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France’s Republican Guard ‘too costly’, watchdog rules

© Facebook page of the Garde Républicaine.

Text by Sophie PILGRIM

Latest update : 2013-05-09

Charged with protecting the president and his palace, France’s prestigious Republican Guard is too expensive and would be unable to resist a terrorist attack in the capital, the country’s spending watchdog has ruled.

The Garde Républicaine has been standing guard outside the presidential palace ever since the founding of the French republic. But today, it provides more pomp and circumstance than protection to merit its outsized budget, France’s spending watchdog has ruled.

In a report released on Tuesday, the Cour des Comptes recommended a reduction in spending at the guard, which employs 2,959 military and civilian staff and costs the state some 280 million euros a year.

Officially, the guard spends 69% of its time protecting “national palaces” such as the Senate, the National Assembly and the presidential palace. But in the event of an organised attack, “it would be unable to resist without assistance,” the Cour des Comptes ruled, adding that its functions were now “more prestige than security-orientated”.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls responded to the recommendations "favourably", underlining the importance of securing sites “particularly vulnerable to potential terror attacks”.

‘An institution’

In looking for ways to cut around 60 billion euros in public spending over its five-year term, France’s Socialist government has resorted to inventive schemes such as auctioning off the presidential palace’s extensive wine cellar.

But any prospective plans to downsize the Republican Guard would likely be met with disapproval from the French public. Recognised the world over as emblematic of Paris, the guard is a treasured fixture for the French, as demonstrated on Bastille Day when cavalcades are met by masses of eager crowds.

In an article questioning the proposed cuts on Tuesday, conservative daily Le Figaro described the guard as “a symbol of the republic”.

Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë said in March that “the Republican Guard is an institution; deeply tied to the history of Paris”.

Date created : 2013-05-08

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