Sunday, 20 October 2013

French president Hollande gives up his summer residence - Will other political leaders follow suit?

One must admit, that our political leaders often have a tough and difficult job, particularly in times of austerity. On the other hand, in a historical perspective, elected (not to speak of unelected) heads of state and prime ministers have been rather good at creating an environment for themselves, which makes it a little bit easier for them to endure the hardships of the job.

Authoritarians and dictators are of course in class of their own in this regard. Take e.g. Russia's Vladimir Putin, who's presidential perks include 20 palaces and other luxury residences, 58 planes and helicopters, several yachts and a collection of watches worth many times his annual salary.

But even in western democracies, presidents and prime ministers usually enjoy a rather opulent lifestyle, which does not go along very well with the austerity measures they prescribe to ordinary tax payers.

The Brégançon fortress, the French president's former summer residence.

That is why this decision by French president François Hollande is a clever symbolic move:

"François Hollande has given up the Riviera fortress that has served as a retreat for French presidents since Charles de Gaulle, in the name of austerity.
The Brégançon fortress, perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Mediterranean, will from next year be thrown open to the public as one of France's national monuments, Mr Hollande's office said."

Will David Cameron follow suit by giving up his summer residence Chequers? Or how about Angela Merkel selling off her second residence in Bonn?

Or would e.g. the president of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, who is known for his rather modest lifestyle, be prepared to get rid of his official summer residence, which is described as a "mini-Versailles" on the president's official website?:

Kultaranta, the Finnish president's "mini-Versailles".

"The President of the Republic's summer residence, Kultaranta, stands in beautiful 54-hectare grounds in Naantali on the southwest coast. As well as the granite-built house, the complex includes numerous outbuildings and greenhouses, and a well-tended park

Kultaranta park is a kind of mini-Versailles. In the middle is the 'Medallion', surrounded by a carefully trimmed fir hedge. Inside is Kultaranta's famous rose garden, which has 3,500 bushes. The scent and colour of these roses are at their peak in the middle of the summer, when the President and family and their guests come to Naantali for the holidays. The parkland to the north of Kultaranta is in practically a natural state, though a few sandy pathways have been built there, and the woodland is kept in good condition.
Kultaranta has about 1000 square metres of greenhouses. The garden supplies the President's household with both flowers and vegetables all year round.

Midsummer, the great summer festival, is a special time at Kultaranta: the President is sure to have arrived by then, and the great Midsummer bonfire on a nearby islet is an event enjoyed by the whole Naantali area.
Tourists are denied access to the house at Kultaranta. It is the President's 'summer villa', a place where he/she can be undisturbed."

(images by Wikipedia)

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