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French parliament calls on EU to list Wagner as ‘terrorist group’

The French parliament has adopted a resolution calling on the European Union to formally label Russian mercenary force Wagner a "terrorist group".

French parliament calls on EU to list Wagner as 'terrorist group'
Photo by Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT / AFP

The resolution, which is non-binding and symbolic, passed with unanimous support across the political spectrum.

Its author, ruling party MP Benjamin Haddad, has said he hopes it will encourage the 27 members of the EU to put Wagner on its official list of terrorist organisations.

“Wherever they work, Wagner members spread instability and violence,” he told parliament on Tuesday. “They kill and torture. They massacre and pillage.

They intimidate and manipulate with almost total impunity.”

He said they were not simple mercenaries driven by an “appetite for money” but they “follow a broad strategy, from Mali to Ukraine, of supporting the aggressive policies of President (Vladimir) Putin’s regime towards our democracies.”

Being listed as a terrorist group means EU members could freeze assets of the Wagner group and its members, while European companies and citizens are barred from dealing with the organisation.

But Wagner and its businessman leader Yevgeny Prigozhin have already been repeatedly sanctioned by the European Union, in February for human rights abuses in Africa and in April for participating in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Prigozhin had his assets in the European Union frozen in 2020 and was placed on a visa blacklist over the deployment of Wagner fighters to war-torn Libya, a decision he unsuccessfully appealed.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna conceded to lawmakers on Tuesday that legally the EU terrorist label would not have any “direct supplemental effect” on the group.

But “we should not underestimate the symbolic importance of such a designation, nor the dissuasive effect that it could have on states tempted to turn” to Wagner, she said.

Prigozhin is a close ally of Putin, and his recruits have been fighting for months to capture the battle-scarred city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.

Paris has blamed the group for running anti-French propaganda operations in west Africa, particularly Mali.

The EU’s terrorist list, which is approved by leaders of the bloc’s member states at their regular meetings, currently includes 13 people and 21 groups or entities including Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group.

The parliaments of Lithuania and Estonia have also labelled Wagner a “terrorist organisation”.

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ELECTIONS

Explained: The party manifestos for France’s snap elections

As the formal campaign period begins in France's snap legislative elections, here's a look at the manifestos of the main parties and what they mean for foreigners living here.

Explained: The party manifestos for France's snap elections

Monday marks the start of the official campaign period for France’s snap legislative elections – a brief two-week campaign before the first round of voting on Sunday, June 30th followed by round two a week later on July 7th. 

Here’s a look at the manifestos of the main parties, with a particular emphasis on any immigration policies that would affect the lives of foreigners in France, or those planning to move here some day.

Renaissance

First up is Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party Renaissance – its platform was unveiled by Macron himself in a televised press conference, with a more detailed programme unveiled later by prime minister Gabriel Attal.

The party is at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to the programme, since its main policy goals are already known and it is limited by financial and other factors from announcing any especially bold new goals. The result was that Macron in his launch speech was left to talk about policies that had already been announced or vague goals such as holding a ‘national debate’ on France’s secularism policy.

Macron also framed the election as a ‘battle against extremism’ saying: “I hope that when the time comes, men and women of goodwill who will have been able to say no to the extremes will come together… to build a shared, sincere project that is useful to the country.” 

Programme – Much of the programme will be familiar since Macron was after all re-elected in 2022 and set out his five-year plan at the time. On the economy and the environment, the president said that his party would continue to grow foreign investment in France, cut unemployment and work towards the ‘green reindustrialisation’ of the country – a Macron pet project to create jobs and industry in France by embracing new green technologies such as car batteries.

He also re-committed to France’s domestic nuclear energy programme, and to France’s strong support for Ukraine.

Among the new parts were a ‘great national debate’ on the tricky subject of French state secularism (laïcité) and limits to access to screens for children – as recommended by a commission of experts.

Attal also unveiled some new measures on the key issue of the cost-of-living, with promises to triple the ‘Macron bonus’ paid to some employees from €3,000 a year to €10,000, index-linking pensions to inflation, reducing utility bills by 15 percent next winter and help for parents in buying school supplies.

