Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Is Carla Bruni against a political comeback for Sarkozy?

Read more

DEBATE

Clone of Pakistan Protests: Democracy put the test (Part Two)

Read more

DEBATE

Pakistan Protests: Democracy put the test (Part One)

Read more

ENCORE!

The French Maestro of Soul

Read more

FOCUS

US tobacco giants want lion's share of e-cigarette business

Read more

ENCORE!

Bold and bonkers: Kate Bush is back on stage

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Simon Serfaty, US foreign policy specialist

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'It's a War, Stupid!'

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

French PM calls on ECB to go further to help economy

Read more

  • UN backs inquiry of IS group’s alleged crimes in Iraq

    Read more

  • French education ministry picture sparks racist abuse

    Read more

  • Video: Ukraine’s children return to school as fighting rages on

    Read more

  • US urges Israel to reverse West Bank land seizure

    Read more

  • Lesotho PM calls for regional peacekeeping force after ‘coup’

    Read more

  • Ukrainian forces retreat from Luhansk airport after clashes

    Read more

  • Teddy Riner, France’s unstoppable judo champion

    Read more

  • Death toll rises in Paris apartment building blast

    Read more

  • Iraqi forces free Amerli in biggest victory over IS militants since June

    Read more

  • French police arrest hungry hedgehog hunters

    Read more

  • Tripoli under control of militias, says government

    Read more

  • Monaco’s Falcao set for Man Utd loan on transfer deadline day

    Read more

  • Spain orders custody for parents of ill British boy

    Read more

  • Anti-government protesters storm Pakistan's state TV

    Read more

  • Putin calls for talks on 'statehood' for east Ukraine

    Read more

  • Web doc on French self-immolation protests takes top prize

    Read more

France

Immigration minister launches great debate on 'national identity'

Text by Thibault LIEURADE

Latest update : 2009-11-03

France's minister of immigration and national identity, Eric Besson (left of centre), has launched a debate on French national identity. The opposition, however, has denounced the move as a purely political exercise ahead of March regional elections.

It’s a big day for Eric Besson. As France’s minister of immigration and national identity, Besson will spend the next three months encouraging and monitoring a debate on French national identity that he officially launched on Monday. Certain controversial ideas have already been floated, such as requiring schools to teach the national anthem.

Besson has reportedly sent an information kit to regional officials who have been charged with organising public meetings on the issue. The ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party’s parliamentary groups have also been invited to take part. And Besson’s team has launched an Internet site to gather the varied opinions of the French public on the issue, some of which are likely to be quite controversial.

But those within the political community did not wait for the official launch of the debate to make their opinions heard, with both the left and the right flooding Besson’s office with criticism soon after the debate was first announced on October 25.

The left-of-centre opposition has denounced the whole debate as a political exercise designed to drum up support ahead of March 2010 regional elections. “(French President) Nicolas Sarkozy wants to shore up his support among those who support the far-right National Front,” Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Party’s spokesman, told Europe 1 radio.

To prevent the government from gaining the upper hand on a topic so close to the hearts of its supporters, the anti-immigration National Front has criticised the UMP for not going far enough with the debate. Marine Le Pen, second in command at the National Front, on Wednesday requested an interview at the presidential palace.

In announcing his initiative, Besson has also attracted his share of criticism from the ruling party. High commissioner Martin Hirsch called the debate “100% political” and former minister of housing Christine Boutin denounced it as “very risqué”.

Results moved up

Having suffered in the past few weeks from controversies surrounding nepotism charges related to his son, Jean, and the suspected paedophilia tendencies of his minister of culture, Frédéric Mitterrand, Sarkozy has decided to steer the electorate onto safer topics: taxes, security and immigration.  

In a bid to address critics who say the debate is merely an electoral ploy, Besson moved up the date for releasing the results by three weeks to February 4. He told Le Figaro daily that, in doing so, he wished to distance the release of the results somewhat from the March regional polls.

According to a CSA poll published by Le Parisien, 60 percent of those surveyed say they favour having a debate on the subject of national identity. But according to a separate poll by BVA-Canal+ published on Thursday, 64 percent think that the debate is, “above all”, a move geared toward mobilising right-wing voters ahead of regional elections.

Date created : 2009-11-02

  • FRANCE

    Poll shows most French back 'National identity' debate

    Read more

COMMENT(S)