Posts Tagged ‘French’

France to take refugees rescued from Libya who ‘need protection’

November 20, 2017



© FRANCE 24 screen grab


Latest update : 2017-11-20

France will be the first to welcome African refugees evacuated from Libya to Niger by the United Nations refugee agency, French officials announced Monday.

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After experiencing appalling living conditions at camps in the north African country, the refugees were taken to Niger on November 11 by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), where they have been looked after.

The 25 Eritreans, Ethiopians and Sudanese including 15 women and four children should reach France “at the latest in January,” the interior ministry said.

Libya has long been a major transit hub for migrants trying to reach Europe, and many of them have fallen prey to serious abuse at the hands of traffickers and others.

US television network CNN aired footage last week of an apparent live auction where black men are presented to buyers as potential farmhands and sold off for as little as $400 (340 euros).

And the European Union’s policy of helping Libyan authorities intercept migrants crossing the Mediterranean and returning them to “horrific” detention has been branded “inhuman” by UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

Pascal Brice, the director general of OFPRA (French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons) told AFP that France will take in the migrants following a visit to Niger’s capital Niamey.

He said the migrants who were selected because they need protection will be given refugee status “very quickly” when they arrive in France.

“It is above all a way of saving people who have come out of a hell, with torture, rape and abduction of children,” Brice said, adding the refugees were “almost all victims of sexual violence”.

“The challenge now is that other countries, Europeans, Americans, Canadians, join this process,” said Brice.

A further 47 refugees who were already living in Niger will also be taken in by France.

Alessandra Morelli, head of UNHCR in Niamey, said “we have done miracles” following the evacuation.

Although the figure of 25 refugees is tiny when compared to the 44,000 registered by UNHCR in Libya, Morelli said “we are convinced that there will be other operations”.



France’s Emmanuel Macron blames state for fueling extremism, vows solutions — Wants to energize urban poor, end radicalization

November 15, 2017

The French president has announced a massive policy overhaul for the country’s poorest neighborhoods. Poor, urban suburbs have become breeding grounds for radicalization.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced his plan to overhaul France's poorest neighborhoods at Clichy-sous-Bois, a neighborhood which once erupted in violent protests against isolation and discriminationFrench President Emmanuel Macron announced his plan to overhaul France’s poorest neighborhoods at Clichy-sous-Bois, a neighborhood which once erupted in violent protests against isolation and discrimination

French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday unveiled a series of new social and economic policies for the country’s poorest neighborhoods. Macron partly blamed the French state for contributing to the rise of homegrown extremism by abandoning low income areas.

In the suburbs of France’s biggest cities, including Paris, low-income neighborhoods dominated by housing projects have highlighted the state’s inability to integrate generations of migrants and stimulate economic livelihood.

Read more: EU introduces new measures to combat ‘low-tech’ terrorism

“In these neighborhoods we have closed schools, cut aid for the oldest and youngest, and other groups have arrived touting solutions for all of that,” Macron said, referring to ultra-conservative Islamic associations. “Radicalization took root because the state checked out.”

In 2005, the so-called “banlieue” of Clichy-sous-Bois on the outskirts of Paris became a focal point of the state’s public policy on discrimination and isolation when violent protests erupted in response to the death of two boys killed while fleeing police.

In 2005, violent protests against isolation and discrimination erupted in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, a banlieue marked by the French state's failure to meet the needs of the country's poorest neighborhoodsIn 2005, violent protests against isolation and discrimination erupted in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, a “banlieue” marked by the French state’s failure to meet the needs of the country’s poorest neighborhoods

Macron’s plans to tackle the root cause of social and economic isolation, include overhauling funding for public housing, expanding child care, improving public transport links and offering subsidies to companies that hire youth from targeted areas.

Read more: Emmanuel Macron — French savior or tormentor?

Reign of terror

France has witnessed several large-scale terrorist attacks over the past three years. In November 2015, sympathizers of the “Islamic State” (IS) militant group launched a series of attacks across Paris, leaving 130 people dead.

Earlier that year, al-Qaeda operatives staged an attack on the offices of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket, while another IS supporter drove a lorry into a crowd of revelers commemorating France’s Bastille Day in 2016, killing 86 people.

