France Defense and Foreign Policy

By | January 11, 2021



France demands the release of imprisoned academics by Iran

December 27

The French Foreign Ministry calls on the Iranian ambassador to protest the abduction of two French academics, one of whom has launched a hunger strike. France demands that both academics, who have been imprisoned since June, be released. The academics are accused of espionage and cooperation with foreign power.

Hundreds of thousands demonstrate against pension reform

December 18

France is a nation in Western Europe. Its capital city is Paris. More than half a million people join demonstrations in various parts of the country against the government’s plans for comprehensive pension reform. This is the third time large nationwide demonstrations are taking place. For almost two weeks, France has been more or less paralyzed by the strikers’ strikes. There are still major problems for travelers and commuters with canceled trains, buses and domestic flights. Several of the unions that strike, where left-wing CGT is one of the hardest, have promised to continue over Christmas and into the new year, unless the government backs off. Some more reform-oriented unions, including the CFDT, recently joined the strike.

france military spending and defense budget

Center leader Bayrou is charged with corruption

December 7

Prosecution is brought against Francois Bayrou, party leader of the Democratic Movement (Modem), for involvement in embezzlement of the European Parliament’s financial resources. The charge is part of an ongoing legal investigation against Modem MEPs who should have used EU money to pay party workers. The investigation was started in 2017, which resulted in Bayrou and two other Modem ministers being forced to resign (see June 2017). Prosecution has also been brought against Marielle De Sarnez, Modem’s vice president.

Major strike against pension reform

December 4th

The largest nationwide strike since the 1990s begins in protest of President Macron’s planned changes to the pension system. The general strike affects several million transport workers, teachers, police and several other occupational groups. Buses, trains and air travel have been canceled and the Paris subway station is largely stationary. The schools are closed and the burden on the hospitals is tough, as many doctors and nurses also strike. Macron’s reform is, among other things, about the introduction of a single uniform scoring system (see Current policy). The plan has been met by harsh criticism from trade union teams, which, among other things, mean that many in the private sector will have to work considerably longer than the statutory retirement age of 62 to receive a sufficient pension.


Macron about NATO: The alliance is brain dead

November 26th

In an interview with British the Economist, President Emmanuel Macron criticizes Nato for being a brain dead alliance. He thinks that an alarm clock is needed for NATO to address difficult issues such as relations with Russia and Turkey. He also points out that China and Russia are no longer to be seen as the big enemies but that terrorism is the biggest threat. Macron is criticized for his statement by both German Chancellor Angela Merkel, US President Donald Trump and by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Macron on state visit to China

November 6

During a state visit to China, President Emmanuel Macron agrees with President Xi Jinping on trade deals worth around $ 15 billion. Macron’s group includes around thirty French business executives. The two presidents also make a joint statement in support of the Paris Agreement on measures to stop climate change. The statement comes after it became known that the US had requested to leave the agreement.


Republicans appoint new leaders

October 13

The right-wing Republican elects Christian Jacob as new party leader. Jacob is a 59-year-old former minister who leads the party in parliament. Former leader Laurent Wauquiez resigned in June following the party’s bottom line in the EU elections in May.

France stops arms exports to Turkey

October 12

After Turkey’s military offensive against the Kurdish YPG militia in northeastern Syria, France decides to stop its arms exports to the country. This is announced by France’s defense and foreign ministers in a joint statement.

Four killed in the Paris police headquarters

October 3

An IT expert stabs four colleagues to death at police headquarters in central Paris. The 45-year-old man is said to be a supporter of radical Islamism. He is shot dead by a policeman in connection with the terrorist act. Two more people were stabbed in connection with the attack, but they survive. In mid-October, police arrested five people suspected of being linked to the dead perpetrator, including an imam, classified as a security risk.


