French ministers to keep vacations short: PM

26th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, July 26 (AFP) - President Jacques Chirac told his ministers Monday to keep their summer vacations short, nearly one year after a heat wave that killed an estimated 15,000 people in France, a government spokesman said.

PARIS, July 26 (AFP) - President Jacques Chirac told his ministers Monday to keep their summer vacations short, nearly one year after a heat wave that killed an estimated 15,000 people in France, a government spokesman said.

Chirac "wished the members of the government a good vacation, and he also told them he hoped their vacations would be short and studious," spokesman Jean-Francois Cope said after the final cabinet meeting in Paris before a traditional three-week break.

Memories of August last year, when government ministers initially refused to truncate their holidays to respond to the extraordinary heat wave, are still fresh.

Jean-Francois Mattei, who was health minister at the time, was eventually sacked in a reshuffle months after being seen on television in a t-shirt in his villa in south of France insisting that there was nothing to worry about at the beginning of the hot weather.

Mattei's successor, Philippe Douste-Blazy has promised that, while he too would take some annual time off in August, "at the drop of a hat, I'll be here (in Paris)."

Chirac, who failed to return from his vacation in Canada during the heat wave, will again be overseas this year.

Later Monday he was to head to Madagascar, and from there to a 10-day getaway on France's Indian Ocean island of La Reunion with his wife.

He is due back in France in time to greet Pope John Paul II who is to visit the miracle town of Lourdes on August 14 and to preside over the 60th anniversary of the allied landings in the south of France.

Chirac's prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, is expected to spend much of his time in Paris, in case, although he and and his wife will take a break of a couple of days in the French Alps.

"A system has been put in place for the members of the government and for cabinet officials so that the government will be on duty at all times, of course," Cope said.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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