Back
Register for SMS Alerts
or enter your details manually below...
First Name:
Last Name:
Email:
Password:
Hometown:
Birthday:
Sorry, we couldn't find that email.
Existing users
Email
Password
Sorry, we couldn't find those details.
Enter Email
Sorry, we couldn't find that email.

France’s military chief resigns after Macron budget spat

France's top military chief resigned on Wednesday after a war of words with Emmanuel Macron over budget cuts

20 July 2017, 8:11am
French President Emmanuel Macron (left) and outgoing armed forces chief General Pierre de Villiers, pictured during the annual Bastille Day military parade in Paris on July 14
French President Emmanuel Macron (left) and outgoing armed forces chief General Pierre de Villiers, pictured during the annual Bastille Day military parade in Paris on July 14
The head of the French armed forces has resigned amid a bitter public row with the president, Emmanuel Macron.

The war of words between Macron and General Pierre de Villiers erupted last week when the chief of staff told a parliamentary committee he would not allow the armed forces to be "screwed" by the government's plans to slash €850 million from this year's defence budget.

Macron, 39, slapped down the 60-year-old five-star general in front of army chiefs at their annual summer party last week, saying "I am the boss" and that he deeply regretted the budget dispute had been dragged into the "public sphere".

Macron’s speech surprised military observers and was seen by some as a shocking humiliation of De Villiers. Meanwhile, Macron’s entourage said he was simply asserting the French president’s constitutional role as commander-in-chief of the army.

Macron sought to defuse the row, promising a €1.5bn rise in military spending in 2018 to €34.2bn, but Gen de Villiers resigned anyway, triggering a barrage of criticism of the president for alleged authoritarianism and a lack of understanding military matters. He is the first president since de Gaulle to neither serve in the armed forces nor do military service.

De Villiers, a widely respected figure who had been in the job for three years and was popular with the rank and file, said  in a resignation statement on Wednesday that he no longer felt able to command the sort of armed forces “that I think is necessary to guarantee the protection of France and the French people”.

On Wednesday, Macron stood by his handling of the disagreement, telling France 2 television that de Villiers was a "fine soldier" it was "not the role" of the chief of staff to question the budget.

The president also reiterated his promise to raise the defence budget again in 2018. "I'm behind our troops," he assured.

Macron has pledged to increase defence spending to 2% of gross domestic product by 2025, in line with NATO targets, which would bring it to €50 billion.

He named General Francois Lecointre, a 55-year-old hero of the Balkans wars, as de Villiers's replacement.