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NATIONALISM

France’s Macron warns Europe of a return to 1930s

The French President has warned Europe of a return to the 1930s because of the spread of a nationalist "leprosy" across the continent, in an interview published Thursday.

France's Macron warns Europe of a return to 1930s

He also warned that Europe risked losing its sovereignty if it is “pushed around by foreign powers.”

“I am struck by similarities between the times we live in and those of between the two world wars,” he told the newspaper Ouest-France, urging people to be aware of the threats.

“In a Europe divided by fears, the return of nationalism, the consequences of economic crisis, one sees almost systematically everything that marked Europe between the end of World War I and the 1929 [economic] crisis,” the paper quoted him as saying.

“You must bear that in mind, be clear-headed and know how to fight back,” he added.

Macron, who is about to start a week-long visit to north and eastern France to mark the centenary of the end of World War I, has recently criticized fellow European Union members for giving up on EU principles.

He has notably singled out Hungary and Poland whose nationalist governments have clashed with Brussels, as well as Italy which has a populist government including the far-right League party figures.

Looking ahead to his tour of World War I battlefields, the president said he was looking for the lessons of history, while seeking to promote “a more sovereign and multilateral” Europe.

“Europe faces a risk – that of being broken up by nationalist leprosy and of being pushed around by foreign powers. And thereby losing its sovereignty,” he said.

“That is to say having its security depend on U.S. choices, having China play an ever greater role when it comes to essential infrastructures, and Russia sometimes tempted to try its hand at manipulation, and have financial interests and markets sometimes play greater roles than that of states.”

Macron, who has been losing ground in the opinion polls, is attempting to position himself as the champion of centrist politics and multilateralism in the run-up to European parliamentary elections in seven months' time, saying he expects the duel to be one between “progressives” and “nationalists.”

According to the latest Vivavoice poll, released Tuesday, Macron has lost 10 points since August with his approval rating now at 26 percent.

The poll, carried out between Oct. 19 and 22, with a margin of error of between 1.4 and 3.1 percent, also suggested that nearly two out of three people have a “poor opinion” of him.

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DEMONSTRATION

Tens of thousands march against far-right in France

Tens of thousands of people across France on Saturday marched against "attacks on freedoms" and what organisers said was a growing influence of far-right ideas ahead of next year's presidential elections.

Tens of thousands march against far-right in France
A "Freedom march" called by several organisations, associations and trade unions to "combat extreme right-wing ideas" on June 12. credit: SAMEER AL-DOUMY / AFP

Members of more than 100 left-leaning organisations participated in the “Liberty March” in cities and towns across the country.

The protests were the first opportunity for a divided left to take to the streets after a year and a half of Covid-19 restrictions.

Organisers reported 70,000 participants in Paris and 150,000 around the nation, while the Paris police and interior ministry put the numbers at 9,000 in the capital and 37,000 nationwide.

The interior ministry said 119 rallies had taken place.

In Nantes, western France, around 900 people rallied, according to the local prefecture, including scores of far-left militants who clashed with police.

In the Mediterranean port of Marseilles, more than a thousand demonstrators marched behind a CGT union banner that called for “unity to break down the capitalism that leads to fascism”.

Protesters vented against issues ranging from recent legislation they say chips away at liberties, such as a law that could see prosecutions for publishing images of police officers in action, to what they charge is a creep of far-right ideas into the mainstream ahead of next year’s elections.

In the southern city of Toulouse, a 54-year-old teacher and union activist who gave his name as Gauthier remarked that students had begun to challenge him and warned that “extreme right ideas are gaining ground”.

Far-right ideas “are no longer the monopoly of far-right parties and … have now largely penetrated the political class,” said Benoit Hamon, the Socialist presidential candidate in 2017.

In Paris, far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon had flour thrown in his face as he spoke to reporters.

A suspect arrested later in the day claimed to be a “sovereigntist” who social network specialists said broadcast far-right commentary on YouTube.

The move against Melenchon, who has been accused of fuelling conspiracy theories ahead of the presidential election, came days after President Emmanuel Macron was slapped in the face while shaking hands with people on a regional visit.

Other events that have caused concern in France recently are allegations of ties between far-left figures including Melenchon and Islamists, a YouTube video that simulated the execution of a militant from his France Unbowed party, and university gatherings at which Caucasian participants were allegedly not allowed to speak.

Jordan Bardella, vice president of the far-right National Rally (RN) party, dismissed the demonstrations on Saturday as a bid to deflect attention from Melenchon’s remarks on terrorism and the 2022 presidential election.

Groups that took part included Socialists, Communists, ecologists and trade unions.

READ MORE: Calls for nationwide day of demonstrations in France against ‘far-right ideology’

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