He also proposes axing the notaire fee (in reality a kind of tax on home purchases) for any property purchased for under €250,000 and setting up an extra renovation fund to give grants to property-owners to repairs and energy works.

Some ongoing Macronist legislation such as changing the law on assisted dying has been interrupted on its journey through parliament, but would likely restart if the party wins a majority.

The party’s programme makes no specific suggestions for changes to the immigration system, but it did just introduce a new immigration law in January that – among other things – introduces a language test requirement for certain types of residency cards and raises the language level required for French citizenship through naturalisation.

Front Populaire

France’s largest leftist political parties have struck an election pact not to stand candidates against each other – in order to avoid dividing the leftist vote.

This means that the hard-left La France Insoumise will field 229 candidates, the centre-left Parti Socialiste will field 175, the Green EELV 92 and the Communists 50. It also means that the parties are presenting a single, joint manifesto under the banner of Nouveau Front Populaire – which has been the subject of much argument and some awkward compromises.

Programme – much of the programme is concerned with cancelling recent Macronist laws. Among the laws it says it will cancel are the new immigration bill – the one that introduces French language tests for certain types of residency card and raises the language level required for French citizenship.

The manifesto also proposes introducing a 10-year carte de séjour residency card ‘as the standard card’ – at present the standard model is for one-year cards initially and then move on to five-year and then 10-year cards, although there are significant variations based on your personal status (eg working, student, retired or family member).

Also set for the chop are Macron’s changes to unemployment benefits plus a cancellation of the price rises in electricity and gas and the reintroduction of the ‘wealth tax’ scrapped by Macron in 2018. Meanwhile the pension age would be dropped down to 60 (cancelling Macron’s law raising it from 62 to 64 and dropping it another two years).

The party would also raise the Smic (minimum wage) to €1,600 a month.

The environment forms a key part of the manifesto with a range of green incentives plus tax and financing rules that would clamp down on fossil fuels.

On foreign policy there are some delicately worded compromises since views on Ukraine and Gaza had previously split the leftist alliance. The group promises to “unfailingly defend the sovereignty and freedom of the Ukrainian people” including by delivering weapons and writing off debt. On Gaza, the party would recognise the Palestinian state and embargo arms supplies to Israel.

Policy towards the EU – a topic that divides the left – is left to one side.

Rassemblement National

The far-right Rassemblement National party will be joined by at least some candidates from the right-wing Les Republicains party, although the internal party divide over that pact will see some LR candidates independently. 

Programme – the party makes immigration one of its key concerns, with a commitment to “drastically reduce legal and illegal immigration and deport foreign criminals” listed as a priority.

The programme opposes both non-economic migration and family reunification – no detail is given on changes to the visa or residency card system in this area, but it seems likely that anyone wanting to move for non-work related reasons (eg retirees) would face restrictions. Likewise spouse visas would be affected by any changes to family reunification rules.

Non-French citizens would only be able to access social benefits such as housing benefits or caring allowances after working in France for five years and there would also be a ‘French first’ preference for access to employment and social housing.

Residency permits would be withdrawn for any non-French citizens who have been unemployed for more than one year.

Asylum claims would exclusively be processed outside France.

When it comes to French citizenship, the party wants to abolish the droit du sol, which gives the right to French citizenship to children born in France to foreign parents and limit access to citizenship for adults “on the basis of merit and assimilation” – it’s not clear how this would differ from the current system where candidates must already prove that they speak French and understand French culture and politics.

The party also has a strong line on law and order – doubling the number of magistrates, increasing fines for certain offences, adding those convicted of street harassment to the sex offenders’ register and creating a “presumption of legitimate defence” for police officers who kill or injure members of the public.

This article is part of a series on election platforms in France, we will look at each party’s economic platform in a separate piece. You can follow all the latest election news in our election section HERE, and you can also sign up here to receive our bi-weekly election breakdown during the campaign period

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