This content is not available in your region

France: equality, liberty... transparency

Access to the comments Comments
France: equality, liberty... transparency
Text size Aa Aa

Cahuzac in the French lower house of parliament, the Assemblée Nationale, said: “I deny categorically… I do not have – have never had – an account abroad.”

The credibility of the government was badly spattered by the Cahuzac scandal. France’s powerful fought to retrieve a moral position. Swiftly, elected officials were required to disclose their assets. Seventy percent of the French approved. Three cabinet ministers declared they pay solidarity tax on wealth imposed on the very rich. Traditionally, the political left has not mixed well with money.

The late François Mitterrand said: “We can’t continue drifting towards a domination of money, which, naturally, corrupts.”

Hollande said: “We need to fight the abuses of money, greed and financial obscurity.”

Analyst Jacques Juillard said: “The Left’s suspicion towards money and major wealth is based on the idea that one can’t become rich by entirely honest means, by working, but that it has to have come from speculating, through exploitation.”

A politician’s lying has compounded this view. Increasingly, tolerance has taken a fall, whether it is politicians of the Left or the Right who are suspected of concealment. Independent authorities monitoring transparency have found France to be bringing up the rear in Europe.

France is one of two European Union members – with Slovenia – to blanket completely what its elected officials earn or own. There is partial disclosure in Germany, Italy and Hungary, for example, while the Nordic countries bare all.

In Sweden and Norway (Norway is not in the EU) there is not even a fig leaf. There, the income and assets of the entire population, politicians included, are published. Well, not the royal families – democratic exception – undemocratic, if you like. Consultable on the Internet.

Germany’s system is a mixed bag. Parliament members must reveal any income earned outside their political office if it exceeds 1,000 euros per month. But if you’re in the government you don’t have to.

Cahuzac was the catalyst in moving France closer to its European partners in terms of rules on owning up.