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EUROPEAN UNION

France removes EU flag from Arc de Triomphe after right-wing uproar

French authorities took down a temporary installation of the European Union flag from the Arc de Triomphe monument in Paris on Sunday, after right-wing opponents of President Emmanuel Macron accused him of "erasing" French identity.

People gather at Paris' Arc de Triomphe lit up in blue to mark the French presidency of the European Union
People gather at Paris' Arc de Triomphe lit up in blue to mark the French presidency of the European Union on January 1st, 2022. The European Union flag was taken down on Sunday. JULIEN DE ROSA / AFP

The giant blue flag was raised in place of a French flag on New Year’s Eve to mark France’s turn at the rotating presidency of the EU Council, which it will hold for the next six months.

The arch, a monument to war dead, and other landmarks including the Eiffel Tower and the Pantheon are also being illuminated with blue lights for the remainder of this week.

But Macron’s right-wing rivals for the presidential election four months away seized on the removal of the French tricolour, calling it an affront to France’s heritage and its veterans.

“Preside over Europe, yes, erase French identity, no!” tweeted Valerie Pecresse, the conservative candidate who polls indicate could be the main challenger to Macron in the upcoming vote.

She urged him to restore the French flag, saying, “We owe it to our soldiers who spilled their blood for it.”

Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who had vowed to file a complaint with the State Council, France’s highest court for administrative matters, also denounced the move, while Eric Zemmour, a far-right media pundit who is also running against Macron, called it “an insult”.

Le Pen on Sunday called the overnight removal of the EU flag “a great patriotic victory,” claiming on Twitter that a “massive mobilisation” had forced Macron to backpedal.

But an official in the French presidency said the flag’s removal before dawn was “in line with the planned schedule”, insisting that unlike the blue lights for monuments, it was only supposed to be at the Arc for two days.

Europe Minister Clement Beaune, who on Saturday accused Macron’s opponents of “desperately chasing after the sterile controversies of the far right,” also denied any “retreat”.

“We embrace Europe, but that doesn’t take anything away from our French identity,” Beaune told France Inter radio.

He said the decision to remove the flag during the night was made by officials at the agency in charge of national monuments.

The presidency official, who asked not to be named, could not say when the massive French flag would fly again under the Arc, but noted it was not a permanent feature for the monument.

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Member comments

      1. Britain came to support the French army and returned to Britain when the French decided to surrender after just 6 weeks. Britain then won the Battle of Britain and the Battle of the Atlantic , allowing the US to then join them in freeing occupied Europe.

        1. A rather misguided and one-sided view of history but only to be expected from such an expert on France. No doubt another Daily Mail reader.

          1. Simple facts tell their own story – like 123000 of the 360000 troops evacuated from Dunkirk were French. 150000 British, American and Commonwealth troops landed on D-Day alongside 175 French troops. No doubt you have your own narrative, Boggy, but the numbers don’t lie.

  1. If that’s all the right wing can worry about, they are not very bright or as well-informed about the country as they say they are.

  2. Honestly, if their ego and ‘identity’ is that fragile it deserves to be lost (referring to the.right wingers idea of Frenchness…not the nation)…

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IMMIGRATION

How Europe’s population is changing and what the EU is doing about it

The populations of countries across Europe are changing, with some increasing whilst others are falling. Populations are also ageing meaning the EU is having to react to changing demographics.

How Europe's population is changing and what the EU is doing about it

After decades of growth, the population of the European Union decreased over the past two years mostly due to the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest data from the EU statistical office Eurostat show that the EU population was 446.8 million on 1 January 2022, 172,000 fewer than the previous year. On 1 January 2020, the EU had a population of 447.3 million.

This trend is because, in 2020 and 2021 the two years marked by the crippling pandemic, there have been more deaths than births and the negative natural change has been more significant than the positive net migration.

But there are major differences across countries. For example, in numerical terms, Italy is the country where the population has decreased the most, while France has recorded the largest increase.