Read more: France takes anti-terror legislation to next level

According to Laurent Nunez, who heads France’s domestic intelligence agency, nearly 18,000 people in the country have been placed on radicalism watch lists – and that number is growing.

France hikes corporate taxes to meet 2017 deficit goal

November 2, 2017
© AFP | Macron’s plan to keep his deficit promise involves higher taxes for big corporates
PARIS (AFP) – France said Thursday it would temporarily raise taxes on the profits of big companies in order to meet its deficit target after being hit with a hefty bill for an unlawful levy on dividends.

President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist government has pledged to bring the deficit within the EU limit of 3.0 percent of GDP for the first time in a decade this year.

That goal, however, appeared to be in jeopardy after the state was ordered to pay back 10 billion euros ($11.6 billion) in taxes on dividend payments imposed by Macron’s Socialist predecessor Francois Hollande.

Ruling that the tax was unfair, the French Constitutional Council ordered last month that companies be reimbursed, creating a massive hole in Macron’s first budget.

The new cost represents two-thirds of the 15 billion euros the government said it would find in new savings next year, and far exceeds the seven billion it has promised in tax cuts.

The government announced a workaround on Thursday, when spokesman Christophe Castaner said the shortfall would be made up through a one-off increase in taxes on the profits of France’s 320 biggest companies.

From 33.3 percent currently, the corporate tax rate will rise to 38.3 percent for companies with turnover in excess of 1 billion euros in 2017 and to 43.3 percent for those with revenues in excess of 3.0 billion euros, he announced.

The move is expected to add 5.0 billion euros to state coffers, which, when coupled with additional spending cuts, will allow France to maintain its goal of a 2.9 percent deficit, the government said.

Castaner said the tax hike, which will be included in a revised budget, will “share the effort (of repaying the dividends tax) 50-50 between the state and companies.”

The announcement came as a group of companies in western France unveiled plans to sue the state over the dividends tax.

Macron had been accused of being soft on the rich and big business in the first version of his budget.

The left-wing opposition labelled him the “president of the rich” for slashing a wealth tax while at the same time trimming housing benefits for students.

Macron argues that cutting taxes on capital is necessary to spur investment and job creation.

U.S. Soldiers Were Separated From Unit in Niger Ambush, Officials Say

October 27, 2017

WASHINGTON — In the chaotic moments after an Army Special Forces team and 30 Nigerien troops were ambushed by militants in a remote corner of West Africa three weeks ago, four of the Americans were separated from the larger group.

Their squad mates immediately alerted commanders that they were under attack — then called for help nearly an hour later, as a top Pentagon official said this week — and ground forces from Niger’s army and French Mirage jets were both dispatched.

About two hours later, the firefight tapering off, French helicopters from nearby Mali swooped in to the rescue on the rolling wooded terrain. But they retrieved only seven of the 11 Americans. The four others were inexplicably left behind, no longer in radio contact and initially considered missing in action by the Pentagon, a status that officials say raises the possibility they were still alive when the helicopters took off without them.

United States officials insisted that other American, French and Nigerien forces were in the area when the helicopters lifted off. When Americans suffer casualties in an operation, the wounded are typically evacuated before the dead, officials said.

The bodies of three dead Americans and the team’s interpreter were found hours later. But American military officials still cannot explain why it took two more days and an exhaustive search by troops from all three countries to find the body of the fourth soldier, Sgt. La David T. Johnson, discovered by Nigerien troops in the woods near the ambush site.

New details emerging from the military’s investigation into the ambush and interviews with military officials and lawmakers have revealed, once again, changes to the timeline in a shifting narrative that has bedeviled top Pentagon officials. It has prompted increasingly frustrated members of Congress to demand answers for how a shadowy mission in an austere region of Africa left four Americans and five Nigeriens dead, including the interpreter.

The questions — including the mission’s shifting goals, the intelligence assessment to back it up, how the soldiers were separated and the frantic search for Sergeant Johnson’s body — were at the forefront on Thursday when senior military officers and their civilian Pentagon bosses traveled to Capitol Hill to give separate two-hour classified briefings for members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.

