Emmanuel Macron, the current favourite to win the French presidential elections, has described terrorism as an “imponderable problem” which will be “part of our daily lives for the years to come”.
Speaking in a French radio interview reported by The Guardian newspaper, the centre left En Marche! candidate appeared to echo former Prime Minister Manuel Valls’s controversial statements following the Nice lorry attack on Bastille Day 2016, in which a Tunisian migrant mowed down 434 men, women, and children, killing 87.
“Times have changed and we should learn to live with terrorism,” Valls said at the time. The comments led to the socialist being cursed and jeered in public, and played a prominent role in terminating his own hopes of a presidential run.
In contrast to Macron, Front National leader Marine Le Pen had been highlighting the fact that crime and security had, in her view, been “completely absent” from the presidential campaign in a live debate just minutes before news of the Kalashnikov attack broke.
“It’s a major subject that nobody has mentioned,” she complained. “We must take control of our national borders to know who is coming in. We must reorganise the intelligence services, reinforce the means at the disposal of police and gendarmes, and attack the evil at its roots – that’s to say the communitarianism and the development of Islamic fundamentalism.”
Ms. Le Pen also said she would immediately deport all foreign nationals on the terror watch list if elected, asking rivals: “Explain to me why we should take the risk of keeping them in our territory?”
In a major speech on 18 April, the 48-year-old declared that “mass immigration” had not been “an opportunity for France, [but] a tragedy for France”.
She vowed to terminate France’s membership of the borderless Schengen Zone, criticised as an “international passport-free zone for terrorists” by former Interpol chief Robert Noble, and promised citizens: “I will protect you.”
Emmanuel Macron was economy minister under the outgoing Socialist president, François Hollande, who claimed: “I will leave the country to my successor in much better condition than I found it” shortly before yesterday’s shooting.
The attack was the latest in a series of high-profile Islamist attacks under his premiership, beginning with the Charlie Hebdo massacre in January 2015.