French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to lift a state of emergency that has been in place since 2015 but also to harden permanent security measures to fight violent threats against his country.
Laying out his agenda at a joint session of parliament, Macron said that his government “will work to prevent any new attack, and we will work to fight (threats) without pity, without regrets, without weakness.”
Macron said the lifting of the state of emergency would be done towards the end of 2017. At the same time, he insisted on the need to “guarantee full respect for individual liberties”, amid concerns that new measures would allow police too many powers.
Macron also vowed to maintain France’s military presence abroad, especially in Africa’s Sahel region and in Iraq and Syria, while highlighting the importance of dialogue and negotiations for long-term solutions.
The president’s 1.5-hour-long speech was his first major address since his inauguration in mid-May when he promised a French “renaissance”.
In his bid to strengthen the European Union following Britain’s vote to leave, he announced Europe-wide public conferences later this year in an effort to reinvigorate the bloc.
He said he understood why many Europeans see the EU as bureaucratic, distant and uncaring. “I firmly believe in Europe, but I don’t find this scepticism unjustified,” he said.
He added that European countries should work more closely to help political refugees while fighting human smuggling and strengthening borders against illegal migration.
Macron has also pledged to fulfil his campaign promise to bring about deep changes in France, notably through labour reform and a series of measures to put more transparency and ethics into politics. He said French voters no longer accept the conflicts of interest and corruption scandals that “used to seem almost normal” in the country’s political landscape.