Make flying of EU flag mandatory on all French town halls, say MPs

But critics of the draft law say the French parliament has got more important matters to discuss

A familiar sight - but soon a mandatory one?
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MPs from President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling party want to make it mandatory to fly the European Union flag on all French mairies.

The proposal - which was discussed in the French parliament l'Assemblée nationale on Wednesday (May 3) - is controversial with both left- and right-wing politicians voicing opposition.

“The history of the [French] tricolour is intimately linked to the history of our Republic,” wrote MPs from Macron’s Renaissance party. “This history is inseparable, since the beginning of its construction, from the European Union and its promises of peace, prosperity and fraternity on a continental scale.”

No legal requirement EU or French flag

The inclusion of the EU flag may be grabbing headlines in France, but it is only one part of the motion put forward by the group.

One cornerstone of the draft law is to make the flying of a French flag - alongside the EU one - a requirement for 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.

Since 2010, there has been a €1,500 fine for “the act of destroying, defacing or damaging the tricolour… when committed in conditions likely to disturb public order and with the intention of insulting the tricolour”.

The draft law says although both flags will be mandatory, the French flag will “take pride of place” on the top of mairies.

Read more: Leave mairies alone: their role is fundamental to democracy in France

Flag proposal ‘unnecessarily creates conflict’

Around 40 amendments to the bill are to be discussed in parliament, amid opposition to the proposal.

The draft law is “totally out of step with the expectations and needs of local elected representatives… [and] unnecessarily creates conflict,” said Antoine Léaument, an MP from the left-wing La France Insoumise party.

The party has proposed a tongue-in-cheek amendment saying that, if the bill does pass, mairies should also fly the flags of the UN, UNESCO, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Organisation for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The far-right Rassemblement national (RN) party is also critical of the push to make flying the EU flag mandatory.

“If mayors want to put the European flag on the facade of their town hall, they have every right to do so without the law forcing them to,” said MP Thomas Ménagé.

“Conversely, those who do not wish to affix it should remain free not to do so… as the constitution of the French Republic recognises only the tricolour flag as the national emblem,” he added.

Other RN MPs said the debate was a waste to use “parliamentary time for this… when there are issues of inflation, retirement and insecurity.”

MPs from both these parties have caused controversy in the past over the use of the EU flag in public settings such as l'Assemblée nationale or the Arc de Triomphe.

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