Emmanuel Macron Talks Security in Campaign-Like Visit to French City Hit By Extremist

French President Emmanuel Macron visited the city of Nice on Monday in what could be considered an unofficial presidential re-election campaign stop.

Macron was in Nice to discuss security and safety, a topic particularly important for the Mediterranean city. In 2016, an extremist terrorist drove a cargo truck into a packed crowd celebrating Bastille Day. The attack killed 86 people and injured countless more. During his visit, Macron met with law enforcement officials and lawmakers to discuss security measures in the city and country.

"We have invested heavily in our security forces to ensure the safety of our citizens," Macron said at a press conference. "The people have the right to live in peace every single day, but there's a lot more to do."

Macron has not officially confirmed whether or not he will seek re-election. However, the visit to Nice is being viewed as an unofficial confirmation of a second-term run. Nice is often considered to be a critical city for elections, as they often lean conservative and right wing. The lean could be significant for the centrist Macron, whose biggest competitor for president is the Republicans' Valérie Pécresse.

If Macron is planning to run for re-election, he is expected to do so soon, as the French presidential election will occur on April 10.

Macron in Nice
French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during a meeting with police officers as part of a visit of the former Saint-Roch hospital, future police headquarters, in Nice, southeastern France, on January 10, 2022. The visit fueled speculation that Marcon will seek re-election. Photo by Daniel Cole/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Macron hardly mentioned the current coronavirus surge fueled by the fast-spreading omicron variant. He replaced his mantra of the past months—"vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate"—with a new phrase: "protect, protect, protect."

By 2025, the Saint Roch will become a massive police center, where over 2,000 national and municipal officers will work together with state-of-the-art technology, including video surveillance. Work is expected to start next year.

Macron's push to tackle security issues in the heart of the French conservative political landscape appears as an effort to counter criticism from presidential challengers, including candidates on the right and the far-right who promote a hard line on security issues.

In September, Macron announced measures to make police operations more transparent, including publishing internal investigation reports and creating a parliamentary monitoring body, to improve public confidence that has been eroded by police scandals.

Rights organizations have repeatedly criticized police brutality in France, particularly against members of the country's racial, ethnic and religious minorities. Like the United States, France has been seen protests over allegations of racism, injustice and impunity when it comes to violence from law enforcement.

Macron said part of the solution is to put more police in the streets and on public transport, particularly to combat violence against women.

"It's there that women are most vulnerable and we need to do everything to protect them," Macron said, vowing to double the number of officers dealing with domestic violence to 4,000 total.

He also called for more training for French police in dealing with victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse and assault, and detailed the enforcement of a controversial law to combat Islamic radicalization.

Three women were found dead on New Year's Day across France, allegedly killed by their partners, despite efforts by Macron's government to combat domestic killings.

In France's presidential race, Pécresse, a former minister and a government spokesperson, is the first woman to become the Republicans' candidate for president. Known as a pro-European, Pécresse in recent months has hardened her positions on immigration and security to appeal to more right-wing voters.

Two far-right contenders—Marine Le Pen, the head of the National Rally party who lost to Macron in the 2017 presidential runoff, and former TV pundit Eric Zemmour—are campaigning on anti-Islam, anti-migrant themes, accusing Macron of being soft on crime and delinquency.

On the left, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo of the Socialists and European lawmaker Yannick Jadot of the Greens are running, along with the far-left leader of the Rebel France party, Jean Lue Melenchon, who is seeking the presidency for the third time.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Macron at Saint-Roch
French President Emmanuel Macron leaves the Saint-Roch former hospital, which will become the new police headquarters in Nice, on January 10, 2022, as part of his visit to the French Mediterranean coast focused on internal security. Nice was hit by an extremist attack in 2016 that left 86 people dead. Photo by Valery Hache/AFP via Getty Images