Macron wants more restrictive immigration policy

September 17th

President Emmanuel Macron wants immigration policy to be tightened, he says at a government meeting on what will be prioritized during the remainder of the term. Macron explains that his party LREM needs to take a clearer position on the issue of immigration, otherwise the party can be perceived as a party for the well-ordered middle class that is closing its eyes to the problems that exist. More than two-thirds of the French believe in a new opinion poll that “there are too many foreigners in France” and that many immigrants do not make enough effort to be integrated into society. In 2018, over 120,000 people applied for asylum in the country.

Major strike in Paris against pension reform

September 13

Employees at the transport company RATP, which is responsible for commuter trains, buses and the metro, carry out a major strike in Paris. Metro lines are down and many bus trips and commuter trains are canceled. Transport workers strike in protest against Emmanuel Macron’s planned pension reform, which will introduce a general pension system that will apply to everyone.


Meeting between Macron and Putin

August 19th

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits President Emmanuel Macron in the summer house in the medieval fort of Brégançon. The meeting is a way for Macron to maintain open contact with Moscow, despite growing tensions between Russia and the western world. The two presidents expressed, among other things, their hopes that the election of the new President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyj, will be able to contribute to peace being achieved in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. As for the Syrian war, which President Macron also addresses during the visit, the two leaders have different views. Macron criticizes the Syrian regime’s bomb attack on the Idlib region of northern Syria and wants to establish a ceasefire. Putin, in turn, supports the Syrian regime’s actions against “terrorists” in Idlib.


Republican Party leaders are retiring

June 2

After the poor result of the European elections, when Republicans received only 8.5 percent of the vote, party leader Laurent Wauquiez elects to leave office. The party received 21 percent of the vote in the 2014 European elections.


Success for Le Pen in the EU elections

May 26

Marine Le Pen’s right-wing party National collection will be the largest party in the European Parliament elections. The party wins with just over 23 percent of the vote and gets 22 seats. The party is part of the Parliamentary Group of Nations and Freedoms (ENF). Despite the success of the National Assembly, the party still backs slightly compared to the 2014 election. President Macron’s party The Republic of the Road (which is part of the parliamentary group Alliance Liberals and Democrats for Europe ALDE & R), together with the Democratic Movement (MoDem), ranks second with just over 22 percent of the vote. giving 21 seats. European Ecology – The Greens (EELV) come in third place in the French EU elections with just over 13 percent and 12 seats in the European Parliament group Green (EFA).


Fire in Notre-Dame

April 15

A fire breaks out in the famous medieval cathedral Notre-Dame, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fire is capable of destroying the church’s 93-meter high spire and parts of the timber roof from the 12th century before it is under control. The main building must have managed to be totally destroyed as well as the two bell towers on the north side of the cathedral. President Emmanuel Macron promises that the cathedral will be restored.


Vandalization in protest of the Yellow West

March 16

For the 18th Saturday in a row, the Yellow West organizes another demonstration in various parts of the country. In conjunction with the protests in Paris, masked protesters smash shop windows on the Champs-Elysees parade street, try to set fire to a bank and carry out other damage. However, the number of participants in the demonstrations has decreased over the past weekends and in Paris about 10,000 people gather, while about 4000 are estimated to take part in the rest of the country.

Mass demonstration for the climate

March 16

About 45,000 people take part in a demonstration train for the climate in Paris. The protesters are protesting that the French government is not considered doing enough to protect the climate.


Anti-Semitic magazine gets the Twitter account revoked

February 19

The right-wing extremist magazine Rivarol is no longer allowed to operate on Twitter because it has been circulating anti-Semitic statements for a long time. The government’s special bodies against racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination have repeatedly reported on the problems of the media platform. The incident coincides with an anti-Semitic wave in the country, which has the largest Jewish population in Europe. According to official data, the number of police reports for anti-Semitic crimes has increased sharply compared to a year ago – the increase is as much as 74 percent.

