Emmanuel Macron is embroiled in a bitter dispute with the EU over his decision to subject the French military to labour laws that normally apply to civilians.
The European Court of Justice (CJEU) recently condemned the EU member for insisting that military personnel do not count toward the country’s 35-hour workweek.
It disagreed, ruling that soldiers are subject to the same labour laws as any other worker as long as they are not engaged in active operations.
This has infuriated Emmanuel Macron government, which insists that military personnel should continue to be exempt in order to fulfil their commitment to be available “at all times and in all places.”
Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces, was outraged by the decision.
He told Le Figaro: “(It) ignores the reality of the daily lives of our soldiers, who very often exercise several trades at the same time.
“In addition, the effectiveness of our defence tool relies on all of our soldiers, and we do not conduct effective war operations if the equipment is not well maintained if the medical visits are not made on time if food is not supplied.
“There is a continuum in the actions of our soldiers, which all contribute to the same objective: to achieve the mission.
“When a frigate has to set sail the next day to escort a nuclear missile launcher (SSBN), for example, and one of its engines suddenly breaks down, will the SSBN’s departure be delayed for reasons of working time?
“When our Paris firefighters, who are soldiers, intervene to save Notre-Dame de Paris, are the towers of the cathedral going to be allowed to collapse for reasons of working time?
“We are looking very precisely at the implications of this European decision for our armed forces.
“In addition to the considerable management constraints it could involve, it would also compromise the identity of many of our units.”
The EU’s meddling has been slammed by French politicians from all parties. Former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe called the decision of the European Court of Justice “contrary to our most basic national interests.”
He stated that the “decision of European judges” on soldier working hours “touches the heart of France’s sovereignty and security.”
“I am fiercely pro-European. Everything about my political commitment and my intellectual parentage confirms my attachment to European construction.
“But this decision of the highest European court is in principle contrary to the most basic national interests. It touches the heart of the sovereignty and security of France. It is not acceptable,” he added.
Former Eurocrat Michel Barnier criticized the EU as well, saying, “The freedom of states to organise their security forces and their intelligence services in a sovereign way must be clearly restored. Unity of Europe must not be achieved through uniformity.”