Charter defines role of Macron's wife _ still not first lady
By ELAINE GANLEY
Aug. 21, 2017
PARIS (AP) — President Emmanuel Macron's office published a charter Monday detailing the role his wife will play during his term, a first for France but a step down from his initial plan to give her a budget and legal status as first lady.
The Charter of Transparency says there will be no formal budget for the endeavors of Brigitte Macron and she will not be paid. Macron dropped the idea of creating a special budget for his wife after a recent petition opposing it quickly secured more than 280,000 signatures.
France does not have a formal title or role for the spouses of its presidents, and the centrist Macron wanted to change that and do away with what he once called "French hypocrisy" about the non-status of presidential spouses.
The person living with the president "must be able to play a role and be recognized for that role," he said before his election in May.
Brigitte Macron, 64, a former teacher at her husband's high school, attended most of his campaign rallies and the 39-year-old president doesn't hide her behind-the-scenes role as his close political adviser.
Now losing momentum in polls, Macron has ceded to pressure and trimmed his ambition to carve out a role for his wife on a par with some other spouses of chiefs of state, notably in the United States. The title of the document, "Charter of Transparency concerning the wife of Head of State," puts the last five words in English, in an apparent allusion to the Macron ideal.
The charter never refers to "first lady," instead using words like "spouse," ''wife" or "Madame Brigitte Macron."
It states at the start that "no legal text codifies this role" but that "for the first time" the charter aims to clarify and make public the mission of the presidential spouse and the financial means available — funds allocated from the budget of the presidency, to be accounted for, controlled and made public.
The new charter proposes a dossier for Brigitte Macron that includes liaising with civil society in areas such as education, health, disability issues, culture and gender equality as well as working nationally and internationally on climate change and on the problem of violence against women and children. She may also be given special missions that lead to proposals on those issues — a hint that she could become actively involved on the social front.
Not only does the spouse of a French president have no official status, there was no one to play the role unofficially under Macron's predecessor, Socialist President Francois Hollande. He broke up with the companion he took to the Elysee Palace and kept his new companion in the shadows.
Before that, conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy divorced the wife who accompanied him to office, Cecilia, in the first year of his term. He then married supermodel Carla Bruni, who was the first lady, albeit unofficial, until Sarkozy was voted out of office in 2012.
Associated Press writer Sylvie Corbet contributed to this report.