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U.S. soldiers ambushed in Niger were chasing a target, officials say

October 27, 2017
By James LaPorta  |  Oct. 26, 2017 at 5:39 PM

A Green Beret with 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) practices patrolling techniques with Nigerien soldiers during Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, Feb. 28, 2017. 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) is regionally aligned to North and West Africa. Photo by Staff Sgt. Kulani Lakanaria/U.S. Army.

Oct. 26 (UPI) — The attack in Niger on U.S. and Nigerien troops at the beginning of the month followed an aborted effort to track a target, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. told reporters at a press briefing Thursday that the attacked 12-man Special Forces team was not the only one on the ground in Niger during the October 4 attack.

U.S. intelligence officials told UPI a special mission unit was preparing to go after a high-value target in Niger, but the mission was canceled after the target crossed the border into Mali.

McKenzie told reporters that contact with the enemy was unlikely before the attack, and that it is unknown if that assessment changed at some point during the operation. Before the attack, 26 previous operations had been completed during the previous six to seven months, he said.

McKenzie confirmed that there were other American teams operating in the area, but gave no details as to their activities because of their possible connection to the Oct. 4 attack.

U.S. intelligence officials told UPI they believe that Abu Walid al Sahrawi, also known as Adnan al-Sahrawi, was behind the Oct. 4 attack near the village of Tongo Tongo in the southwestern region of Niger near the Mali border.

Image result for Abu Walid al Sahrawi, photos

Sahrawi, a pseudonym that means, “Adnan of the Desert,” is a jihadist and a former senior spokesman and self-proclaimed emir for al-Mourabitoun, an al-Qaeda linked terrorist organization that operates out of West Africa. Sahrawi took an oath of allegiance to the Islamic State in May 2015, according to the Counter Extremism Project, a not-for-profit, non-partisan, international policy organization that combats the growing threat from extremist ideologies.

The Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, or ISIS-GS, would form after Sahrawi split from al-Mourabitoun. The group is believed to operate near Mali, according to a October 2016 post in Arabic on the encrypted app service, Telegram. The post was distributed by ISIS’s Amaq news agency.

“ISIS-GS is a small offshoot,” Malcolm Nance, a retired Navy senior chief petty officer and career counterterrorism specialist in the U.S. intelligence community, told UPI. “That was an ISIS-style ambush, but they have a lot more than 45-50 fighters. I suspect they are peeling off AQIM [al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb] branches and rolling them into ISIS-GS.”

The Special Forces team from 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group were attacked in Niger, while returning to their forward operating base, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph F. Dunford told reporters on Monday. The complex attack involved an array of small arms weapons and rocket-propelled grenades and a force of about 50 militants.

The Green Berets ambushed in Niger were delayed as they left a meeting with local leaders — which may have been part of the plan to attack them, Army officials previously told UPI.

Officials suspect that some people in the Oct. 4 Tongo Tongo meeting may have been working with the Islamic State, and some residents from the town have already been arrested.

Once the firefight started, an unmanned aerial vehicle overhead provided real-time full motion video images of the attack, Dunford said.

Staff Sgts. Dustin M. Wright and Bryan C. Black were killed in the ambush, along with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson. Sgt. La David Johnson‘s body was recovered 48 hours later by Nigerien forces in a remote, northwestern region of Niger. Two other soldiers were also wounded.

French Mirage jets arrived on the scene approximately one hour later in a “show of force” in an attempt to drive out the militants. By the time, French air support arrived, troops had been in contact with enemy forces for two hours.

“It’s important to note when they didn’t ask for support for that first hour, my judgment would be that that unit thought they could handle the situation without additional support,” Dunford said. “We’ll find out in the investigation exactly why it took an hour for them to call.”

Pentagon chief spokeswoman Dana White told reporters Thursday that the media is wrong regarding the notion that Army Sgt. LaDavid Johnson was abandoned, echoing a statement last week by Defense Secretary James Mattis that the “U.S. military doesn’t not leave troops behind.”

It remains unclear when Johnson was separated from the other members of his unit, but a search was mounted after a DUSTWUN was declared, a military abbreviation for duty status, whereabouts unknown — meaning, a service member cannot be located, but they have not been confirmed dead or captured by enemy forces.

McKenzie told reporters that a joint effort made up of U.S., French and Nigerien forces were involved in what’s called a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel mission and the joint task force did not leave the area until Johnson was located.

