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Sarkozy And France's Far Right Share The Same Obsession: Immigrants

Analysis: The French incumbent knows the final round runoff requires him to pick up as much as possible of the 18% who voted for right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen in the first round. Immigration is the perfect issue, and one Sarkozy has been focused on f

Sarkozy pointing rightward (EPP)
Sarkozy pointing rightward (EPP)
Angélique Mounier-Kunh

PARIS - Less than a week before the decisive second round of the presidential election, Nicolas Sarkozy's strategy is no secret: he wants Marine Le Pen's voters. To that purpose, he never misses the opportunity to talk about the far right National Front party's favorite themes: identity, radical Islamism, immigration.

Last week, in an interview for the French regional press, the president-candidate made a list of his future measures concerning immigration: "First of all, we need to divide the number of immigrants coming in France by two."

To decrease the influx, "the right to automatic family reunification should be abolished," Sarkozy added. He then widened the debate to speak about a "sieve-like Europe" and "an immigration that has a unique goal: to take advantage of generous European social benefits." He lumped these issues together with the burqa and halal meat debates.

Is the president's stance toughening? Not really, according to Sylvain Crépon, sociologist and an expert of the far right in France. Nicolas Sarkozy has never hesitated to seize on such themes, dating back to his arrival in 2002 as interior minister. "These themes were an important part of the 2007 campaign," Crépon notes. "But back then, the National Front's voters didn't matter as much." Le Pen's father and the party's founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, only garnered 10% of the votes during the first round, compared to 18% this time around.

"National identity"

But even then, as the 2007 campaign was heating up, Sarkozy brought the issues to the fore by announcing plans to create an Immigration and National Identity Ministry. Since then, Sarkozy's position on immigration has hardened further. After the 2011 debate on the Schengen Agreement for open borders in Europe, when North Africans were flocking to Europe in the wake of unrest, Sarkozy "repeatedly followed National Front's ideas, until the difference between the two became smaller and smaller," Crépon explains.

If both ideologies have converged, Sarkozy's ideas are still far behind Marine Le Pen's. She wants the number of immigrants to be reduced by 95%, and wants to put an immediate end to family reunification and citizenship by birth. "There is still a line that Nicolas Sarkozy does not cross," says Claire Rodier, a migration policies specialist, who notes that the French president would never denounce international conventions on refugees' rights.

"The family reunification debate is a perfect example of how such issues are used for communication purposes: automatic family reunification has never existed in France," says Violaine Carrères, a researcher at the Immigrant Information and Support Group. "Family reunification has always depended on many criteria that have been hardened by Sarkozy. The two main criteria are incomes and housing."

As eager as Sarkozy seems to be to make immigration a campaign issue, his challenger, Socialist party candidate François Hollande, has made a clear effort to avoid it altogether.

Read the original story in French

Photo - European People's Party

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food / travel

Pasta v. Fascists: How Italy's Staple Dish Became A Symbol Of Resistance

Pasta may not be considered controversial today, but it played an important role during Italy's fascist years, particularly in one family's celebration of community and liberation.

Photo of the Cervi family.

Photo of the Cervi family, whose seven children were shot by the Fascists on December 28, 1943, at the Reggio Emilia shooting range.

@comunisti_alla_ribalta via Instagram
Jacopo Fontaneto

ROME — Eighty years ago — on July 25, 1943 — the vote of no confidence by the Grand Council of Fascism, leading to Benito Mussolini's arrest, set off widespread celebrations. In Campegine, a small village in the Emilian province, the Cervi family celebrated in their own way: they brought 380 kilograms of pasta in milk cans to the town square and offered it to all the inhabitants of the village.

The pasta was strictly plain: macaroni dressed with butter and cheese, seen as more of a "festive dish" in that period of deprivation. As soon as the Cervi brothers learned about the arrest of Mussolini, they procured flour, borrowed butter and cheese from the dairy, and prepared kilos and kilos of pasta. They then loaded it onto a cart to distribute it to their fellow villagers. Pastasciutta (dry pasta) specifically regards dishes with noodles that are plated "dry", not in broth. That would disqualify soup, risotto, ravioli...

Even though pastasciutta is the most stereotypical type of pasta today, it had a complicated relationship with the government during Italy's fascist years.

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