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Friday, January 21, 2022

France takes control of European Union presidency as tension continues for Macron following comments made about unvaccinated citizens

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen travelled to France today to mark the beginning of France’s six month presidency of the European Union. French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to two leading European figures.

Macron was accompanied by von der Leyen at France’s famed Pantheon to honour the memories of Simone Veil and Jean Monnet. Veil was a Holocaust survivor who repeatedly broke barriers for women in politics.

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Veil leaded a campaign to legalise abortion in France and was the first female president of the European Parliament. Jean Monnet was a founding father of the European Union.

Macron has been championing the idea of for greater autonomy for the EU, and will use France’s position as President of the EU Council to amplify these ideas. Among the main ideas Macron has for the EU, are the introduction of an EU minimum wage, a carbon tax on imported products, and the reform of the EU’s fiscal rules.

France further wants to accelerate discussions to find a consensus on the bloc’s asylum system. A senior French Government official said the EU needs to be more sovereign to be in a position to make its own choices while defending its ideals of democracy.

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The official said: “There is a risk for Europeans to simply go out of history. In the sense that we would no longer contribute to writing the history of the world, and others would come and write our own history. There is an existential danger.”

Emmanuel Macron subject to fierce backlash following warning to unvaccinated French

The French President has been subject to fierce opposition and backlash after issuing a warning to unvaccinated French individuals, stating that he would continue to pressure said individuals to get vaccinated by restricting their access to certain aspects of life.

The French President was criticised for the language he used during his speech which included a French vulgar slang word “emmerder” but it was also the phrasing of the speech itself where Macron said, “As for the non-vaccinated, I really want to hassle them” which would mean “limiting as much as possible their access to activities in social life”.

This comes as the French Government aims to push through parliament legislation that will make vaccinations compulsory to take part in cultural activities, inter-city train transport, and visiting cafés from the 15th of January. This is due to the fact that the vaccine pass will no longer be accepted with proof of a recent test or recovery from Covid-19.

In response, Opposition joined forces on Monday to hold up the passage of the legislation through parliament with debates resuming on Tuesday, however, consideration for the bill was suspended on Wednesday following Macron’s comments while President of the session Marc Le Fur said the atmosphere in the chamber could not meet “conditions for a calm working environment”.

Leader of the right-wing Republicans in the lower house National Assembly Damien Abad criticised Macron’s remarks, branding them as “unworthy, irresponsible and premeditated” which displayed “childish cynicism” while Republican President Christian Jacob said the faction “refused to endorse a text which aims to hassle the French”.

Macron’s rivals accused him of going too far with the language that he used during his warning which included, “you will no longer be able to go to the restaurant. You will no longer be able to go for a coffee, you will no longer be able to go to the theatre. You will no longer be able to go to the cinema”. National Rally leader Marine Le Pen said, “A president should not say that” and accused Macron of making some French “second-class citizens”.

As Macron wants to stand for President for a second term in April, he will only declare his intentions when he is sure, however, Reconquête founder Eric Zemmour is also standing for President and responded to Macron’s comments by stating, “As president, I will stop hassling the French”. However, Macron’s comments were not just met with opposition from right-wing candidates as Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of La France Insoumise, condemned the president’s comments and described them as “appalling”.

IMAGE – Flickr

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