Macron wields 'tools to set EU agenda'

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Nicolas Bay, general secretary of the right-wing National Rally party and an ally of its presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, warned such behaviour risked opening up still more divisions in a society he said was already one of the most eurosceptical in Europe. Mr Bay was speaking in the week France assumed the Presidency of the Council of the European Union (FPEU).

To mark the occasion, the bloc’s flag was given pride of place on the historic war monument in the centre of Paris.

However, it was removed after vociferous protests from among others Ms Le Pen herself, as well as Republicans candidate Valerie Pecresse – although Minister for European Affairs Clement Beaune insisted it had always been the plan to take it down after a few days.

Mr Bay told Express.co.uk: “This provocation is above all an expression of his ego, of his hubris.

“The logo of the FPEU already showed it: He managed to show off his initials EM!”

All countries used the rotating EU presidency to push their particular issues and, although the room for manoeuvre remained limited, tried to steer them in a way which suits their national interests, Mr Bay stressed.

He added: “One senses that Emmanuel Macron will not do this.

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“He is not used to defending France’s interests, but he is used to systematically putting himself forward.”

As such, the FPEU was an opportunity for Mr Macron to “put on a show” and to “make a big communication operation” for the benefit of his presidential campaign, Mr Bay claimed.

He added: “If Macron, who has often shown himself to be contemptuous of the people, continues to provoke the French and insult their symbols, they will remember.

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“Emmanuel Macron wants to play on this patriots/EU-lovers divide.

“He wants to oppose the large metropolises that benefit economically from globalisation to the countryside that suffer from it.”

The EU embodied such globalisation, being a symbol for people keen to usher in what Mr Bay called “a post-historical and post-national world”.

Mr Bay also highlighted to a nationwide vote on the proposed ratification of the European Constitution 17 years ago, which was rejected by 55 percent to 45 percent.

He said: “This is why Macron constantly flatters it and scorns the French who refuse these changes.

“But the latter are the majority, as the 2005 referendum on the European constitution clearly demonstrated.

“A referendum that was quickly buried. The French are already one of the most critical peoples of the EU.

“It is certain that by dint of provocations, by speaking to only one part of the population, Macron will divide society even more.

“This is not the role of a president.”

Speaking after the flag was removed, Mr Beaune said he was “very proud” it had flown for a few days from the Arc de Triomphe.

He added: “Rest assured, everywhere in France, there will be, as expected, every day to come, European blue which will illuminate our cities and our monuments.”

However, he later told France Inter radio: “It was scheduled that the flag was to be taken down this Sunday, we hadn’t established an exact time.”

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