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French military chief quits over budget dispute with Macron

Macron has promised to boost defence spending to 2% of the GDP by 2025 as part of France’s commitments to Nato, but his budget minister recently announced limits on this year’s military expenses.

world Updated: Jul 19, 2017 16:50 IST
French Army Chief of Staff Gen Pierre de Villiers,French President Emmanuel Macron,Nato
French Army Chief of Staff Gen Pierre de Villiers (right) and French President Emmanuel Macron during the annual Bastille Day military parade in Paris on July 14, 2017.(AP)

France’s military chief quit on Wednesday in a dispute with President Emmanuel Macron over budget cuts, in a new challenge to Macron’s administration and his economic reforms.

The office of Gen Pierre de Villiers, chief of staff of the armed forces, said he submitted his resignation to Macron at a security council meeting Wednesday and the president accepted. Macron’s office did not immediately comment.

De Villiers lashed out at new spending curbs during a closed-door parliamentary commission meeting last week, according to leaked reports.

Macron then publicly upbraided him, saying, “it is not dignified to air certain debates in the public sphere. I made commitments (to budget cuts). I am your boss.”

Macron’s own comments have elicited criticism, notably by those who accuse him of authoritarian tendencies after he overwhelmingly won election in May and saw his new centrist party dominate last month’s parliamentary elections.

The resignation foreshadows the battles Macron will likely face as he tries to reduce the deficit and government spending and boost the stagnant economy.

While Macron has promised to boost defence spending to 2% of GDP by 2025 as part of France’s commitments to Nato, his budget minister last week announced limits on this year’s military expenses as part of an overall spending squeeze.

De Villiers, head of the military since 2014, insisted that it was his “duty” to express his concerns about military resources amid the sustained threat of extremist attacks.

“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 his resignation statement.

“I no longer consider myself in a position to ensure the durability of the military model that I believe in, to guarantee the protection of France and the French,” he said.

First Published: Jul 19, 2017 16:21 IST