French Military Head De Villiers Resigns Over Budget Cuts

Jerome Frank
July 20, 2017

By cutting De Villiers down to size, Macron swung a punch too at a wing of the ultra-conservative Catholic aristocracy - a grouping that backed Francois Fillon, one of his main rivals for the presidency.

"I have always taken care.to maintain a military model that guarantees the coherence between the threats that weigh on France and Europe, the missions of our armies that don't stop growing, and the necessary budget means to fulfill them", he said in a resignation statement.

Macron had proposed an 850 million-euro ($975 million) cut in the military spending budget for 2017 and said he would not tolerate dissent from the military. The army is often referred to as "la grande muette", "the great and silent" in French political life.

He will be Gen François Lecointre, Agence France-Presse reported, citing government sources.

Former chief of the French armed forces Henri Bentégeat told Le Monde that the president had the right to impose his authority, but added: "The way he did it will leave marks". When his first act was to cut €850m for many - not just in the armed forces - that felt like a betrayal.

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On Wednesday, Macron stood by his handling of the disagreement, telling France 2 television that de Villiers was a "fine soldier" it was "not the role" of the chief of staff to question the budget.

Let there be no doubt who is in charge of France.

In a speech to senior military leaders gathered on the eve of the Bastille Day parade as President Donald Trump visited the country, Mr. Macron said a public debate on military finances wasn't dignified and he needed "no pressure or comment" to make good on his promises to the French people. The cuts to military spending are part of a EUR4.5 billion plan his government hastily put together in an attempt to get back on track with deficit reduction this year.

The president's room for manoeuvre has been restricted by a warning from the state auditor last month that there was a €9 billion hole in the country's finances.

François Baroin, head of the French mayors' association and an opponent of Mr Macron, said the government could no longer keep "wiping its feet" on local communities.

Other reports by Guamnewswatch

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