Political interviews in France often feature a combination of the national tricolor and the star-sprinkled blue-and-gold Flag of Europe – but not on Tuesday, when Le Pen visited the country’s TF1 channel.
“To agree to take part in this program, Madame Le Pen, you asked us to remove the European flag that should have been behind you,” said interviewer Gilles Bouleau by way of explanation.
“I want to be president of the French Republic, not of the European Commission, given that I believe the EU has done a lot of harm to our country, to our people, on an economic and social level, with the disappearance of borders,” replied Le Pen.
While Le Pen had on previous occasions appeared next to the EU flag, her attitude is not new. One of the 144 promises in her election manifesto is to remove the blue-and-gold flag from government buildings, as well as to ensure that a French flag is always present – a measure that has already been followed by FN-controlled local authorities.
The gesture sparked a debate online.
“Proud of our flag, symbol of unity, solidarity and harmony between the peoples of Europe. Let’s not hide it,” tweeted the office of the European Commission in France on Wednesday.
“You’ll see, we’ll soon stuff your oligarchic rag in the cupboard,” shot back Florian Philippot, the FN vice-president.
While the focus on flags in a country beset by economic stagnation and living in a state of emergency due to a threat of terrorism may seem petty, it is indicative of the wider issues that have dominated what appears to be an unusually tight four-way race to make it into the run-off.
Le Pen, who, according to polls conducted in the past week is likely to move onto the second round, has argued that France must quit the euro, and has advocated a referendum on EU membership, similar to the one that led to Brexit last year. She has also argued for stronger border control as a way of limiting the impact of what she has called “twin globalizations” of wage-suppressing economic migration and Islamic terrorism.