The National Front’s presidential candidate has made a symbolic scapegoat of the European flag during her campaign. Yet, the flag is not an official symbol under EU law. EURACTIV France reports.
Marine Le Pen’s rhetoric against the EU flag reached new levels on Tuesday (18 March).
Invited to appear on TF1, the extreme-right leader demanded that the European flag be removed from the background screen. The channel accepted, but the programme’s presenter Gilles Bouleau mentioned the episode on air.
Le Pen justified herself, saying she was campaigning to be president of France, not the European Commission.
This demand – and the acquiescence of TF1 – provoked a media storm. The European Commission’s representation in France responded in a tweet that it was “proud of our flag, a symbol of unity solidarity and harmony between the peoples of Europe”.
— CommissionEuropéenne (@UEfrance) April 19, 2017
“But Marine Le Pen was absolutely within her rights as a European citizen,” said Miguel Puente Pattison, the Commission’s representative in France. “Even if in these troubled times it would be better to be proud of this flag,” he added.
The European flag, made up of a circle of 12 gold stars on a blue background, hangs alongside the French flag on most public buildings. After the last municipal elections, some newly-elected National Front mayors decided – perfectly legally – to remove it from their town halls.
In fact, French protocol mandates the use of the European flag only on rare occasions. Town halls must display it on 9 May, to celebrate Europe Day. And under the education code, contracted schools, both public and private, must display the flag.
The protocol leaflet distributed to France’s communes stipulates that “only the national flag should permanently decorate public buildings”.
“Few people know it, but the European flag is not official, because the treaties make no reference to it as the official flag of the EU,” said Pattison. “This flag is used by the institutions as a symbol of European values but it has no official legal function.”
The only obligations to use the EU flag appear in French law, not European law.
This is not the first time the National Front has attacked the symbols of the European Union. Le Pen has frequently promised to remove the EU flag from all French public buildings.
The measure even appears in her electoral programme under the heading “defending the identity of France and its national identity”. Florian Philippot, an MEP and vice-president of the extreme-right party, took the debate to a different level, saying on Twitter that France would soon put away the EU’s “rag”.