France Launches a Nationwide Anti-Drug Crackdown Ahead of European Elections

PARIS (AP) -- The French interior minister announced multiple nationwide anti-drug crackdowns Monday, reflecting the government's commitment to show it's serious about tackling the drug trade and crime in cities ahead of European elections.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said that police units conducted raids and made several arrests in the northern city of Lille as well as Villeneuve-d'Ascq and Roubaix. He said that authorities are "going to multiply the operations that we have prepared for months to hit very hard."

The operations were set to continue with checks and searches of residential buildings, Darmanin wrote on X, formerly Twitter. The first raid of the operation took place last week in Marseille.

It is part of a broader crackdown on drug trafficking and related criminal activities across the country that some critics have linked the centrist government's efforts to boost its chances and stave off the threat for the far right ahead of elections for the European Parliament June 6-9.

During a recent trip to the southern port city Marseille that is often linked to drug trafficking, President Emmanuel Macron had promised that about 10 similar operations would take place in France in the coming weeks.

Following Macron's visit to Marseille, local newspaper La Provence critiqued the lasting impact of the crackdown with a provocative front page on Thursday, suggesting the persistence of drug problems despite the heightened police presence. The publication led to the suspension of news editor Aurelien Viers for not aligning with the newspaper's "values and editorial line," as stated by managing editor Gabriel d'Harcourt. Viers was subsequently reinstated.