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Macron names François Lecointre new armed forces chief

© George Gobet, AFP | This file photo taken on March 05, 2013 shows then French Brigadier General François Lecointre giving a press conference on the situation in Mali at the EU Headquarters in Brussels.

Video by Simon HARDING

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-07-20

General François Lecointre was appointed France’s new military chief Wednesday. The 55-year-old career military officer will replace General Pierre de Villiers, who resigned after a row over budget cuts with President Emmanuel Macron.

Lecointre, a career military officer who led the EU military training mission in Mali, was named the new military chief hours after de Villiers’ unprecedented resignation.

French government spokesman Christophe Castaner confirmed the appointment Wednesday afternoon, saying Lecointre was recognised as “a hero" in the army. His appointment, however, won't be officially confirmed until a cabinet meeting on Thursday. 

Lecointre, 55, served in Sarajevo during the Balkan wars in the 1990s and recently led the mission in Mali to help fight Islamist extremists.

Watch the video below on the now famous bayonet charge on Vrbanja Bridge during the Balkan conflict: the new military chief Lecointre took part in the battle and speaks about his experience:

François Lecointre on the Vrbanja bridge bayonet charge

His appointment followed the departure of France’s most senior soldier, who handed in his resignation after an unusually public row with Marcon over defence budget cuts.

The latest shakeup in the military is widely viewed as an early test of France’s newly elected 39-year-old president and his tough presidential style.

‘I am the boss’

The public row between Macron and de Villiers erupted last week after Macron announced an €850 million cut to the defence budget in an effort to meet the EU’s requirement that member states maintain their deficits at below 3 percent of GDP.

De Villiers, 61, reportedly complained about the cuts to a parliamentary committee and followed it up with a Facebook post that criticised the measure without naming Macron.
His public remarks – unusual in France, which has a tradition of military chiefs refraining from comments about civilian governments – sparked a rebuke from Macron.

"I am the boss," Macron told the French weekly Journal du dimanche over the weekend, adding that if there was a difference of opinion, "it is the chief of the defence staff who will change his position".

De Villiers said Wednesday that, throughout his career, he believed it was his duty to tell politicians "of my reservations".

The row has provoked a debate about whether Macron had humiliated his military chief or whether he had no choice but to exert his authority.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)

Date created : 2017-07-19

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