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France

Brigitte Macron will have official role – its official!

media French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron walk toward the Elysee Palace courtyard, to welcome autistics people, prior to the launching of a program to enhance the diagnosis and treatment of autism, in Paris, France, July 6, 2017. REUTERS/Thibault Camus/Pool

The French presidency said Monday that Brigitte Macron, the wife of President Emmanuel Macron, would have a official role representing France but would not be paid or have her own budget or staff.

A proposal by Macron during campaigning earlier this year to create a new First Lady status for her has been shelved following an outcry, but the presidency had promised to clarify her position and the resources at her disposal.

More than 220,000 people signed a petition against the initial plans for her position, accusing President Macron of nepotism.

A statement from the presidency said she would "represent France at her husband's side during international summits and meetings" and would also organise meetings at the Elysee Palace.

Unlike the US First Lady, the wife of the French president does not have a formal role, although they are often informal champions for charitable causes.

Past French presidential wives have had small teams working for them at the Elysee, but did not receive a salary.

Nevertheless, previous arrangements concerning perks for the wives, or partners, of French presidents had lacked transparency, which President Macron had sought to challenge.

While the official role of his wife was one of Macron's lesser priorities, the fact that he has had to scale back on this particular plan marks another setback for him.

Macron has steadily lost ground in popularity ratings in the last month, after tough debates in parliament over his labor reform and public ethics law, a dispute with the military and cuts to housing assistance.

In her first interview since her husband won the presidential election in May, Brigitte Macron told Elle magazine last week that she paid little attention to her status as France's First Lady, adding she was happy for people to address her simply as "Brigitte."

"I don't feel as if I'm the 'First Lady', which is the translation of an American expression, a figure of speech which does not appeal to me in the least. When I hear people say it, I always want to look behind me and say - "Who are they talking about?."

"I am not the First Lady, nor the last, nor even a 'Lady'! I am simply Brigitte Macron."

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