French Parliament considers expanded emergency powers

French President Francois Hollande speaking on November 18.

Story highlights

  • French President Francois Hollande wants to expand, extend emergency measures
  • The proposal is being considered by lawmakers

(CNN)One of France's first responses to last week's terror attacks in Paris was to declare a state of emergency.

In the confusing and chaotic hours and days after the ISIS-coordinated attacks that killed 129, the emergency declaration gave police additional powers to stop and search people, enforce house arrests and prohibit mass gatherings, among other powers.
Under French law, the state of emergency is valid for a maximum of 12 days. After that, approval by Parliament is required. On Monday, Hollande reiterated that "France is at war," and announced he was seeking a three-month extension of the emergency decree.
    The President also said he wanted the law expanded to give authorities new powers to match the modern threats posed by technology and that he wanted to make it easier for the President to declare a state of emergency in the first place.
    The French Parliament is currently deliberating a proposal comprising some of those changes, before an expected final vote on Friday. It is a debate not unlike the one the United States Congress faced after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. One month after 9/11, the Patriot Act became law, giving sweeping wiretapping and search powers to U.S. authorities.
    "It is a long period that he is seeking," said Melissa Bell, International Affairs Editor at France24, of the extension.
    The lower house of Parliament -- the National Assembly -- overwhelmingly approved the proposed extension on Thursday. The upper house, the Senate, is expected to vote on Friday.
    Also proposed is allowing the president to declare a state of emergency without going before Parliament, Bell told CNN on Wednesday.
    Political unity has reigned following the attacks, but even some within Hollande's own party question whether constitutional changes are necessary at this time, Bell said.
    But Fabrice Magnier, a counterterrorism expert, said the changes are needed, and that Hollande now has the political support to make it happen.
    "We have to do it," he told CNN. "We have no choice anymore."
    On Wednesday, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls urged lawmakers to back the proposal, saying leaders need to back up their strong words with actions that allow authorities to be as effective and efficient as possible in clamping down on terror.
    He told the country's National Assembly that jihadists are France's enemy and must be named as such.