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France: Government Submits Bills on Ethics and Transparency in Politics

(June 20, 2017) On June 14, 2017, the French government submitted two bills to the French Senate on reinforcing rules of ethics and transparency in the political sphere. (Projet de loi organique (procédure accélérée) rétablissant la confiance dans l’action publique [Bill for an Organic Law (Accelerated Procedure) to Re-Establish Confidence in Public Action], No. 580,  Sénat [Senate] website; Projet de loi (procédure accélérée) rétablissant la confiance dans l’action publique [Bill (Accelerated Procedure) to Re-Establish Confidence in Public Action], No. 581,  Sénat website (both submitted to the Senate on June 14, 2017).)  The bills complement each other, with the proposed organic law affecting how the Presidency and the Parliament function and the proposed ordinary law containing more general provisions on political institutions and offices at all levels.

The proposed organic law aims to strengthen transparency and ethics in politics by requiring that the financial situation of the French President be evaluated by an independent authority both at the beginning and at the end of his/her term; by requiring French tax authorities to submit financial statements on each member of Parliament; by requiring MPs to either correct tax irregularities or to resign; by increasing the financial information that MPs are required to submit; by increasing the number of professional activities that MPs are barred from engaging in while they are in office; and by putting an end to the long-running practice of maintaining a “parliamentary reserve,” by which each MP had access to certain discretionary funds. (Projet de loi organique rétablissant la confiance dans l’action publique.)

The proposed ordinary law would increase the ability of judges to make a person ineligible for political office when that person is guilty of a criminal offense involving lying or fraud, reinforce rules against conflicts of interests for MPs,  make it illegal for members of the Cabinet and MPs to employ members of their family as staffers, and establish additional rules on the financing of political parties.  (Projet de loi rétablissant la confiance dans l’action publique.)

These two bills are the first major legislative initiative of newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron and represent one of his major campaign promises. (La loi de «moralisation de la vie publique» présentée en Conseil des ministres [The Law on ‘Moralization of Public Life » Presented in the Council of Ministers], RFI (June 14, 2017).)