End of the conflict between Italy and France

February 15

The diplomatic quarrel between Italy and France comes to an end after a telephone conversation between Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella and France’s President Emmanuel Macron. Shortly thereafter, France sends back its ambassador to Rome. At the same time, Mattarella receives an invitation to meet Macron in Paris. Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio’s party The five-star movement is also openly refraining from cooperating with the French protest movement, the Yellow West, which is believed to be propagating violence.

The ambassador in Italy is called home

February 7

According to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the French ambassador to Italy is called home for “consultations” after the Italian Second Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio met with members of the Yellow West. The French Government considers that Di Maio, as representative of the Italian Government, has interfered in France’s “internal affairs”. Di Maio defends the meeting that his party The Five Star Movement has the right to form alliances with French parties in the same way that President Macron’s Party En Marche can cooperate with the center-left opposition in Italy. Since the right-wing government’s entry last year, relations between Italy and France have deteriorated.

Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Di Maio meets the Yellow West

February 5

Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Di Maio and a group from his party The Five Star Movement meet representatives of the Yellow West in Paris. According to a party statement, a meeting is held with Christophe Chalencon and Ingrid Levavasseur, both of whom are leaders in the sprawling movement. Together, according to Di Maio, it has been discussed to form a possible alliance for the European elections in May. Levavasseur has announced that she will be running for election (see January 2019).

Armenian Genocide Memorial Day

February 5

President Macron announces that France is preparing for a national commemoration day for the Armenian genocide. He thus fulfills an election promise. The date of the annual memorial day will be April 24. France, which houses a large group of Armenians, recognized the events of the Ottoman Empire during the First World War in 2001 as a genocide. Turkey, which believes it was not a genocide Armenian was exposed to, responds with a sharp condemnation.


Red scarves want to stop yellow vests

January 27

About 10,000 followers of a group calling themselves the “Red Scarf” organize a demonstration in protest of the Yellow West and their methods. They are tired of roadblocks, children who are prevented from going to school and the destruction of buildings and shops. On Facebook, the Red Scarf has over 21,000 sympathizers. At the same time, 69,000 followers of the Yellow West perform for the eleventh Saturday in a series of protest demonstrations in many parts of the country. A split is evident in the movement, where some members want to continue the protests while another falang wants to move on to act politically. Recently, a 31-year-old single mother of two children, Ingrid Levavasseur, has stated that she will represent the Yellow West in the upcoming European elections.

Diplomatic quarrel between Italy and France

January 23

The French Foreign Ministry calls on Italy’s ambassador in protest against Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Luigi di Maio urging the EU to impose sanctions on France for “its colonial policies in Africa”. Relations between the countries have become worse since the Lega and Five Star Movement formed government in Italy. The migration issue in particular has caused problems. France has criticized the Italian government for not accepting rescue vessels with migrants and the Italian government has in turn criticized the French for sending migrants back to Italy. Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has called Emmanuel Macron a “terrible president” and, along with di Maio, has shown strong support for the French protest movement “The Yellow West”.

New friendship agreement with Germany

January 22

President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel sign a new friendship agreement in the German city of Aachen. The new Aachen Agreement is an update to the Élysée Treaty, signed 56 years ago by French President Charles de Gaulle and German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. The Elysées Treaty highlighted the importance of cooperation between the two countries that have so often been bitter enemies and war against each other. The Aachen Agreement will further deepen relations between the countries and lead to increased cooperation in a number of areas such as defense and security policy, business and research, infrastructure and more.

Macron launches “major national debate”

January 13

After the Yellow West held new protests for the ninth Saturday in a row in several cities, while the number of protesters again increased, Macron promises to seek the French’s views in a public consultation. The national debate will cover 35 different issues, including immigration, environmental issues, democracy and taxation, and will take place between January 15 and March 15. Macron’s hope is that the initiative will end the protests.

Protesters attack the Interior Ministry

January 5

The Yellow West is once again holding demonstrations in various parts of the country. About 50,000 people are reported to be attending. Protesters try to get into the Paris Ministry of the Interior with the help of a forklift and a government spokesman is forced to flee through a back door.