A political storm over the temporary installation of the European flag at Paris’ Arc de Triomphe to celebrate France’s European Union presidency has left many baffled. The monument to war dead usually shows the French flag.
The EU flag was removed last night less than 48 hours after being put up however the government claims its use was always temporary and was scheduled to come down at that time and was not in response to the criticism received.
Emmanuel Macron’s government arranged for the European flag to fly at the Arc de Triomphe on December 31 to celebrate France taking the head of the rotating presidency of the European Union for the six months starting January 1.
However the flag provoked outcry from both members of the Rassemblement National and La France Insoumise, France’s far-right and far-left parties, and also Valérie Pécresse, Les Republicains’ (centre-right) candidate for the presidency, who said she would much rather see the French flag.
French flag was not removed to be replaced by EU colours
Secretary of state for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, told public service media FranceInfo that the government had not removed a French flag as this was not in place at the time as there was no particular event for it to be flying.
Mr Beaune added it was “aberrant to see the right misinterpreting and running after sterile polemics [attacks] raised by the far-right”, a comment aimed at Mme Pécresse.
“Is it really an outrage to see a flag symbolising the longest period of peace in Europe?”, asked journalist Matthieu Croissandeau in an editorial on BFMTV.
Mr Croissandeau added that the issue characterised both the rancid political atmosphere of “identitarian craziness” in the election campaign and politicians disconnected from reality at a time when Covid was accelerating.
‘The 2022 presidential campaign has started with controversy’
“Does this large blue flag with its 12 stars require such a battle?” asked journalist Nicolas Beytout on the private radio Europe 1 adding that the controversy had officially started the 2022 presidential campaign.
The storm had been sparked by Marine Le Pen.
“I am outraged that the French flag was replaced by the European flag under the Arc de Triomphe, above the tomb of the unknown soldier, said Mme Le Pen on Twitter, the first politician to express indignation over what she called “a provocation” and “an attack on the identity of the country.”
Je suis outrée que le drapeau français ait été remplacé par celui de l'Union européenne sous l'Arc de Triomphe, au-dessus de la tombe du soldat inconnu.— Marine Le Pen (@MLP_officiel) December 31, 2021
Cette provocation offense ceux qui se sont battus pour la France. Je demande à E. Macron de rétablir notre drapeau national. pic.twitter.com/sR2IfjV3sG
This was followed by Far-Right election candidate Eric Zemmour also calling it an “outrage” and Valérie Pécresse, who denounced an erasure of French identity and Jean-Luc Mélenchon (Far Left) calling it “macronistic caprices.”
L'Arc de Triomphe sous Macron : après le saccage et l'empaquetage, l'outrage. pic.twitter.com/0fLIOBSdO6— Eric Zemmour (@ZemmourEric) December 31, 2021
Présider l'Europe oui, effacer l'identité française non! Je demande solennellement à Emmanuel Macron de rétablir notre drapeau tricolore à côté de celui de l'Europe sous l'arc de Triomphe. Nous le devons à tous nos combattants qui ont versé leur sang pour lui. pic.twitter.com/4tQAGwZKmg— Valérie Pécresse (@vpecresse) December 31, 2021
In 2008, during France’s last European presidency, former president Nicolas Sarkozy had displayed the European flag under the Arc de Triomphe alongside a French flag.
Taking the seat from Slovenia, France will pass the EU presidency on July 1, 2022 to the Czech Republic.