Emmanuel Macron is already off to a controversial start of the new year after he replaced the French flag over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with an EU flag. The symbolic gesture, intended to mark the start of Paris’s six-month presidency of the European Union, has ignited a flurry of furious right-wing protests. Presidential rival Marine Le Pen demanded officials immediately “take down” the EU flag.
The blue EU flag with 12 golden stars was placed on the famous Arc de Triomphe as France took up its presidency at the Council of the European Union, one of the bloc’s decision-making bodies.
The EU symbol was also projected onto government buildings and cultural landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower, the Notre-Dame Cathedral, and the Louvre.
Ms Le Pen said: “To adorn the Arc de Triomphe with the sole colours of the European Union, without the presence of a national flag, is a real attack on our nation’s identity.
“This monument honours our military victories and houses the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.”
The far-right politician accused Mr Macron of “betraying the duties of his office and displaying arrogant contempt for our history for the sake of personal ambition”.
Ms Le Pen, who is seen as Mr Macron’s key rival for this year’s presidential elections, claimed the French President had given a “direct order” to hang the flag.
In a tweet on New Year’s Eve, Ms Le Pen demanded President Macron immediately return the French tricolour to the Arc de Triomphe.
She added she would appeal to the Council of State, which acts as legal adviser of the executive, to remove the EU flag.
He tweeted: “The French flag has not been replaced. The election campaign is not a free pass for petty lies and controversies.”
The French are set to vote in the presidential election in April, followed by the parliamentary election in June.
President Macron has pledged an ambitious and radical programme for France’s six-month tenure of the EU bloc presidency.
He proclaimed that 2022 must be a “turning point for the European Union”.