Skip to main content

Eye on France: Free breakfasts, Fillon's fate and a plea to stop the re-building of Notre-Dame

A punk monument in the making: Notre-Dame Cathedral at the height of last week's blaze.
A punk monument in the making: Notre-Dame Cathedral at the height of last week's blaze. Reuters

The latest on the legal situation of former French prime minister, François Fillon. A call to leave Paris's burned Notre-Dame cathedral just as it is in the wake of last week's fire - and an opinion poll on cheap school meals.


In today’s edition of the daily paper Le Figaro, that fine right-wing organ of reliable information, readers are asked to pronounce on the question of whether or not it is reasonable to provide school lunches priced at just one euro to the children of poor families.

A short while ago, there had been 20,000 votes. Fifty-eight percent of them were against the measure. No cheap meals for poor children say the readers of a paper which costs 2.80 euros every day!

The fifty-eight percent of Figaro readers who don’t want cheap lunches for kids whose parents can’t afford to buy food will presumably be angered and stupefied by yesterday’s announcement by the Education and Health ministries that they intend to offer free breakfasts to school children from disadvantaged areas from next September.

The scheme will eventually provide the first meal of the day to 100,000 children, all of them in areas of “educational priority”, that’s polite techno-speak for zones where most people are poor, few people are white and where difficulty and disadvantage are frequent qualifiers of the social environment.

A recent survey shows that 25 percent of French kids aged between 3 and 11 do not get breakfast every morning. The government scheme will cost six million euros per year.

The menu has yet to be revealed, but we are assured that it will be balanced and healthy. And will surely beat starting the day on an empty stomach.

Legal options narrow for François Fillon

Something which François and Penelope Fillon have probably never experienced.

François Fillon used to be the French prime minister; Penelope is his missus.

She used to work for François as a parliamentary assistant, earning more than one million euros for her efforts between the years 1981 and 2013.

Except that she doesn’t appear to have shown up for work very regularly. Or even, not to beat about the bush, at all.

According to the police dudes who’ve spent the last 30 months investigating allegations first made by the weekly satirical paper Le Canard Enchaîné, the Fillon couple deserve to be hauled before a criminal court.

François is accused of misusing public funds, plotting to defraud the state, abusing his elected position and failing to declare his financial status to the frankly not very efficient High Authority for Transparency in Public Office. Impressive for a man who was Prime Minister, and thus head of the French government, and nearly got to be president, or head of state. And people wonder why the average French voter is a bit sick of politics? Anyway.

Penelope faces charges of aiding and abetting a plot to defraud the state, as well as of receiving stolen public funds.

The couple have provided tons of paperwork to the investigators in an effort to prove the reality of the effort expended by poor Penelope.

Less than impressed, the judges describe that evidence as an attempt to bury the facts in paper, qualifying as an abuse of language that interpretation which allows Mrs Fillon’s most anodine activity to be considered as the action of a parliamentary assistant. “These papers prove nothing,” the investigators conclude.

Two of the Fillon children, who have never needed a school lunch at one euro, or a free breakfast, will be called to give evidence about their own careers as parliamentary assistants to their father, generating incomes for their parent which the investigating judges will ask the court to consider in the case against François Fillon.

The case is expected to be heard before the end of this year.

Turn Notre-Dame into a permanent ruin

Finally, since no self-respecting press review can fail to mention the burned Notre-Dame cathedral in central Paris, I was struck by an opinion piece by the Spanish intellectual Paul Beatriz Preciado in the left-leaning daily paper Libération.

Paul B wants an end to all talk of reconstruction. In an article headlined “Notre-Dame des Ruines,” Our Lady of the Ruins in English, he calls for a gesture in support of burned forests and blackened stones, a punk monument which will mark the end of one world and the beginning of another.

And that would free-up the cash already collected for the re-building of Notre-Dame to provide better free breakfasts and even cheaper school lunches for poor children.

Needless to say, it won’t happen. Sorry kids.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning

Page not found

The content you requested does not exist or is not available anymore.