Macron’s latest adversary might be his most dangerous yet
    Article by The Spectator

    WORLD  21 February 2024 - 18:00

    The British newspaper The Spectator published an article by Gavin Mortimer dedicated to the new political opponent of Emmanuel Macron. Caliber.Az reprints the article.
    It’s been a terrible start to the year for Emmanuel Macron and his new government. Aside from the well-publicised farmers’ protest, there has also been industrial action by teachers, train workers and staff at the Eiffel Tower. Cases of violent crime are at a record high, and the drugs trade is flourishing as never before with an annual turnover of €3 billion (£2.6 billion).

    Sunday was arguably the worst day of the year so far for the president, who likes to convey an image of a man in complete control. The glum-faced Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, appeared on television to announce that he has revised the Republic’s growth forecasts for 2024 downwards, from 1.4 per cent to 1 per cent of GDP. This means the state will need to make €10 billion (£8.5 billion) in additional savings from this year onwards.

    Macron, the ex-banker, came to power in 2017 with a promise to make France an economic powerhouse but under his presidency public debt has soared to 112.5 per cent of annual GDP. Last year, France’s public debt topped €3 trillion (£2.6 trillion) for the first time. And to think this was the man who was in 2017 portrayed by the Economist as the president who walked on water. The truth is that Macron’s presidency is sinking. The issue that could drag him under is immigration.

    The second piece of bad news on Sunday was the announcement by Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (NR) that Fabrice Leggeri has joined the party. Who? At first glance the 55-year-old career technocrat is an unlikely adversary of Macron; after all they come from the same milieu. Leggeri, like the president, is a graduate of ENA (L’École nationale d’administration), the finishing school for France’s bureaucratic elite.

    Leggeri prided himself on his diligence and his devotion to duty. When he was nominated by Francois Hollande’s Socialist government in 2015 as the right man to head the EU’s border and coast guard agency he duly got the job. Once in his role, Leggeri’s straight talking swiftly made enemies of ‘powerful lobbies’.

    Within weeks of taking command, Frontex highlighted the modus operandi of the criminal networks organising the passage of migrants across the Mediterranean. The networks would send out barely seaworthy boats full of migrants knowing that they would be rescued by European vessels who would then transport them to Italy.

    In April 2016, following the massacre of 130 Parisians by an Islamist terror cell – two of whom had entered France posing as migrants – Frontex stated in its annual report: ‘The Paris attacks in November 2015 clearly demonstrated that irregular mi­gratory flows could be used by terrorists to enter the EU’.

    Leggeri laid bare the ease with which migrants could enter Europe unchecked. ‘False declarations of nationality are rife among nationals who are unlikely to obtain asylum in the EU,’ ran the Frontex report. ‘With no thorough check or penalties in place for those mak­ing such false declarations, there is a risk that some persons representing a secu­rity threat to the EU may be taking ad­vantage of this situation.’

    He demanded more staff to police the borders, and advised that they should be armed. His hardline approach horrified NGOs and their allies in the European parliament. They saw Frontex’s main responsibility as ‘escorts for illegal crossings’.

    Leggeri was eventually forced to resign in April 2022 after NGOs, politicians and journalists ran a lengthy smear campaign against his leadership. In particular, he was brought down by allegations that Frontex worked in cahoots with the Greek government to conduct illegal pushbacks of migrant boats. (Leggeri denied Frontex was involved in the pushbacks.)

    At the time of his resignation, Le Figaro spoke to a senior Frontex official who said Leggeri was removed because ‘the pressure from pro-migrant elected representatives and NGOs, who are leading the charge in Brussels against the Leggeri line, was too strong.’ The ‘powerful lobbies’ who Leggeri believes forced him out include not only von der Leyen but also Emmanuel Macron.

    Leggeri is out for revenge. His message between now and June’s European elections will be a simple one: don’t be fooled by the rhetoric of Paris and Brussels about combating illegal immigration because in private they are all for free movement. He, on the other hand, intends to ‘combat the migratory submersion, which the European Commission and the Eurocrats do not consider a problem, but rather a project: I can testify to this’.

    The former Frontex boss will be an awkward opponent for the Paris elite. After all, he’s one of them. On Monday he went with Jordan Bardella, the president of the National Rally, on a fact-finding mission to the French-Italian border. He didn’t look particularly comfortable in the limelight, saying only that he had joined the party ‘to serve the public interest’.

    Bardella, on the other hand, was only too happy to chat to the press. ‘It’s clear that having Fabrice Leggeri at my side is a real asset for the credibility and future implementation of our migration project,’ he said. Bardella also titillated the media by promising Leggeri won’t be the only significant figure to rally to the party in the coming months.

    With France in such a sorry state, Macron’s only strategy to combat the rise of the right is to scare-monger. In a newspaper interview published on February 19, he said that he ‘had never considered that the NR or Reconquête! [Eric Zemmour’s party] were part of the “republican arc”’.

    The newspaper in question was L’Humanité, traditionally the organ of the Communist party. It says much about Macron’s disintegrating authority that the ‘president of the rich’ is now reduced to searching for votes among Reds.


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