EU flag is collateral damage as French presidential campaign heats up

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PARIS – On the surface, the outrage that greeted the EU flag waving alone under the Arc de Triomphe at the weekend was a political storm in a teacup. But it also showed that Europe will be just one of many divisive issues in the upcoming elections.

The hoisting of the EU flag (and not the French one) was supposed to mark the beginning of the French EU presidency, which began on January 1st. Instead, it turned into a battle over the history and identity of France, and gave a sense of what is to come in the uploaded presidential campaign that will dominate French politics through April.

The right-wing extremist candidates Marine Le Pen and Éric Zemmour – not exactly fans of the EU – quickly condemned the move as “provocation that offends those who fought for France “and a”indignation“(The arch honors those who fought and died for France in battle and houses the tomb of the unknown soldier).

Even mainstream conservative presidential candidate Valerie Pécresse said the move was “the obliteration of French identity” and urged President Emmanuel Macron to hoist the national flag next to the European banner, as former President Nicolas Sarkozy did at a revival ceremony the flame at the grave of had done the unknown soldier when the country last held the EU Council Presidency in 2008.

The left-wing presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon said the flag affair was “despising.”

The attack by all of Macron’s presidential rivals underscores one of the main fissures in the campaign, putting the blatantly pro-EU (if not yet declared) candidate – Macron – against candidates of varying degrees of Euroscepticism.

The support of the European project is the glue, the macrons According to internal polls for his political movement La République en Marche, the electorate is mixed. Attacks by rivals seem to stifle any attempt by Macron to use the EU presidency for his re-election.

It is also the first in a long list of likely mini-controversies over interpretations of French history and the place of the EU and the ethnic and religious diversity in it that will ripple through the next four months.

Macron’s government and supporters defended the flag placement, saying the soldiers commemorated at the Arc de Triomphe celebrated the decade-long peace announced by the EU.

“The founding fathers of the European Union built it to end centuries of war and the sacrifice of soldiers, including unknown soldiers. Seventy years later, this controversy is undignified, ”said French Justice Minister Éric Dupond-Moretti. tweeted on behalf of himself and the Junior Minister for Europe Clément Beaune.

They pointed out that other major monuments around Paris – including the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame and the Elysee Palace – were illuminated in blue in honor of the EU Presidency without triggering the same firestorm.

This defense seems to lack the power of symbolism, especially before major elections in times of pessimism and need. The French are among the most popular Eurosceptic people in the EU, and a majority says France is in decline.

Also, only the Arc de Triomphe was adorned with the flag of Europe, which for some commemorates the occupation of Paris when the Nazi flag was hoisted on the memorial.

The move was obvious too Injury to a French from 1963 decree It states that “the use of the colors of Europe on monuments is possible as long as it takes place next to the French colors, provided that the European flag is affixed to the right of the French flag”.

Although other monuments continue to be illuminated in EU blue, the flag was removed from the arch on Sunday, which was obviously a step backwards by the government.

Beaune said on Sunday that the plan had always been to lower the flag that day, but on Saturday he had said the EU flag should fly for “a few days”.

An Elysee spokesman denied the flag was removed under pressure, saying it was removed as planned.


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