Macron 'not capable' of leading EU says expert
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The French President is hoping for an ever-more integrated EU with the advancement of new policies in defence, security, climate change and fiscal matters. But, as Omicron rapidly spreads across the bloc, Mr Macron’s grand plans may be “at risk”, an official from the Elysée Palace admitted.
Speaking to Politico, they added: “The important thing to remember is that in this difficult sanitary situation, we have adopted a health doctrine.
“We are cautious.”
European countries have been grappling with whether to coerce citizens into getting vaccinated through mandates. Italy on Wednesday made COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for people from the age of 50, with teachers and public health workers already obliged to get the shot.
On Wednesday, France registered a record of more than 332,000 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, and a further 246 COVID deaths in hospitals.
The French parliament on Thursday approved Mr Macron’s plans for a vaccine pass to help curb the spread of the Omicron variant after a tumultuous debate whipped up by Macron’s comments that he wanted to “piss off” the unvaccinated.
Macron told Le Parisien newspaper earlier this week he wanted to make the lives of those refusing the COVID-19 vaccine so complicated by squeezing them out of public places that they would end up getting jabbed.
Macron’s coarse language barely three months before a presidential election was widely seen as a politically calculated, tapping into a intensifying public frustration against the unvaccinated.
More than 90 percent of over-12s have received at least two doses, government data shows.
Health Minister Olivier Veran said a record number of people since October 1 received a first shot on Wednesday after Macron’s comments were published.
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Lawmakers in the lower house passed draft legislation, including the vaccine pass, shortly after 5am after an all-night session by a margin of 214 to 93.
Many of those who voted against the bill were from the far-right or left-wingers.
The legislation will go to the Senate before a final vote in the National Assembly.
People in France have for several months had to show either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter venues such as cinemas and cafes and use trains. But with Delta and Omicron variant infections surging, the government decided to drop the test option in the new bill.
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The vaccine pass rules will apply to over-16s and not over-12 as the government had initially sought.
The plan has attracted a lot of criticism in the country. And to make things worse, the French President was also scolded by opposition leaders for attaching a large European Union flag to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris last week to mark the start of France’s six-month presidency of the bloc.
The flag was removed on Sunday after it drew outrage from far-right and right-wing leaders.
Speaking to Politico, Sébastien Maillard, director of the Jacques Delors Institute think tank, said: “If it were not for the flag episode, the beginning of the French EU Council presidency would have almost gone unnoticed because of the dominance of this COVID wave.”
President Macron said he wanted to run again for a second term of the presidency at the April elections, though he is yet to officially declare his candidacy.
He defeated National Rally leader Marine Le Pen in 2017 by 66 to 34 percent.
Most polls show there will be a rematch between the two in the upcoming presidential election, with Mr Macron expected to win again, albeit with a slimmer margin.
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