France assumed the rotating presidency of the European Union for the next six months, but the French right was quick to protest against raising the Union flag on the Arc de Triomphe in the capital, Paris, while the French opposition fears that President Emmanuel Macron will exploit the presidency of the European Union to run for a second term in his country.
Last night, France took over the rotating presidency of the European Union from Slovenia, which it has chaired since July 1. This is the 13th time that France holds the rotating presidency of the European Union since 1958, and the first since 2008, and it is scheduled to hand it over in the second half of this year to the Czech Republic.
In a move symbolizing the French presidency of the bloc, the Eiffel Tower and the Elysee Palace were lit in European blue, and dozens of other symbolic monuments will be lit across France during the first week of January.
the right is protesting
But the raising of the European flag over the Arc de Triomphe in Paris sparked controversy, with far-right presidential candidates Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour expressing their “anger” at the replacement of the European Union flag with the French flag over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
“Decorating the Arc de Triomphe in the colors of the European Union only without the presence of the national flag is a real attack on our national identity, because this monument glorifies our military victories and includes the tomb of the unknown soldier,” Le Pen said in a statement.
There was no immediate comment from pro-EU French President Emmanuel Macron, whom Le Pen accuses of giving a “direct order” to place the flag. But the French Minister of State for European Affairs, Clement Bonn, said that the raising of the flag was “temporary”, and wrote – in a tweet on Twitter – “The French flag has not been replaced. The election campaign is not a free declaration of lies and petty arguments.”
The French opposition denounces Macron’s exploitation of the presidency of the European Union, as he is likely to run for a second term, although he has not officially announced that yet. All opinion polls suggest that he will win a second 5-year term.
“This could be a trump card for the French president, by allowing him to reaffirm his European commitment to his electoral base, but without him also risking if his political opponents choose to attack him directly over his European policy,” said Thierry Chopin, a professor of political science at the Catholic University of Lille.
Macron has not yet revealed his intention to run in the French presidential elections scheduled for April, after he beat Le Pen in the second round of the 2017 elections by 66% to 34%, but the upcoming presidential and legislative elections (in June) will affect The French presidency of the European Union and the reduction of the time available to it.
It identified 3 priority projects during the French presidency: the adoption of a minimum wage in all European Union countries, the establishment of controls for the work of digital giants, and the introduction of a carbon tax on products imported into Europe according to their impact on the environment.
Macron also calls for a better adjustment of the Schengen area, the “European border protector”, in the face of waves of immigration, a theme at the heart of the French election campaign.
He also intends to propose a revision of the budget rules known as the Maastricht criteria, which control the deficits in European countries in order to finance investment and growth. It also still proposes strengthening European defense, despite the reservations of some partners who are especially keen on protecting the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
The rapid spread of the Omicron mutated from the Corona virus will affect the program of the French presidency of the European Union, which includes about 400 meetings or events in France, especially in January, when a large number of meetings will be held remotely.