French MPs have voted to make it mandatory for certain French mairies to fly the European Union flag.
The bill was passed by the French parliament l'Assemblée nationale overnight between Wednesday and Thursday (May 10/11).
The move remains controversial, facing criticism from both left- and right-wing politicians.
Most mairies exempt
The initial draft law called for the flying of the EU flag to be mandatory for all mairies in France.
However, amendments have softened the initial proposal. It will now only be obligatory with mairies [in cities or villages] that have more than 1,500 inhabitants.
There is also more flexibility on where the flag can be flown, for example on the roof or near town halls.
“The exemption concerns 70% of communes in France,” said Philippe Gosselin, an MP from the right-wing Les Républicains party. “It does not make any sense” in a “one and indivisible Republic”.
Jérémie Iordanoff, an MP from the left-wing Parti écologiste party, meanwhile abstained from the vote saying “Either [the EU flag] is important, it is a symbol and we show it everywhere or it is not”.
Mathieu Lefèvre, an MP from the Renaissance party of French president Emmanuel Macron, said the bill would have a “symbolic impact”.
He added, “those who find it hard to hide their unease with the starry flag find it just as hard to hide their hidden dreams for Frexit.”
The bill also includes amendments to make it mandatory to show the official portrait of the French president in all town halls, as well as the French motto “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité” (Freedom, Equality, Brotherhood) on the facade.
It will also be mandatory to display The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen inside town halls.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no legal obligation for mairies to fly a French flag, even though it is recommended, especially during military or civil ceremonies.
This is unlike schools, where since 2013 it has been obligatory to fly the French flag outside all public and private establishments.
The bill says although both flags will be mandatory, the French flag will “take pride of place” on the top of mairies.
The bill will now go to the Senate.