French court to rule whether citizens can smile in passport photos

Senior civil servant launches legal bid ‘to give the depressed nation a morale boost’

Tom Embury-Dennis
Friday 30 September 2016 16:53 BST
French citizens could soon be allowed to smile for their passport photos
French citizens could soon be allowed to smile for their passport photos

French citizens could soon be allowed to smile in passport photos, with a Paris court set to rule on the matter.

An unnamed senior civil servant launched legal proceedings against authorities after his initial passport application was rejected for smiling in a bid “to give the depressed nation a morale boost”, according to the Telegraph.

In a letter to the court shown to the AFP news agency, the man wrote: "Is it responsible for the authorities to reproach the French for smiling in a depressed France?"

The country is regularly ranked the most pessimistic nation on Earth, but the complainant and his lawyer are determined to change public perceptions.

The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, lost his original court case as it was deemed he was grinning. The rules currently stipulate a person must have a neutral expression and a closed mouth for a passport photo.

Romain Boulet, the man’s lawyer, responded by saying it was easy to “smile with one's mouth shut while keeping a neutral expression,” citing the Mona Lisa as an example.

His client simply had an “undertaker’s smile”, where the lips are only slightly upturned, he insisted.

A spokesman for France’s Interior Ministry hit back, maintaining the civil servant “doesn’t have a neutral expression because he's unquestionably smiling”. It is now up to the Paris Court of Appeals to decide whether the corners of people's mouths can be raised slightly.

Mr Boulet thinks the verdict could change how people around the world think about France. “If we win, the French will give their country a pleasant face,” he said.

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