Row over cuts: France's chief of staff resigns

In the dispute over Macron's austerity plans for the army, Pierre de Villiers has stepped down as France's chief of staff. The general believes the country's security is in danger and has sharply criticised planned cuts to the tune of 850 million euros - prompting Macron to demand "a sense of duty and discretion". A highly revealing power struggle, the press concludes.

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Delo (SI) /

Macron engaging in a childish power struggle

Macron should have thought twice before starting this row, Delo criticises:

“Quite naturally, the president's 'war' with the general who was obliged to resign has both the military and industry worried. The opposition has let its voice be heard, incensed by the arrogance of Macronism which has already 'presented its first masterpiece', namely a crisis of 'historic proportions' - also because the security situation in France and the world continues to be extremely tense, while democracy and freedom of opinion are under threat. ... Forcing 'France's best' (as many are now praising de Villiers) to be silent is a childish show of authority.”

Contrepoints (FR) /

The French have been tricked

Macron's budget policy is no different from Hollande's, Serge Federbusch, chairman of the centre-right Parti des Libertés, complains in Contrepoints:

“With the first ambush that costs poorly armed French soldiers their lives, he will be held accountable. The same will happen when the Islamist attacks start up again and it becomes clear that once again the intelligences services and the police were ineffective due to budget cuts. The more days go by, the more the Macron regime comes across as a condensed version of his predecessor's mistakes. Grandiloquent declarations, tax hikes mainly affecting the middle class, ill-conceived budget cuts and in the end disillusionment for all. The only thing that's changed is the packaging. In other words, the French have let themselves be tricked.”

La Tribune de Genève (CH) /

Good reasons for spending cuts

The announced cuts in the defence budget also represent an opportunity for the French army, La Tribune de Genève points out:

“Bringing France's budget deficit below the three percent limit this year is a priority for Macron. Consequently the goal of dedicating two percent of the GDP to defence has been postponed for now. By adhering to the Stability Pact, which is meant to align the budget policies of the EU states, the president wants to send a sign of goodwill to his EU partners - starting with Germany, which has been waiting for this moment for years. Paradoxically the French army could benefit from the move, because such budget orthodoxy should prompt other European countries to spend more on the fight against terrorism, especially in the Sahel, which until now has been largely financed by Paris.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

A new understanding of power

For Corriere della Sera the conflict between Macron and the military leadership is extremely revealing:

“This is a major clash, not just because of the significance of the protagonists but because it reveals Emmanuel Macron's understanding of power and his intention of rebuilding the foundations of the presidential republic. … The French constitution grants the president more competences on guidelines and nominations than any other democracy and leaves the other office-bearers, including the prime minister, with purely executive competences. This structure will be legitimised by an extremely broad parliamentary majority during Macron's term of office. The young president has translated this into rules and behaviour that don't allow for any exceptions.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Democracy in danger

Macron is plunging the country into a political crisis, retired general Vincent Desports writes in Le Monde:

“The president's first mistake was to openly humiliate a distinguished public servant who has always stood up for the defence of the French people. The second is the withdrawal of 850 million euros. All experts, on the right and on the left, see this as a grave blunder. The third mistake is - above and beyond his posturing - Macron's clear lack of respect for the armed forces. But the worst is upbraiding a high official for having made technical recommendations to members of parliament - behind closed doors! If parliament is now only allowed to hear doctrines concocted at the highest level, democracy itself is in danger: France is facing a serious institutional crisis.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

The battle has begun

For the Süddeutsche Zeitung the resignation is just the beginning of further confrontations over Macron's spending cuts:

“Cutting back a 33 billion euro budget by 850 million euros is indeed a difficult operation. … This is the real problem Emmanuel Macron faces: he won't make any friends with his necessary budget cuts. From now on he will face resistance from all sides - in the municipalities, in the regions, from interest groups and trade unions. The times of mercurial rhetoric are over and now Macron must survive the thin air of the high altitudes he has reached. The general was an easy opponent.”