Sunday, December 3News That Matters

French military chief quits after Macron clash

The head of France’s armed forces has resigned after clashing with President Emmanuel Macron over proposed budget cuts.

In a statement, Pierre de Villiers said he no longer felt able to command the type of army “that I think is necessary to guarantee the protection of France and the French people”.

The military chief clashed with Mr Macron last week after telling a parliamentary committee he would not allow the armed forces to be “screwed” by €850m (£752m) worth of planned cuts.

He said: “I may be stupid, but I know when I’m being had”.

Gen de Villiers later posted a statement on Facebook in which he did not name Mr Macron but said “no-one deserves to be blindly followed”.

On the planned cuts, Gen de Villiers said: 'I know when I'm being had'
Image:On the planned cuts, Gen de Villiers said: ‘I know when I’m being had’

On Friday, the President responded by telling military leaders: “I am your leader”.

“For me it is undignified to wash dirty linen in public,” he said in a public address. “I need no pressure, no comment.”

In a newspaper interview, Mr Macron added that if there was a difference of opinion “it is the chief of the defence staff who will change his position”.

The President’s plans for military cutbacks have been criticised by opponents and even some in his own party.

Emmanuel Macron
Image:Mr Macron described Gen de Villiers’ criticism as ‘undignified’

Jean-Jacques Bridey, a Macron ally and chairman of the parliamentary committee on defence, said he regretted the policy “while our men risk their lives every day”.

Meanwhile, National Front vice president Florian Philippot said the proposals were as “irresponsible as they were incomprehensible”.

Gen de Villiers’ resignation comes a day after a bill to toughen France’s security laws passed its first reading.

The laws, which were a campaign pledge of President Macron, would allow authorities to carry out searches without seeking the approval of a judge.

Mr Macron is planning €850m worth of military cuts
Image:Mr Macron is planning €850m worth of military cuts

They would also allow places of worship thought to be promoting extremism to be shut down for up to six months.

Human rights groups claimed the measures were draconian, but Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said the bill was necessary with the “ever present” terror threat.

He said: “We want to come out from the state of emergency, but we can’t do so without counter-terrorism controls in place.”

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