A team of investigators led by a one-star general has been sent to West Africa on a fact-finding mission, with Congressional committees launching their own inquiries into the circumstances of the attack in the last week as well.

With far-right in turmoil, France’s Le Pen softens anti-EU stance — “European Union is an instrument for the impoverishment of people”

October 11, 2017

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Marine Le Pen, member of parliament and head of France’s far-right National Front (FN) political party. REUTERS photo by Benoit Tessier

PARIS (Reuters) – Far-right leader Marine Le Pen has said it is possible to improve the lives of French citizens without leaving the single European currency, in a marked shift from the anti-EU stance she pushed during her failed presidential bid.

Le Pen’s National Front party has been in turmoil since her heavy defeat to Emmanuel Macron in May’s presidential election, split by deep internal divisions over its view on Europe that forced the departure of Le Pen’s deputy last month.

“In numerous areas it is possible to improve the daily life of the French without quitting Europe or the euro currency,” Le Pen told weekly magazine Valeurs Actuelles in comments to be published on Thursday.

“We have heard the French people,” she said.

Her remarks are the clearest indication yet that the National Front will focus on policies around immigration  and national identity, and soften the anti-EU rhetoric that cost her dear in the election.

While public discontent toward Brussels has fueled nationalist sentiment in France, in particular in rural and low income areas, opinion polls show there is little appetite for France to follow Britain out of Europe, or to drop the euro.

The departure of Florian Philippot, for years Le Pen’s closest aide and a staunch advocate of an anti-euro, protectionist line, split the National Front but also paved the way to a policy change as the far-right party seeks to rebrand itself.

During her election campaign, Le Pen promised a referendum on EU membership. After suffering a bruising defeat to Macron in the May run-off vote, Le Pen’s National Front won just eight seats in the National Assembly, leaving it with a weak voice and unable to form a parliamentary group.

Last month, already toning down her language, she said that “national sovereignty” would be a mainstay of the party’s struggle.

“We will continue to fight the European Union with all our soul because it is an instrument for the impoverishment of people,” she said in the wake of Philippot’s resignation.

Reporting by Simon Carraud; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Richard Balmforth

France: Public workers stage nationwide strike against Macron’s labor reforms — Schools, hospitals and transport will be affected

October 10, 2017

Nine public sector unions have called the one-day strike for Tuesday to protests Emmanuel Macron’s labor reforms. Schools, hospitals and transport will be affected.

Emmanuel Macron (Reuters/L.Marin)

French civil servants are to go on strike Tuesday in a bid to put pressure on President Emmanuel Macron’s cost cutting plans in the public sector.

Nine public sector unions representing more than 5 million workers called the nationwide strikes and demonstrations against Macron’s plans to cut 120,000 civil service jobs, freeze pay, alter sick leave policy and cut social employment schemes.

Read: What are French President Emmanuel Macron’s labor reforms? 

Schools, hospitals, government offices and train and air transport are all expected to be impacted by the strikes, the first in a decade joined by all public sector unions.

Thirty percent of flights across the country had been cancelled, although Air France said it would run all long-distance flights to and from Paris’ airports.

The strikes are the fourth seeking to get Macron to roll back his pro-business reform plans, which are aimed at reducing stubbornly high unemployment and kickstarting the economy.

But previous one-day strikes called last month by the CGT union and the left-wing France Unbowed party had limited impact. Those strikes failed to clinch the support of other unions, which said they were willing to negotiate with the president over labor reforms.

Under Macron’s reforms, employers may to hire and fire workers more easily, as well as set new conditions for companies to negotiate directly with employees over working conditions.

Macron saw his poll numbers drop to nearly 30 percent this summer, but have since risen slightly.  He has vowed to press on with his labor reform agenda.

cw/kms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

New gaffe by France’s Macron fuels ‘out of touch’ image

October 5, 2017


© POOL/AFP / by Gina DOGGETT | French President Emmanuel Macron speaks with students in Egletons, where he made the controversial remark about workers
PARIS (AFP) – French President Emmanuel Macron came under fire Thursday after a remark directed against union activists fuelled accusations from opponents that he has disdain for working people.

Macron made the comment Wednesday while visiting the central town of Egletons, referring to trade unionists who clashed with police during a rally against layoffs at the region’s GM&S auto parts plant.

