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Macron ‘will continue to greet crowds’ after slap in face

French President Emmanuel Macron will continue to greet crowds during his travels despite a security scare that saw him slapped by a man in the south of France, a government spokesman said on Wednesday.

Macron 'will continue to greet crowds' after slap in face
Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron greet crowds on Tuesday. Photo: Philippe Desmazes/AFP

Macron shrugged off his assault on Tuesday in the village of Tain l’Hermitage, calling it an “isolated event” and “stupidity”, and he went to chat with and fistbump onlookers later in the day in the nearby town of Valence.

“Obviously his trips are going to continue: the president will remain in contact with the French public,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday.

“It would be completely incomprensible for people to be deprived of contact with the president because of an isolated individual who wanted to challenge” him, Attal added.

Macron’s assailant, a 28-year-old man identified as Damien T., remained in police custody on Wednesday and is expected to be charged with assaulting a public figure, which carries a maximum three-year prison term.

He has been described as a fan of medieval martial arts and board games, while the French media raked over his social media activity looking for clues to his political sympathies.

He is a subscriber to several far-right YouTube channels.

Popular evening talkshow Le Quotidien aired footage of one of its journalists meeting Damien T. and friends earlier in the day on Tuesday.

One of the friends, who says he identifies with the anarchist movement, explains that they have come to speak to Macron about the “decline of France”.

Police sources said that Damien T. had no criminal record.

The slap has led to debate about whether it is safe for Macron to continue spontaneous meetings with members of the public.

The centrist began a nationwide tour of France last week, promising to “take the pulse” of the country a fortnight before regional elections and 10 months before a presidential vote.

He is widely expected to seek a second term in April and May next year, with polls giving him a narrow lead over far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

The 43-year-old former investment banker decided to get out of his car to greet onlookers on Tuesday who were calling his name after a visit to a school in Tain l’Hermitage.

In footage of the incident, he can be seen striding over to a barrier, with his security detail behind him, before greeting Damien T., who grabs him with his left hand and strikes with his right.

Experts highlighted on Wednesday how French security services advise French presidents on their safety, but do not have authority or powers to prevent them putting themselves in danger.

“In the United States it’s the opposite: the Secret Service decides if a trip is seen as too dangerous and no one opposes them, not the people in charge of protocol or even the president,” Jean-Pierre Diot, a former member of France’s specialist VIP police protection force, told Le Parisien.

“The Americans have a history of attacks,” he added.

Macron has been regularly booed and heckled in the street since coming to power in 2017, above all by anti-government “yellow vest” protesters, but he had never been physically assaulted before Tuesday.

The country has faced a string of Islamist attacks in recent years and Macron has been personally targeted during demonstrations in Muslim countries over his defence of French secularism and the right to blaspheme.

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POLITICS

French minister: US green plan should be ‘wake-up call’ for EU industry

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on Friday said Washington's $430 billion plan to spur climate-friendly technologies in the United States must be seen as a wake-up call for Europe.

French minister: US green plan should be 'wake-up call' for EU industry

The EU “must be able to sweep in front of our own door” before worrying about the effects of the US climate plan on European industry, Le Maire told AFP in Washington, where he was part of French President Emmanuel Macron’s US state visit.

Even though the EU has already “changed its approach” on promoting green industry, the US climate plan must be seen as a “wake-up call” in the European Union, he added.

Le Maire’s comments came as EU countries have poured criticism on Washington’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), seeing it as anti-competitive and a threat to European jobs, especially in the energy and auto sectors.

Subsidies for green energy

The act, designed to accelerate the US transition to a low-carbon economy, contains around $370 billion in subsidies for green energy as well as tax cuts for US-made electric cars and batteries.

Macron on Wednesday slammed the plan’s “Made in USA” provisions as “super aggressive” for European businesses.

But at a joint press conference with Macron, Biden said that he and the French leader had agreed to “discuss practical steps to coordinate and align our approaches”, though he said he would not apologize for the US plan.

Biden added the IRA was never intended to disadvantage any US allies.

Threats of retaliatory measures

Last month, EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton threatened to appeal to the World Trade Organization and consider “retaliatory measures” if the United States did not reverse its subsidies.

Le Maire also criticized the EU’s own climate spending plans, arguing that they were too cumbersome and loaded with red tape.

“If the ambition is the same” as the Europeans, the United States relies on methods that “are simpler and faster”, he said.

“They put immediate and massive tax credits where we provide state aid (to specific projects) which sometimes take two years to be adopted and are too complex to implement,” said Le Maire.

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