French President Calls for Creation of 'Real European Army'

French Far-Right Overtakes Macron in EU Parliament Election Poll

Several other suspected far-right members have been arrested since 2017 - the year Macron was elected president - after police found they might be preparing imminent attacks.

"I don't think this defence identity will start with an European Union army", he said.

The 40-year-old French president, sliding in polls, is gaining a reputation for making awkward or shocking statements.

"[I recognise] that one may have been a great soldier in the First World War, and still have later made disastrous choices in the Second World War". In September he told a young out-of-work gardener that he need only "cross the street" to find a job.

Petain became a de facto puppet ruler under Nazi Germany's occupation of France from 1940 until its defeat in World War II. "Petain signed the (law on) the status of Jews that meant Jews were excluded from public function, education and forced to wear the Jewish star", he added.

However, despite the French president's fervor for reducing European reliance on American might, it doesn't seem particularly likely that his European army will come to fruition any time soon.

The conservative Les Republicains party led by Laurent Wauquiez slipped two percentage points to 13 percent, while the far-left France Insoumise led by Jean-Luc Melenchon fell from 14 to 11 percent.

Denouncing Macron's decision to "scare voters" by "raising the spectre of the 1930s", as "totally irresponsible", RN General Secretary Nicolas Bay said the French government was "alone, aside from the Spanish administration, in defending a model of mass immigration".

"I'm not forgiving anything, but I'm not going to erase anything from our history", Macron said later on Wednesday, reiterating that Petain was "complicit in grave crimes".

Yet, the marshal has always been considered an excellent tactician during the Great War, not least for halting the German advance at Verdun in 1916.

"I will not get into this bad polemic", government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said in response to the criticism, warning against making "dubious shortcuts" before then quoting a sentence of General de Gaulle in 1966 on Petain that "his glory in Verdun can not be contested or unknown by the Fatherland".

Although originally sentenced to death for his role in the Second World War, his sentence was later commuted to life in prison, in part due to the nation's recognition of his First World War achievements.

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