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France

Macron calls for 'unity' in New Year address as opposition fumes

media President Emmanuel Macron addresses the French nation on December 31, 2018 Michel Euler / POOL / AFP

President Macron, embattled with protests and political scandal, addressed the French people on New Year's Eve. He called for 'dignity' and 'hope' as his government faces tough times.

Emmanuel Macron called the French nation to unity in his annual New Year's address on Monday.

In an allusion to sidebar riots at the Yellow Vest movement, Macron denounced 'the megaphones of a hateful crowd' who speak 'in the name of' the French people'.

However, Macron did not specifically mention the movement, nor any political party.

Opposition leaders reacted furiously to Macron's speech and tone. Far-left Jean Luc Melenchon of the France Unbowed party tweeted that this was just a 'smokescreen'.

Far-right leader Marine le Pen went further, saying that Macron was an 'impostor'.

 

In reaction to Macron's New year speech, several Yellow Vest protesters told French media they were extremely angry, and that protests would continue REUTERS/Charles Platiau

An appeal to 'ordinary citizens'

The French state 'can do better' at improving ordinary citizens' lives, Macron said.

He urged the French to 'accept the reality' that increased public spending was not the answer to the country's economic woes.

Macron emphasised it was because of previous generations who overthrew despotism and tyranny that people in France today were able to live a free life.

He reminded his listeners that the country had social benefits that were amongst 'the best in the world', such as subsidised healthcare and free public schooling.

FRANCE 24 speaks on the situation in France ahead of Macron's speech

A call for 'unity' and 'hope'

President Macron spoke out against a general wave of intolerance in France and in Europe, lambasting thoso who attack elected politicians, police, journalists, foreigners and homosexuals.

"This is a denial of what France is", he said.

Macron also criticised fake news and rumours in social media. "There must be no lies or ambiguity", he insisted.

The morning of New Year's Eve a fresh scandal emerged, revealing that President Macron and former security aide Alexandre Benalla (L) exchanged private messages after the latter's fall into disgrace REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

A focus on Europe to forget a tumultous year

The question of Europe's was significantly present in Macron's speech.

In a year where political turmoil has tarnished his presidency, notably with the Benallagate scandal and the continuing Yellow Vest protests, Macron is keen to position himself as a major player in Europe during European elections in May.

Macron's New Year speech was eagerly awaited, being considered by many as a litmus test to his political survival in 2019.

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