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Macron calls for unity as France prepares to host Olympics

French President Emmanuel Macron called for unity in the country in his New Year’s Eve address Sunday as it prepares for the 2024 Olympic Games, after a difficult year for his government.

Speaking from the gardens of the Elysee Palace, with the flags of the Olympic nations behind him, he promised a civic and economic “rearmament” for the country.

And evoking the memory of former European Union leader Jacques Delors, who died on Wednesday, he said voters would have a decisive choice to make in June’s European elections.

They would have choose between “continuing Europe or blocking it”, he said.

“We will have to make the choice of a stronger, more sovereign Europe in the light of the legacy of Jacques Delors.”

Macron was speaking at the end of a troubled year in which his government forced through deeply unpopular pensions reforms and faced summer riots over the police killing of youths.

More recently, the government passed a controversial immigrations bill with the backing of the far right, creating divisions within its own ranks.

And Macron himself came under fire earlier this month for comments he made supporting film icon Gerard Depardieu, who is charged with rape and facing a litany of sexual assault claims.

He has also faced criticism for his handling of the crisis in the Middle East that followed Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel and the subsequent Israeli response.

France would not forget the hostages held by Hamas, he said Sunday, or the 41 French citizens killed during their attack.

But his call last week for a lasting ceasefire in Gaza during a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has so far fallen on deaf ears.

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