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Most French approve of Trump’s visit (even after all he’s said about France)

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Even after everything the US president has said about Paris and France in the past, most French people approve of him being invited to the annual July 14th parade on the Champs-Elysées. Although there will be pockets of French resistance.

Donald Trump hasn’t been too kind when speaking about France in the past.

Most French approve of Trump's visit (even after all he's said about France)
Photo: AFP

Basing his opinions of the country and its capital on reports from his mystery friend called Jim, who “loves the City of Lights” Trump famously told a press conference that “France is no longer France” and that Jim, a “substantial guy” had advised him not to travel there.

And in other statements he said the same about Paris, all based of course on the views of his friend Jim.

His words even became a YouTube hit.

Trump was suggesting the string of Jihadist terror attacks had changed the country and the City of Lights for the worse.

His words caused anger across this side of the Atlantic, with the Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo calling him “unfriendly” and then then PM Manuel Valls called him “a bad man”.

Ex-President François Hollande accused Trump of showing “disrespect to an ally” and asked him to stop criticizing his country as it tried to recover from the deadly terrorist attacks.

Here at The Local, we tried to convince Trump that despite everything that had happened France was indeed still France.

Yet over a year on Trump touched down on French soil for the first time as president and while he may be reminded of his words during his brief trip, there is hardly anger on the streets of Paris over his visit.

While the US president recently postponed a planned to trip to London because he didn’t want to go if there were large scale protests, an opinion poll in France this week revealed most French people approved of him being invited to the annual Bastille Day celebrations on Friday.

France is still France whatever Donald Trump might say

The poll by the Elabe polling agency showed that 59 percent of French people backed the decision to invite the controversial US president, although right-wing voters were far more likely to approve than those on the left.

While some politicians criticized French President Emmanuel Macron’s invitation to Trump as “unworthy” after he announced he would withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement”, most appear to agree that despite the US president’s stance on climate and trade, France still needed its “oldest ally”.

“Whatever you think, the United States is still the United States and we need them on lots of issues. You can’t just say ‘Trump is there so let’s wait until he’s gone’,” Manuel Lafont-Rapnouil, an expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank told AFP. “Even if it is very difficult to handle someone as unpredictable as him, you need to try to salvage what you can.”

The fact this year’s annual Bastille Day parade on the Champs-Elysées is to commemorate the 100th anniversary of America’s involvement in World War One, meant the US president was always likely to be invited, no matter who was in the White House.

In fact France’s invitation to the White House has been planned for a long time, with Macron simply re-sending it after becoming president in May.

But that’s not to say there won’t be some resistance to Trump’s presence in Paris and much of it will come from disillusioned Americans.

For a start the French branch of Democrats Abroad is planning to protest on Thursday evening at the Memorial to American Volunteers at Place des Etats-Unis near Avenue Iena.

“Democrats Abroad France will be gathering to demonstrate our support for the fight for freedom and democratic values and our opposition to the policies of Trump,” said a statement from the group.

The Facebook group “Paris Against Trump”, which counts around 1,500 members, is also trying to mobilize support and will present at two other protests in the city during Trump’s visit.

On Thursday evening a “No Trump Zone” has been declared in the Place de la Republique by the social movement Nuits Debouts and on Friday Le Front Social is organizing a demo From Place de Clichy to Barbes in the north of the city.

While the protest is not specifically against the US president, we can expect to see some anti-Trump banners.

“Trump is not welcome in Paris,” said the “No Trump Zone event’s Facebook page in French. “We are opposed to his positions on the climate crisis, his international politics against migrants, his sexist speeches and behavior, his Islamophobia and racist remarks, his military plans around the world and his neo-liberalism and capitalism.”

Trump however is unlikely to be phased by any of these protests.

For a start he will be protected by an almost unprecedented level of security far from the protests and will spend his time in Paris, being treated to pomp, pageantry and posh cuisine at a plush Eiffel Tower restaurant.

French authorities will be hoping his trip goes smoothly and he can report back to his friend Jim that in fact Paris really is still Paris.