France’s Valls Draws Fire for Using Jet to Fly to Soccer Match

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls drew criticism for using a government plane to attend a football match in Berlin Saturday.

Four French dailies splashed the controversy on their front pages, with Le Parisien headlining it as the “Great Gaffe.”

Valls used the plane to travel from his party’s gathering in Poitiers, in southwest France, to Berlin for the Champion’s League final between Spain’s Barca and Italy’s Juventus. Two of the prime minister’s children joined him on the flight, Le Parisien said.

“The error was to go in a jet at the expense of the state,” said Olivier Falorni, a lawmaker with the Radical Left party. “Anyone can make a mistake. It just needs to be corrected.”

Valls, whose government is pushing through 50 billion euros ($56 billion) in public spending cuts over three years, said he attended the match at the invitation of Michel Platini, the president of the Union of European Football Associations.

Pressed Tuesday at the National Assembly, the French prime minister alluded to the criticism but declined to apologize. “Let’s avoid a polemic and focus on what matters,” he said, before going on to discuss his plans to ease regulation on small businesses.

Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron today defended Valls with the same line of argument.

“If the presence of the two children cost something extra, then it would matter,” Macron said today on France Inter radio “I understand the sensitivity. We’re in a country that no longer tolerates such things. At the same time, let’s focus on real issues.”