“Some, instead of stirring up shit, would be better off looking for work” at a foundry in Ussel, Macron said. The foundry, located 140 kilometres (85 miles) from the auto plant, is having difficulties finding workers.

The remark follows several others seen as contemptuous of ordinary people or dismissive of critics, contributing to a steep drop in popularity for the 39-year-old centrist since his election in May.

Last month, days before a union-led protest against his flagship labour reforms, Macron said he would not back down “to slackers, cynics and extremists”.

The remark became a rallying cry for protesters who coined slogans such as “Slackers of the world, unite!”

“Macron does it again,” the opposition Socialist Party said in a tweet Wednesday, calling on the president to “watch his language and respect the French people”.

A lawmaker of the hard-left France Unbowed party, Adrien Quatennens, said Macron “doesn’t know what it means to look for work.”

But government spokesman Christophe Castaner defended Macron, saying presidents should be able “to use the words we all use”.

Macron has sought to restore lost prestige to the presidency, hosting events in grandiose settings such as the former royal palace in Versailles and likening his role to that of Jupiter, king of the Roman gods.

The former investment banker’s ambitious agenda includes labour reforms pushed through by decree, with critics seizing on his use of executive orders as an example of an autocratic leadership style.

– ‘President of the rich’ –

Macron is also planning major tax cuts for the wealthy, forcing him to fend off accusations that he is a “president of the rich”.

France’s youngest president sees the tax cuts as essential to spurring investment and stemming the exodus of millionaires such as celebrated actor Gerard Depardieu and ageing rocker Johnny Hallyday.

An overhaul of the wealth tax that would discount yachts, private jets, race horses and luxury cars as taxable assets has provoked particular ire on the left.

Wednesday’s remark “further alienates the president by bolstering the image of heavy-handedness and indifference to the least fortunate,” said Emmanuel Riviere of the Sofres polling institute.

Macron’s approval rating stood at 32 percent in a YouGov poll released Thursday.

But he insists he has a mandate for change after his presidential win was followed by a thumping parliamentary victory for his Republic on the Move (LREM) party.

Political scientist Jerome Sainte-Marie told AFP the president’s latest remark “was not very good in terms of popularity, but that won’t prevent him from passing reforms — he has overwhelming power.”

Three big demonstrations have been staged in the past month, but they were low-key compared with massive street protests seen last year over efforts by Macron’s Socialist predecessor Francois Hollande to overhaul France’s complex workplace regulations.


NATO to Increase Counterterrorism Funding in Line With Trump Agenda

October 5, 2017

France was holdout on increasing common budget funding over audit concerns

In this Feb. 9 photograph, an Italian soldier from NATO's Resolute Support Mission trains Afghan soldiers on the outskirts of Herat.
In this Feb. 9 photograph, an Italian soldier from NATO’s Resolute Support Mission trains Afghan soldiers on the outskirts of Herat. PHOTO: AREF KARIMI/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

BRUSSELS—The U.S. has reached an agreement with holdout France to increase NATO funding for counterterrorism programs, clearing a significant obstacle to the Trump administration’s agenda for the alliance.

Under the deal, allied diplomats said, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s total budget, now $1.6 billion, will rise next year by roughly 1%. While the budget rises each year and the increase is modest, the extra money will allow the alliance to expand its to counterterrorism training programs.

The French have been forcefully opposed to increasing common funding in recent years, particularly for counterterrorism initiatives, and have expressed concerns about how the many is spent.

Many members do not see counterterrorism as the alliance’s core mission but at a NATO meeting of leaders in May there was broad agreement to expand training.

President Donald Trump has pushed NATO to focus more on counterterrorism. NATO has taken some steps to get more involved in training, including asking members to increase their contributions to its mission in Afghanistan.

Many NATO initiatives, including the deployment of military forces to Poland and the Baltic States, aren’t covered by the common budget and are funded based on voluntary national contributions of personnel or military equipment to missions. But NATO officials and diplomats said common funding is important to promote the training missions.

NATO’s North Atlantic Council of ambassadors failed to agree on expansion of the common funding until late last month, when France stopped its block on funding. The new U.S. ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, said increasing common funding was important to help the alliance get more involved in counterterrorism programs.

