Prime Minister Francois Fillon
France's Prime Minister Francois Fillon leaves the Elysee Palace following the weekly cabinet meeting on February 9, 2011. Reuters

The recent media and political outcry against French Prime Minister Francois Fillon and Foreign Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie's sponsored holidays in Egypt and Tunisia respectively has drawn an official directive from President Sarkozy, asking French ministers to vacation within national borders.

Recent reports in a French satirical weekly that Prime Minister Fillon was recently in Egypt for a week-long holiday paid for entirely by the Mubarak government were confirmed when Fillon's office released a statement acknowledging that the Prime Minister and his family spent an all-expenses paid week in the Nile resort of Aswan, during which they were also taken around on an Egyptian government plane for sightseeing. This, however, was during the New Year week (December 26 - January 2) when there were no strong outward signs of the subsequent violent political upheaval in the country or protests against the Mubarak regime.

Fillon's admission comes even as the furor continues over Foreign Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie's alleged close links with deposed Tunisian president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. Michèle Alliot-Marie was in Tunisia during the uprising against the autocratic rule of Ben Ali in the country and took free flights on a plane belonging to a national business tycoon known to be very close to the leader. She has since regretted her action publicly, describing it as an error, but resisted strong calls for her resignation over the diplomatic faux-pas.

In response to these raging controversies surrounding two high profile members of his cabinet - and in such close succession - French President Sarkozy has now issued a statement, saying From now on, members of the government must prefer France for their holidays...Invitations accepted abroad will be authorized by the prime minister and the presidential diplomatic unit... to see whether they are compatible with France's foreign policy.