Hollande to Step Up Asset Reporting for French Ministers, MPs

French President Francois Hollande, stung by one of his ministers admitting he’d hid an overseas bank account, is preparing some of the strictest reporting requirements in Europe for politicians.

Government ministers will be required to divulge their assets and sources of income by April 15. Members of parliament, heads of local government, and heads of administrative bodies will follow once a law is passed later this year. The law will be presented to the cabinet April 24.

“Elected officials must be respected, and transparency is what allows respect,” Hollande said in a press conference after today’s cabinet meeting in Paris. “The choices I have made will prevent the return of scandals that have harmed our country for too many years.”

Hollande’s popularity, already at a record low for a president not even one year into his term, was further hit when Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac said April 2 that he’d been lying for months about an undeclared Swiss bank account first reported last December by an online newspaper.

Germany and Britain require all members of parliament to disclose activities or assets that provide an income, though they don’t have to disclose all their assets.

The new French requirements were criticized by the opposition and by Bank of France Governor Christian Noyer.

“It doesn’t further the cause of democracy,” Noyer said today on Europe1 radio, speaking before Hollande detailed his reporting requirements. “Democracy is about clear rules, and respect for the rules. It’s not about reality TV.”

‘A Smokescreen’

Jean-Francois Cope and former Prime Minister Francois Fillon, who were deadlocked in a bitter battle last year to head opposition party, Union for a Popular Movement, clashed again over the question of publishing assets.

Fillon said on France2 television April 8 that he owns a house in central France that he bought in 1993 for 440,000 ($570,000) euros, has savings of 73,000 euros, and owns a Toyota Land Cruiser and Peugeot 306, both of which are more than 10 years old.

“I don’t want to play this game of voyeurism and hypocrisy,” Cope said on France2 TV yesterday. “It’s just a smokescreen to hide a minister who lied and defrauded the taxman.”

Christian Jacob, a member of the UMP, said on Europe1 yesterday that “Deputies should not be doormats for everyone to wipe their feet on.”

Some members of government, including Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg and Health Minister Marisol Touraine, have already disclosed their assets.

Ending Suspicion

Government spokesman Najat Belkacem-Vallaud wouldn’t say if any reservations about disclosing assets were expressed at today’s cabinet meeting.

“Everyone thinks that we have to respond,” she said. “It’s demanding, but it’s useful if we want to put an end to suspicions.”

Under the outlines of the law announced today, a special commission will be set up that will verify the veracity of the declarations. Providing false information would be a criminal offense.

Hollande also reiterated that he wants an end to secret bank accounts within the European Union, and that he wants all EU countries to share information on earnings and assets held by citizens in other countries.

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