“Counterterrorism is very much a priority set by the council and common funding is essential for that to really move forward,” Mrs. Hutchison said in a recent interview.

Allied diplomats said the full slate of counterterrorism initiatives being funded is still being discussed and NATO defense ministers may discuss options at their meeting next month.

Some officials want the alliance to use common funding to increase training efforts in Iraq, but a number of countries remain skeptical that the NATO effort there should grow dramatically, diplomats said.

Mr. Trump in May spoke at NATO headquarters about terror attacks in Europe but few if any of the initiatives being considered by NATO involve directly fighting European terror networks. Most European countries view that as a job for the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition or national law-enforcement agencies.

U.S. military officials, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joe Dunford, have said NATO’s strength is in training other nation’s militaries, rather than getting involved in combating terror networks in Europe or conducting strikes in the Middle East or North Africa.

Some NATO officials have examined how to expand the number of mobile training teams the alliance sends to countries such as Tunisia and Jordan. Such teams can work with partner militaries on a range of skills that can help them combat terror groups more effectively.

The alliance is also thinking about ways to expand the work and role of NATO’s Special Operations Forces headquarters, which develops training programs for the alliance. It is currently mostly funded by the U.S. and is not formally part of the alliance command structure.

The total common budget is made up of NATO’s €1.29 billion ($1.5 billion) common military budget—which funds the alliance’s multiple command posts, its 16 surveillance planes, some missions and other items—and the smaller civil budget of €234 million, which funds the headquarters and its civilian staff.

The U.S. contributes about 22% of the alliance’s budget, which is only about half of what it would contribute if it paid based on the size of its economy. But the U.S. spends far more on its military than other countries and makes a disproportionate contribution to NATO’s military might.

This year, France is the third largest contributor, after the U.S. and Germany. But next year, because of shifting economic growth, the U.K. will become the third largest contributor.

French officials have been pushing for expanded audits of NATO spending and an overhaul of how the alliance spends its money.

U.S. officials said they didn’t agree to any additional audits as part of the deal to expand common funding. But allied diplomats noted that NATO has been expanding its use of performance audits.

French diplomats said they are hopeful the new U.S. administration will eventually back their proposals for greater scrutiny of alliance spending. The diplomats said that U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and U.K. Defense Secretary Michael Fallon are working on proposals to improve NATO decision-making and leadership that could be aligned with the French proposals.

Macron accused of ‘class contempt’ after dig at protesting workers

October 5, 2017


© Pascal Lachenaud, AFP | A man holds a sign reading “Macron get lost” as employees of the French auto parts manufacturer GM&S protest on the sidelines of the French president’s visit to the Creuse region in central France.

Text by FRANCE 24 

Latest update : 2017-10-05

French President Emmanuel Macron is again facing accusations of contempt for the working class after an apparent dig at workers battling to save their jobs at a bankrupt auto parts manufacturer in central France.

Macron was visiting a training centre in the rural Creuse region on Wednesday when he was caught on camera making a disparaging remark apparently aimed at workers of GM&S, more than half of whom face redundancy.

When told that another local factory, located 150 kilometres away from the GM&S plant, was struggling to hire workers, Macron said: “There are some who’d be better off looking for a job there rather than wreaking havoc.”

His remark was widely interpreted as being aimed at the GM&S workers, several of whom were standing outside holding placards and calling on the French president to come and talk to them.

The bankrupt company’s 277 workers have been battling for months against a planned takeover by French firm GMD, which would see all but 120 jobs axed. The case is seen as a test of Macron’s willingness to intervene to save struggling French factories.

Several opposition parties have condemned Macron’s words, which lawmaker Clémentine Autain, of the hard-left France Unbowed party, described as evidence of “gross class contempt”.

Referring to previous controversial remarks by the French president, Oliver Faure, the head of the Socialist group of MPs, slammed Macron’s “contempt for the ‘illiterate’, the ‘slackers’, the ‘nobodies’,” which he claimed contrasted with his “compassion for the very rich”.

A former investment banker, the 39-year-old centrist president is facing growing resistance from trade unions to his pro-business agenda and has provoked unease even among members of his own party with his plans to scrap a long-standing wealth tax.