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Staycation time: EU leaders keep it low-key

In the midst of political turbulence, forthcoming elections, austerity and even a corruption scandal, Europe's leaders are set to take their annual vacation from the hurly-burly of political life.

2013 is the year for low-key holidays for Europe's politicians, sensitive to the fact that many Europeans say they cannot afford to go on holiday given the recession and high levels of unemployment.

Some leaders are choosing destinations in their own country, known as "staycations". Some have even gone so far as to order their political colleagues to not go abroad this year.

The destinations the leaders have chosen reflect their needs this summer- to get away from prying eyes and angry voters who are closely watching their leaders to see if they practice the austerity that they preach.

Angela Merkel
German Chancellor
Vacation location: Italian Alps

Merkel traditionally opts for holidays in Italy and reportedly spends every Easter on the Italian island of Ischia, off the coast of Naples.

This summer, she will spend at least part of her 18-day vacation hiking in the Italian Alps, according to Reuters. A German governments spokesman would not confirm the location, however, although he said Angela Merkel's last podcast before her holiday had mentioned a hiking holiday.

It might be just the time Merkel needs to clear her head ahead of national elections in Germany on September 22. The latest weekly FORSA poll gave Merkel's center-right coalition a 12-point lead over the center-left alliance, but her party has not been without troubles lately, most recently over the U.S. spying scandal.

Germans have been angered by the extent of U.S. spying, but the German government has been walking a fine line between co-operating with the U.S. and seeking explanations from the U.S. over revelations made by Edward Snowden.

Ahead of her holiday, which started on July 19, Merkel gave her traditional "summer press conference" during which she defended her stance on U.S. spying.

Francois Hollande
French President
Vacation location: Fort de Brégançon

The French president, who's been dubbed "Mr Austerity" by the press for slashing his own and government officials' salaries, will try to practice what he preaches by staying in France during his two weeks of annual leave at the start of August. But he will still be holidaying in style.

According to Le Parisien newspaper, Hollande and his partner Valérie Trierweiler traveled to the traditional summer residence of French presidents on Thursday.

Fort de Brégançon on the French Riviera is set atop a rocky outcrop in the Mediterranean. It has been the property of the French state and has been used as a summer residence for the republic's leaders for over four decades.

Hollande has a second home near Cannes but according to the The Guardian newspaper, this is deemed too "showbiz" at a time when Hollande's popularity ratings are already at an all-time low.

Hollande is sensitive to reports that last year he spent too much time on holiday. French newspaper Le Figaro reported on Monday that Hollande had ordered his ministers to holiday in France so they wouldn't be too far from Paris. He has also banned them from taking more than 16 days of holiday.

The French presidential office was not immediately available to confirm the reports.

Turn to Page 2 for the holiday destinations of Italy, Britain and Spain's leaders.

Enrico Letta
Italian Prime Minister
Vacation location: Pisa

Italy's beleaguered Prime Minister Enrico Letta has only been in the job a few months and already he could be forgiven for yearning for a holiday. Infighting within his own center-left party and growing tensions with its coalition partner, Silvio Berlusconi's party, have dogged his government.

Not much progress seems to have been made on the political or economic front. So, eager to appear dedicated to the job, Letta announced he would not go on holiday this August because of the need to resolve a dispute over taxes among his coalition members, according to the Italian newspaper Il Sole.

In June, the Italian Minister of Defense, Mario Mauro, announced that the entire government would not go on holiday until economic reforms had been put in place, the newspaper La Stampa reported.

However, CNBC was told by the Italian government's press office that the prime minister, once he had returned from an official visit to Azerbaijan and Afghanistan, would try to take a few days rest in his native city of Pisa.

One veteran politician who is not about to renounce his well-deserved holiday is Giorgio Napolitano. The 88-year old Italian president reluctantly agreed to stay in the post earlier this year, forfeiting his planned retirement. He's currently away on holiday at a hotel in Val Fiscalina, in the mountainous region of Alto Adige in Italy's north, Il Sole reported.

David Cameron
U.K. Prime Minister
Vacation Location: Portugal and UK

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has often tried to set an example by taking annual vacations within British shores. This year, however, the Conservative leader has already been to the party island of Ibiza (although he stayed on the quieter part of the island) and he is now on holiday in the Algarve in Portugal.

The prime minister and his wife, Samantha traveled abroad on budget airline Easyjet to the south-western Portuguese region, renowned for its mostly unspoiled beaches and relaxed atmosphere. They were pictured on a visit to the Aljezur fish market.

The Mirror newspaper reported that the prime minister is also set to spend time this summer in Cornwall, in the south west of the U.K., and in Scotland, before parliament reconvenes on September 2.

Mariano Rajoy
Spanish Prime Minister
Vacation Location: Galicia and Donana, Spain

Last year, rumors that Spain would need an international bailout threatened to ruin the holidays for the Spanish prime minister. This year, it could be a political scandal surrounding him.

Spanish newspapers have reported that Rajoy will spend his holidays in the north-western city of Pontevedra in Galicia this year, rather than at his beach apartment in Sanxenxo, where he has gone for 20 years. The change was apparently due to "security reasons," according to Spanish newspaper El Correo.

Instead, he will stay in a rented house called "Casa Alicia" in the nearby town of Ribadumia which costs 260 euros per night and can sleep up to six people. It is also deemed secure enough by the state security service, according to news site Publico.

Rajoy will also spend some of his holidays (which end on August 30) at the Palacio de Las Marismillas, a building of national heritage in Andalucia, as well as some time with the King and Queen of Spain in Mallorca, Publico reported.

Rajoy has decided to go on holiday despite a mounting political scandal over a secret slush fund from which the prime minister is alleged to have benefited.

He faced questioning on the scandal in parliament on Thursday/

Rajoy is already facing a growing public backlash over austerity measures, public sector job cuts and tax increases. Aware of his party's unpopularity, he has ordered his party members to holiday within Spain rather than abroad. At least, Rajoy will be hoping to avoid a repeat of last year when 5,000 people turned up to protest outside the apartment where he was holidaying.

The Spanish government's press office said that Rajoy's holidays are a "personal affair. "What we can tell you is that he is planning a visit to Galicia and Donana [in Andalucia]," a spokesperson said.

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