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"You Must Name Your Enemy" — The Marine Le Pen Interview

A return to national borders, a fight against radical Islam, a rejection of the EU and its asylum policies. France's Far-Right National Front leader Marine Le Pen answers questions in the wake of the Paris attacks, and ahead of Sunday's re

Le Pen, an anti-EU member of the European Parliament.
Le Pen, an anti-EU member of the European Parliament.
Olivier Francey

STRASBOURG — Our interview with Marine Le Pen had been planned for a long time. But in the meantime, Paris suffered its deadliest attacks since World War II, a gruesome twist of fate that are contributing to surging popularity of her National Front party, which a growing portion of the electorate considers most fit to respond to the terrorist threat. Just before the French regional elections, whose first round is Sunday, the populist party is well ahead in the northern Nord-Pas-de-Calais and southern Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur departments. In her small European Parliament office in Strasbourg, Le Pen agreed to 25 minutes of questions, no more.

LE TEMPS: You demand a return to automatic controls at national borders. Yet most of the terrorists in Paris had French passports. Isn't the problem above all within France?

MARINE LE PEN: Let's be clear, there's not just one measure, but a whole array of measures that need to be set up immediately. Even though some had French nationality, the fact remains that they left to buy weapons abroad. We need to control our borders to know who comes in, who leaves and who stays on our territory. Controlling our borders is an absolute emergency. Secondly, we need to fight Islamist fundamentalism that is proliferating and recruiting in the radical breeding ground that was able to see the light of day because of the cowardice of our rulers and the mass immigration that our country has been going through for years.

Everyone claims to be fighting terrorism nowadays. But terrorism is a weapon. What we need to do is fight the one holding the weapon. The third lever consists of breaking with the politicians who caused chaos in Libya, Iraq and Syria. Finally, we need to put the European Commission in its place. It's up to countries to determine their priorities, especially on a budgetary level. It's not up to the European Union to order us to cut 60,000 troops, 20,000 police officers or I don't know how many border officials.

So you don't see any benefit whatsoever to free movement in Europe?

No, nothing. Except maybe for the bobos upper-class leftists who find it fantastic to spend a weekend in Italy without having to go through customs or change currency. I'm the defender of the greater majority of French people who no longer even have enough money to spend a weekend somewhere else. And if they could, you can be sure that changing currency or going through customs wouldn't cause them the slightest problem. The benefits of free movement are ridiculous compared to its downsides.

Isn't there a response to terrorism based on something other than security? France also has social problems.

It's not a social problem! (French President François Hollande) told me after the Charlie Hebdo attacks that the idea that poverty and unemployment leads to terrorism was wrong. No, it is ideology that leads to terrorism. France has many poor places where you don't see terrorists appearing.

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Asylum seekers at the border between Macedonia and Greece — Photo: Dragan Tatic

Isn't pointing fingers at the excesses of Islam exactly what ISIS wants? A great clash of civilizations in France and a national cohesion smashed to pieces?

I think it's the exact opposite. It's by not singling out Islamist fundamentalism, by not attacking it, by not cutting its financing, by not pointing fingers that stereotyping could appear. By indicating ideologies preached by Wahhabism, by Salafists and by the Muslim Brotherhood, you name the enemy. Who's good? Who's bad? Who's who? We need to answer these questions. It's the government's responsibility to be extremely clear in stating who is the enemy we need to fight.

You call for a freeze on accepting refugees in France. But doesn't refusing to take in people fleeing war pose a moral problem for you?

No. Because we're not suggesting to leave them in distress or to abandon them. What I'm proposing is another choice and I've made it from the start. I didn't wait for Islamist fundamentalists to infiltrate themselves among the migrants — which I had already denounced at the European Parliament in September — to say that these insane policies that were imposed by the European Commission were going to generate extremely heavy consequences for our security.

What should have been done?

Humanitarian camps under control of the international community should have been built in Jordan, Lebanon or Syria.

And by supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad?

I don't support him in particular. I support the stability of the Syrian state, whoever leads it. The question can be summarized in a choice: Do we prefer an already existing state or an Islamic state?

Let's get back to our continent. In Europe, anti-establishment forces are gaining power. They're sometimes right-wing (you, UKIP, Geert Wilders), sometimes left wing (Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Syriza, Podemos). Is what unites you, anti-capitalism, stronger than what divides you, a left-wing/right-wing division?

I've stopped believing in the right/left division since at least Methuselah. I think the current division is between nationalists and globalists. There are those who consider the nation — with everything it includes in terms of budgetary, economic, monetary, territorial and legislative sovereignty — as being the most efficient structure to guarantee security, prosperity and defend the identity of people. And there are those who believe that globalism, anti- or pro-liberal, is the only possible future. We are consistent, unlike the far left, which defends a completely incoherent project.


Because you cannot be against ultra-capitalism and for immigration.


Yes, for a simple reason. Immigration is the weapon of choice of the capitalists. The far left has never been able to respond to this dilemma. I think the only legitimate sovereign force in a democracy are the people.

And the people are always right?

The people are always right even when they're wrong. Because if they're not right, who will be right for them? The oligarchy? Well, no thanks.

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Le Pen in 2012 with her father, National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen— Photo Blandinelc

There's a process you started long ago to make yourself seem kind.

We don't have to seem kind. We have to show ourselves how we are. I accept that people hate us, but not for the caricature people want to make of us.

Everyone predicts you may arrive at the second-round of the presidential election in 2017. Your father seemed more comfortable contesting than governing. Is the National Front now ready to govern?

To be honest, Jean-Marie Le Pen was always contesting because he was never in a governing situation. He was at 15%. We're higher today. At the regional elections, we will prove that it won't start raining frogs or that there will be no locust invasion when we win. I'm not afraid of governing. We will be glad to reach power and be judged on what we do. I'm anxious to show what we can do.

And to soften what you say to represent all the French people?

I don't have to soften what I say because I don't think it's excessive. It's the caricature that people make of it that's excessive. Once again, what do we do in the face of danger? Well, we implement the measures of the National Front. Like economic patriotism, for instance, which is forbidden by the EU. Our greatest strength is coherence.

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Papá, Papá, On Repeat: Are We Men Ready For Fatherhood To Change Our Lives?

There is a moment on Saturday or Sunday, after having spent ten hours with my kids, that I get a little exasperated, I lose my patience. I find it hard to identify the emotion, I definitely feel some guilt too. I know that time alone with them improves our relationship... but I get bored! Yes, I feel bored. I want some time in the car for them to talk to each other while I can talk about the stupid things we adults talk about.

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This is what a friend tells me. He tends to spend several weekends alone with his two children and prefers to make plans with other people instead of being alone with them. As I listened to him, I immediately remembered my long days with Lorenzo, my son, now three-and-a-half years old. I thought especially of the first two-and-a-half years of his life, when he hardly went to daycare (thanks, COVID!) and we’d spend the whole day together.

It also reminded me of a question I often ask myself in moments of boredom — which I had virtually ignored in my life before becoming a father: how willing are we men to let fatherhood change our lives?

It is clear that the routines and habits of a couple change completely when they have children, although we also know that this rarely happens equally.

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