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France Ends State Of Emergency After Nearly 2 Years


France has been under a state of emergency ever since the terror attacks in Paris two years ago. Now the emergency regulations have been replaced by new anti-terrorism legislation. Critics say in trying to provide greater security, the new law sacrifices individual liberties. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports from Paris.



ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: On the two-year anniversary of the Paris terrorist attacks that took 130 lives, President Emmanuel Macron laid wreaths as the names of the victims were read out. Everyone agrees that France cannot remain on permanent high alert, but critics say the new law fails to stop many of the abuses of the state of emergency such as the police raiding people's homes in the middle of the night. Yasser Louati, head of the Justice and Liberties For All Committee, says the law, like the state of emergency, will unfairly target Muslims.

YASSER LOUATI: Yes, it has been lifted. But all of its measures have been passed into the common law. And when you add to it the laws allowing for mass surveillance and arbitrary arrests, you call that a police state.

BEARDSLEY: Lawyer Thibault de Montbrial disagrees. He runs a think tank on homeland security.

THIBAULT DE MONTBRIAL: The question is, how can a democracy defend itself? Our challenge now is that we are being attacked by people who are French. The so-called Islamist terrorists are for a big part our children.

BEARDSLEY: De Montbrial says in the coming weeks and months, France faces the prospect of hundreds of French ISIS fighters returning home.

DE MONTBRIAL: Heavily experienced fighters coming back from the Syrian zone - war zone. They will become leaders - natural leaders to those in the suburbs who didn't go and who hate our guts.

BEARDSLEY: De Montbrial is referring to the largely immigrant- and Muslim-populated neighborhoods on the outskirts of major French cities. Today the jobs have dried up, and the housing blocks are largely home to second- and third-generation immigrants. The French suburbs have become synonymous with delinquency and Islamist extremism.

(Speaking French).

ABDELAZIZ TAIBI: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: (Speaking French).

I meet the mayor of the suburb of Stains north of Paris. Abdelaziz Taibi agrees with the government's plans to promote community policing and recruit thousands of new police officers.

TAIBI: (Through interpreter) One of our biggest problems in the suburbs is the horrible rapport between the police and the population. The police aren't well-trained, and they're scared to go into some neighborhoods. But people in the suburbs need security and police officers they know and trust.

BEARDSLEY: Along with the new security law, Macron has promised a multibillion-dollar fix for the French suburbs. He says the French state bears some responsibility for radicalization because it abandoned young people in those communities. Anti-discrimination activist Yasser Louati says some young Muslims have turned to extremism because they feel rejected as outsiders.

LOUATI: Those kids are French. And as long as France's elite fail to accept it and understand it and listen to their grievances, we will continue in this cycle of action and reaction.

BEARDSLEY: Security expert de Montbrial agrees that it's all about youths in the suburbs. He says if Macron can improve the economy and give young people there a stake in the future of the country, he might be able to break the cycle of terrorism and repression in France. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.