Migrant crossings to UK discussed by Clément Beaune
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French authorities removed the European Union flag from the Arc de Triomphe monument in Paris on Sunday after right-wing opponents accused the President of “erasing” French identity. Mr Beaune, French Secretary of State for European affairs, hit back at the backlash, saying he was “very proud” that the EU flag had flown for a few days from the Arc de Triomphe. He said: “Rest assured, everywhere in France, there will be, as expected, every day to come, European blue which will illuminate our cities and our monuments. And we are very proud of it!”
The blue flag was raised in place of the French flag on New Year’s Eve to mark France’s turn at the rotating presidency of the EU Council.
France will hold this position for the next six months.
The EU symbol was also projected onto government buildings and other cultural landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Louvre.
The Arc de Triomphe, a monument to war dead which marks the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, is traditionally draped with the French flag.
Presidential rival Marine Le Pen commented: “To adorn the Arc de Triomphe with the sole colours of the European Union, without the presence of a national flag, is a real attack on our nation’s identity.
“This monument honours our military victories and houses the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.”
The far-right politician accused Mr Macron of “betraying the duties of his office and displaying arrogant contempt for our history for the sake of personal ambition”.
Ms Le Pen also claimed the French President had given a “direct order” to hang the flag – a move which she suggested broke several articles of the French constitution.
In a tweet on New Year’s Eve, she demanded President Macron immediately return the French tricolour to the Arc de Triomphe.
She added that she would appeal to the Council of State, which acts as legal adviser of the executive, to remove the EU flag.
Ms Le Pen’s outrage was echoed by Valerie Pecresse, another conservative candidate who polls suggest could be the main challenger to Mr Macron in the next election.
Ms Pecresse said: “Preside over Europe yes, erase French identity no!”
She urged the president to restore the French flag, adding, “We owe it to our soldiers who spilt their blood for it.”
In the aftermath of the conservative uproar, Mr Beaune accused his critics of “desperately chasing after the sterile controversies of the far-right”.
An official in the French presidency told France24 that the flag’s hasty removal before dawn was “in line with the planned schedule”.
The official claimed that unlike the blue lights for other monuments, it was only intended to be at the Arc for two days.
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