Europe

Macron's swimming pool plan for palace lands him in hot water

French President Emmanuel Macron visits the port in Le Guilvinec, France, June 21, 2018. Image copyright Retuers
Image caption Mr Macron arrives by the waterfront in Le Guilvinec on Thursday to meet port workers and fishermen

French President Emmanuel Macron has landed in some hot water over plans to build a new swimming pool at his private presidential retreat.

The planned pool at Fort Brégançon, on France's south-east coast, is designed to provide privacy for the president's family, and particularly children.

Past presidents have been photographed at the retreat's "private" beach in their swimwear.

But Mr Macron's political opponents have painted it as an extravagance.

The swimming pool's cost is expected to be relatively low, with French media estimating it could be built for about €10,000. The presidential palace told French broadcaster BFMTV that the cost would be drawn from the usual budget for maintenance of the Brégançon retreat.

But the proposal has emerged just weeks after a controversy over the cost of new formal dining plates for the Élysée palace, Mr Macron's primary residence in Paris. A new porcelain dinner set will cost some €50,000 - though one publication claimed the real cost was closer to €500,000.

In the same week, he used the private presidential jet for a 110km (68-mile) journey lasting 30 minutes and was heard to remark on the "shedload of cash" spent on the country's benefits system.

Ridiculing the run of poor publicity, Lydia Guirous, spokeswoman for the rival Republican party said: "Now Jupiter requires a swimming pool" - referring to the king of gods in Roman mythology, who ruled above all others.

"The president's profligate behaviour is shocking when he is calling on the French to make ever more efforts!" she tweeted.

Fort Brégançon, used by French presidents since Charles de Gaulle in the 1960s, is on an outcrop reachable by just one main road, and comes complete with its own beach.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption President Hollande was photographed at Brégançon in 2012 in this and other less welcome photos

But several French presidents have found that the private retreat is not safe from the eyes of paparazzi.

Mr Macron's predecessor François Hollande was photographed in his swimwear with first lady Valérie Trierweiler in 2012 - appearing on the cover of France's VSD magazine, Voici, and Closer.

Before that, Nicolas Sarkozy was also snapped at the fort with his wife Carla Bruni while she was heavily pregnant.

But it was Jacques Chirac, in 2001, who discovered the open nature of Fort Brégançon most spectacularly.

Then-President Chirac was photographed upon the balcony, gazing out upon the ocean - wearing nothing at all.

The pictures were never published.

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