Page last updated at 14:17 GMT, Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Row over Sarkozy's unused shower

French President Nicolas Sarkozy (file image)
France's EU presidency under Nicolas Sarkozy was one of the most costly

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has come under fire over a shower built at taxpayers' expense but never used.

The shower, in the Grand Palace, Paris, was intended for his use at a Union of the Mediterranean summit held during France's six-month EU presidency.

French opposition MP Rene Dosiere accused Mr Sarkozy of spending 245,000 euros (£221,000) on the shower.

But a spokesman for Mr Sarkozy's UMP party said the figure was for the renovation of a suite of rooms.

The French European Union presidency, which ran from July to December 2008, was one of the most expensive in history.

The French Court of Accounts put the total cost at 171m euros (£154m).

Surround sound

The three-day summit during which the shower was intended to be used cost 16.6m euros to stage in total, according to the French Court of Accounts.

An earlier BBC News website story reported that the installation of the shower alone cost 245,000 euros.

But UMP spokesman Frederic Lefebvre said that figure covered the refurbishment of a suite of eight rooms and bathrooms for the use of heads of state.

Mr Dosiere, a socialist MP, on Tuesday commented on the cost of the shower as he criticised what he described as the "incredible, insupportable and unacceptable expenses" of the French EU presidency.

Other expenses included £90,000 for a carpet and nearly £300,000 for a conference podium, according to a copy of the French Court of Accounts report published on the Mediapart website.

Usually the rotating presidency of the EU costs 70-80m euros. Only Germany has previously spent as much on it as France, the AFP news agency reported.

Its report said France had organised 489 EU events during its presidency, including nine summits, 25 ministerial meetings and 328 seminars and symposiums.

A spokesman for the European Commission said the vast majority of the budget for the costs of the rotating EU presidency comes from the member state concerned.

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