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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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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