from corporate donors.
Officials say the 1,200-piece set, chosen by President Emmanuel Macron’s wife was purchased because the existing collection was becoming old and was incomplete following years of use
‘Emmanuel Macron’s campaign accounts have been approved by the relevant authorities,’ the Elysee Palace said in a statement.
French daily Le Monde and investigative website Mediapart reported last month that CNCCFP auditors had noted ‘exceptional discounts, at times ‘unusually big’,’ given to Macron’s campaign by event management firm GL Events.
For Macron’s first major rally in December 2016, Mediapart reported that GL Events shaved 10,000 euros off an equipment rental bill, charging just under 29,000 euros.
The CNCCFP ruled in May that the discounts were ‘acceptable’ and did not constitute illicit financing.
‘The auditors did not identify any irregularities and the commission approved their findings,’ CNCCFP president Francois Logerot said at a press conference Thursday.
‘Nobody is perfect, but our auditors carried out serious work,’ he said.
Opposition groups have said they will lodge an official complaint seeking a new review of Macron’s campaign spending.
The commission ‘has not been able to fully and satisfactorily carry out its examination of Macron’s campaign accounts,’ said Laurent Wauquiez, head of the rightwing Republicans party.
The claims of financial favouritism come as Macron’s chief of staff Alexis Kohler is facing a conflict-of-interest inquiry over his links to the Swiss-Italian shipping giant MSC.
As a senior civil servant before Macron’s election, Kohler worked closely on matters involving the shipyard STX France, of which MSC is a major client.
MSC was founded by billionaire cousins of Kohler’s mother, and Kohler himself joined MSC as finance director in 2016 while continuing to work as an advisor on Macron’s campaign.
Macron’s office has dismissed the allegations of wrongdoing against Kohler.