February 28, 2024

France’s Emmanuel Macron announces dozens of missiles and hundreds of bombs for Ukraine

French President Emmanuel Macron announced plans on Tuesday to deliver more long-range cruise missiles as well as bombs to Ukraine and warned that a Russian victory would undermine the world order.

“We cannot let Russia win and we must not do that,” he said, adding that he will travel to Ukraine next month.

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Macron was speaking at a wide-ranging news conference where he addressed an array of domestic and international issues for more than two hours.

He said France plans to deliver about 40 long-range missiles and “several hundred bombs that our Ukrainian friends are waiting for”.

Much of the prime-time news conference focused on domestic issues. Macron laid out broad plans to strengthen and better prepare France for global crises, saying the country has “all the aces to succeed”.

The event was Macron’s latest effort to reinvigorate his presidency after a series of bruising domestic battles, notably about France’s retirement age and how to better control immigration, and riots last year that swept hundreds of cities, towns and villages after the fatal police shooting of a teenager.

Now, Macron is hoping to hit reset and make a fresh start in a year when France will be in the global spotlight as host of the Summer Olympics in Paris.

Last week, Macron installed a new prime minister, France’s youngest ever, and new ministers — also part of a renewed drive by Macron to infuse his leadership with renewed energy.

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On Tuesday night, the new Prime Minister Gabriel Attal (34) and Cabinet members looked on, seated together to one side, as Macron held court in the presidential Elysee Palace.

Macron took a sweeping and broad look at challenges facing France. Against a blue-white-and-red background, he took deep dives into daily life issues — everything from the costs of health care and how much time children spend on screens to schooling and how to boost France’s birth rate. The former banker displayed his grasp of detail as he spoke largely without notes.

The first hour of his press conference was short of blockbuster announcements but rich in statements of intent. Of his new government, he said he expects it to show “daring, efficiency, action”.

Macron has held few wide-ranging news conferences at the Elysee Palace — and none in the evening. The timing was meant to reach the broadest audience possible, and the event was broadcast live on several national television channels.

Macron immediately struck an upbeat and determined tone, even as he cautioned that the world is changing, wracked by wars and other crises.

“I am convinced that we have all the aces to succeed,” he insisted.

He also expressed the belief that “our children will live better tomorrow than we do today”.

In his second and last presidential term, Macron is weakened by not having a majority in parliament. That sets him the challenge of trying to ensure that he remains relevant and doesn’t become a lame duck. The Constitution doesn’t allow Macron to run for a third consecutive term in 2027.

Recent opinion polls have shown that top concerns among the French include rising prices, struggling health and education systems, and security issues.

Macron’s move to refresh the government comes after two major laws he had promised were adopted last year. One pushed the retirement age from 62 to 64. The other, on immigration, is intended to strengthen France’s ability to deport foreigners who are considered undesirable.

The contentious immigration bill has been criticised by some in opposition as too right-leaning, and Macron himself had to argue it was not a victory for the far-right.

His government still faces a major challenge: With no majority in parliament, it can only pass laws by bargaining with opposition lawmakers and using special constitutional powers.