What is happening and how is the EU reacting?

In which countries is the population growing?

In 2021, there were almost 4.1 million births and 5.3 million deaths in the EU, so the natural change was negative by 1.2 million (more broadly, there were 113,000 more deaths in 2021 than in 2020 and 531,000 more deaths in 2020 than in 2019, while the number of births remained almost the same).

Net migration, the number of people arriving in the EU minus those leaving, was 1.1 million, not enough to compensate.

A population growth, however, was recorded in 17 countries. Nine (Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, France, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands and Sweden) had both a natural increase and positive net migration.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: Five things to know about Germany’s foreign population

In eight EU countries (the Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia, Spain, Lithuania, Austria, Portugal and Finland), the population increased because of positive net migration, while the natural change was negative.

The largest increase in absolute terms was in France (+185,900). The highest natural increase was in Ireland (5.0 per 1,000 persons), while the biggest growth rate relative to the existing population was recorded in Luxembourg, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta (all above 8.0 per 1,000 persons).

In total, 22 EU Member States had positive net migration, with Luxembourg (13.2 per 1 000 persons), Lithuania (12.4) and Portugal (9.6) topping the list.

Births and deaths in the EU from 1961 to 2021 (Eurostat)

Where is the population declining?

On the other hand, 18 EU countries had negative rates of natural change, with deaths outnumbering births in 2021.

Ten of these recorded a population decline. In Bulgaria, Italy, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia population declined due to a negative natural change, while net migration was slightly positive.

In Croatia, Greece, Latvia, Romania and Slovakia, the decrease was both by negative natural change and negative net migration.

READ ALSO: Italian class sizes set to shrink as population falls further

The largest fall in population was reported in Italy, which lost over a quarter of a million (-253,100).

The most significant negative natural change was in Bulgaria (-13.1 per 1,000 persons), Latvia (-9.1), Lithuania (-8.7) and Romania (-8.2). On a proportional basis, Croatia and Bulgaria recorded the biggest population decline (-33.1 per 1,000 persons).

How is the EU responding to demographic change?

From 354.5 million in 1960, the EU population grew to 446.8 million on 1 January 2022, an increase of 92.3 million. If the growth was about 3 million persons per year in the 1960s, it slowed to about 0.7 million per year on average between 2005 and 2022, according to Eurostat.

The natural change was positive until 2011 and turned negative in 2012 when net migration became the key factor for population growth. However, in 2020 and 2021, this no longer compensated for natural change and led to a decline.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: One in four Austrian residents now of foreign origin

Over time, says Eurostat, the negative natural change is expected to continue given the ageing of the population if the fertility rate (total number of children born to each woman) remains low.

This poses questions for the future of the labour market and social security services, such as pensions and healthcare.

The European Commission estimates that by 2070, 30.3 per cent of the EU population will be 65 or over compared to 20.3 per cent in 2019, and 13.2 per cent is projected to be 80 or older compared to 5.8 per cent in 2019.

The number of people needing long-term care is expected to increase from 19.5 million in 2016 to 23.6 million in 2030 and 30.5 million in 2050.

READ ALSO: How foreigners are changing Switzerland

However, demographic change impacts different countries and often regions within the same country differently.

When she took on the Presidency of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen appointed Dubravka Šuica, a Croatian politician, as Commissioner for Democracy and Demography to deal with these changes.

Among measures in the discussion, in January 2021, the Commission launched a debate on Europe’s ageing society, suggesting steps for higher labour market participation, including more equality between women and men and longer working lives.

In April, the Commission proposed measures to make Europe more attractive for foreign workers, including simplifying rules for non-EU nationals who live on a long-term basis in the EU. These will have to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU Council.

In the fourth quarter of this year, the Commission also plans to present a communication on dealing with ‘brain drain’ and mitigate the challenges associated with population decline in regions with low birth rates and high net emigration.

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.

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