French authorities took down the giant blue flag after rightwing opponents of President Macron accused him of "erasing" French identity.

The giant blue flag was raised in place of a French flag on New Year's Eve to mark France's turn at the rotating presidency of the EU Council.
The giant blue flag was raised in place of a French flag on New Year's Eve to mark France's turn at the rotating presidency of the EU Council. (Reuters Archive)

A large European Union flag attached to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris to mark the start of France's six-month presidency of the bloc has been removed after it drew outrage from far-right and right-wing leaders.

The EU flag was raised in place of the French flag on New Year's Eve, but French authorities took it down on Sunday after rightwing opponents of President Emmanuel Macron accused him of "erasing" French identity.

"The government has been forced to remove the EU flag from the Arc de Triomphe, a beautiful patriotic victory at the start of 2022", Far-right leader Marine Le Pen said on Sunday.

Junior European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune, who on Friday had said the flag would remain for "several days", said it had been taken down as planned.

Beaune accused Macron's opponents of "desperately chasing after the sterile controversies of the far right," and he also denied any "retreat".

"We embrace Europe, but that doesn't take anything away from our French identity," Beaune told France Inter radio.

The arch and other landmarks including the Eiffel Tower and the Pantheon are also being illuminated with blue lights for the remainder of this week.

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A rematch expected

French President Emmanuel Macron, who has yet to say if he will run for re-election in April, defeated Le Pen in a 2017 run-off by 66 to 34 percent.

Le Pen was re-elected president of the National Rally (RN) on 4 July 2021 and has formally launched what will be her third attempt at the presidency.

Most polls show there will be a rematch between the two in the upcoming presidential election with Macron expected to win again, albeit with a slimmer margin.

The first round of the 2022 French presidential election will be held on 10 April 2022 between the two candidates who get the most votes .

A second round runoff will be held two weeks later in the likely event that no candidate receives a majority of the votes in the first round.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies