Schools in France will now by law have to fly the French flag in every classroom — along with the EU flag.
The French parliament passed legislation in February to make displaying the Tricolore and EU flags compulsory, the law coming into practice on Monday when French children returned to school. Classrooms must also bear the country’s motto, “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” (Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood), and the national anthem, “La Marseillaise”.
The move joined a number of other educational reforms, including increasing the number of years children must be in state education, lowering the compulsory entry age from six to three. Parents who do not conform to this law could be fined €1,500 (£1,362/£1,644).
The law was initially proposed by MPs in the centre-right Republicans and did not include the obligation to include the Brussels flag. It was originally resisted by education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer, but the Republicans compromised with Emmanuel Macron’s left-progressive lawmakers, included the EU flag, and the bill was became law.
Mr Blanquer said at the time that the legislation was passed: “Civic spirit must be strengthened. Everywhere in the world, knowing the symbols of your country is the most natural thing in the world.”
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However, figures on the left were in uproar, claiming it was too ‘nationalistic’, even with the inclusion of the European Union flag, a symbol of European federalism and progressivism. One MP from the far-left Unsubmissive France said: “Schools are not (military) barracks.”
The law was also condemned by patriot-nationalists, who opposed the presence of the Brussels flag.
Patriots party founder Florian Philpott said earlier in the year: “The French flag yes. The European thing surely not!”
“Our country is France, not their EU!” Mr Philpott added.
While president of the National Rally Marine Le Pen had criticised President Macron for “impos[ing] this flag in the schools of our children!”
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The changes were made follow concerns at the lack of patriotism amongst France’s youth. In one instance widely reported in the media in 2015, Muslim children refused to observe a minute’s silence to mark the slaying of journalists at the office of Charlie Hebdo during an Islamist terror attack, committed in revenge for the satirical magazine having printed unflattering cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammed.
Similar protests took place at schools in 2012 after an Islamist terrorist targetting Jews and soldiers killed seven people in Toulouse and Montauban, with the BBC reporting that some children expressed support for the gunman.
Républicains MP Éric Ciotti said on Monday that he hopes the presence of the flags and slogans will change such hearts that hold Islamic culture above French culture, saying: “These values of the Republic must be the cement of a strong citizenship.
“If in January 2015 there were hundreds of children who refused to observe the minute of silence in memory of those who had been shot by the terrorists, there was a feeling somewhere that rules — especially religious ones — could be superior to the laws of the Republic.
“This flag reaffirms to these children that nothing is superior to the laws of the Republic.”