Carla Bruni to petition Germany for aid campaign

by reuters | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 23 September 2010 16:27 GMT

By Andreas Rinke

BERLIN, Sept 23 (Reuters Life!) - France's first lady Carla Bruni is planning a personal appeal to the German parliament for aid -- but is likely to be politely shown the door instead.

Officials in Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling coalition told Reuters that the wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy wanted to appear before the budget committee of the Bundestag lower house to seek more funding for the fight against AIDS.

Bruni, a former model, hopes to press Germany in her capacity as an ambassador for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, but lawmakers were sceptical, arguing it would encourage other lobbyists to try their hand too.

"I can't imagine she'll be given an official invitation, because that would break the committee's rules," said Norbert Barthle, budgetary spokesman for Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) in parliament.

Otto Fricke, a budget policy specialist from the Free Democrats (FDP), junior partners to the CDU, agreed.

"We mustn't give the impression that celebrity status ensures access to the budget committee," he said.

Rebuffing the 42-year-old Bruni could be awkward for Merkel, whose relations with Sarkozy have suffered frequent ups and downs, most recently during a testy diplomatic exchange this month over the French president's expulsion of Roma.

The officials said Bruni wants to ask Germany for an extra 200 million euros for the Global Fund, to which other countries promised more aid at the Millennium Summit in New York.

Canada, which like Germany is campaigning for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, pledged to give a further 520 million dollars for the next three years. Sarkozy promised a billion euros from France.

Germany's development ministry has set aside only 200 million euros for the fund next year and has ruled out further pledges for now, although Merkel herself said she would continue supporting it at the weekend summit in New York.

The Global Fund takes in aid from governments and private donors and gives out grants to countries which make proposals on how to confront the three targeted diseases.

(Writing by Michelle Martin, editing by Paul Casciato)

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