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POLITICS

Former French President Hollande criticizes Macron, warns he has ‘not retired’ from politics

Former French president Francois Hollande said on Wednesday he has not turned his back on politics, after criticizing his successor and former protégé in the Elysee Palace, Emmanuel Macron.

Former French President Hollande criticizes Macron, warns he has 'not retired' from politics
Macron and Hollande pictured at their handover ceremony. Photo: AFP

“Even when I decided… not to stand (for re-election) I had said I would not retire from political life,” the Socialist Hollande, 63, told TV5 Monde television.

The former president on Tuesday said the 39-year-old Macron should not “demand needless sacrifices from the French”.

Macron, elected in May, has come under fire for budget and public spending cuts.

The former investment banker launched his presidential bid in August last year, promising to overcome France's entrenched right-left divide.

Hollande had plucked Macron from virtual obscurity to make him his financial advisor before naming him economy minister in 2014.

READ ALSO: How Emmanuel Macron went from top of the class to president of France

The former president on Tuesday questioned Macron's moves to “make the job market more flexible than we already have.”

He issued the warning as Macron's Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud began meetings with union leaders over labour reforms, an issue that sparked a series of sometimes violent protests across France last year.

On May 14th, the day Macron was inaugurated, Hollande said of his own political future “you should never say never in life”.

Even if “the temptation to intervene can be great,” Hollande said, he did not want to be a “backseat driver” during the first days and weeks of the Macron presidency.

Hollande had record low approval ratings after failing to make good on his pledge to rein in unemployment, which stagnated at around ten percent throughout most of his five years in office.

He decided in December not to stand for re-election.

The Socialists' candidate Benoit Hamon finished a humiliating fifth place as voters abandoned the former ruling party, crippled by deep ideological divisions.

OPINION: Hollande doesn't deserve to go down in history as 'France's most unpopular president'

POLITICS

French military bans Russians from chateau over Ukraine war

The French military has banned Russian nationals from visiting the Chateau de Vincennes, a medieval fortress, tourist attraction and military site on the edge of Paris, due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, officials told AFP.

French military bans Russians from chateau over Ukraine war

Once the residence of French kings and among Europe’s best-preserved monuments of its kind, the castle is for the most part open to the public, including for tours, concerts, theatre plays and other events.

But although best-known as a tourist attraction it is also technically a military site, housing part of the French armed forces’ historical archives, to which access is restricted.

The mounted Garde republicaine – a division of the French military – are also partially based at the chateaux.

It is therefore covered by a French ban on Russian nationals entering army territory that was issued after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Each year some 150,000 people visit the chateau, paying €9.50 per adult admission.

But on July 28th, two Russian women were refused access.

“A guard at the metal detector asked to see my passport,” said one of the women, 31, who works as a journalist and has been in France for five months, having left Russia “because of the war”.

On inspecting the document, the guard informed her she couldn’t pass, the woman, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

Another guard also denied her entry and gave as the reason “because you are Russian”, she said, adding she couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

Contacted by AFP, the defence ministry confirmed late Monday that it had, indeed, “restricted access to military installations to Russian nationals” because of the invasion.

But after media coverage and social media comment, the ministry contacted AFP on Tuesday to say that the guards had in fact “indiscriminately applied a rule established in February concerning all military installations”.

“This rule cannot be applied in the same way for strategic sites and for sites accessible to the public, such as museums,” a spokesman said.

The ministry said security staff would now be informed of the distinction “to avoid any further incidents of this kind”.

Russian journalists could, however, apply for an exemption, a ministry official added.

The majority of France’s most popular tourist sites have no military function and would not be affected by the ban. 

Since Moscow sent troops into Ukraine in February, France has taken in some 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, government figures show.

About 73,500 Russian immigrants lived in France in 2021, according to the national statistics office Insee.

There has been debate within the European Union about whether further limits should be placed on Russians visiting the bloc for tourism or personal reasons.

Russia’s neighbour Finland last week issued a plan to limit tourist visas  for Russians but also emphasised the need for an EU-level decision on the matter.

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