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Video by Regan RANUCCI

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-07-29

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, declared healthy after a brief hospitalisation at the weekend, presided over a final meeting of his cabinet on Wednesday before the government's summer break. The future of La Poste was a major topic for discussion.

Three days after his brief hospital stay, French President Nicolas Sarkozy presided over the last Council of Ministers meeting before the annual summer holiday.


“I want to tell the French people that I am in good health,” he told the numerous reporters who had gathered at the Elysee Palace to inquire after the French leader’s state of health.


Sarkozy, who collapsed briefly while jogging on Sunday and spent a night under observation at Val-de-Grace hospital in Paris, went on to say that the public has a right to know when a president’s well-being is in question and would make it a point to keep the nation informed.


“There are even more cameras here than usual,” said FRANCE 24’s French politics editor, Melissa Bell. But she said that, while Sarkozy’s health remains a concern, the council’s agenda is equally at issue.


“There are some very sensitive topics on the table,” she says.


Just a few short hours before their three-week summer vacation, the ministers are tackling some hot-button issues – including redrawing the electoral map, stemming the spread of influenza A(H1N1) and reforming the chambers of commerce.


Postal privatisation, agenda heavyweight


The ministers are particularly entangled in thorny issues involving the nation’s postal service, La Poste, which could become a public limited company starting from January 1, 2010.


The debate over this change in status is still under debate. Proponents say it would allow La Poste, which is 5.8 billion euros in debt, to modernise before being confronted with the task of completely liberalising the nation’s courier market according to European Union regulations, slated for 2011.


But postal employees fear the change could lead to an indirect privatisation that would bring with it a deterioration of working conditions. Dozens of workers on Tuesday demonstrated against the proposal at the French Ministry of Economy.


“We know what happened with France Telecom and EDF-GDF (France’s national gas and electricity company),” said Sebastien Baroux, departmental secretary of the Paris postal services union. “Allowing public investment is always the first step toward a total privatisation of public services and a listing on the stock exchange.”


The unions, who are also concerned that the quality of postal services may suffer, are planning to take action in September, when the proposition is submitted to parliament. The Socialist Party has also pledged to make the issue a priority upon returning to work in the fall.


The government insists that La Poste will remain 100 percent funded by public capital.


Elsewhere in Europe, several national postal services have seen similar changes. In Germany, Deutsche Post gave up its public monopoly in 1998 but continues to distribute 90 percent of Germany’s mail and makes an annual profit running into billions. Italy’s La Poste Italiane, a private company for the past 11 years, remains fully state-financed.


Such successful examples, however, are not enough to alleviate French fears.

Date created : 2009-07-29