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Sarkozy calls for end to Europe’s open borders agreement

AFP

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has broken his silence on this weekend’s European Parliamentary elections, voicing his support for Europe while also calling for an end to its open borders agreement.

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Sarkozy’s comments, made in an opinion piece in French magazine Le Point on Thursday, come amid growing concern that the country’s largest far-right party, the National Front (FN), is poised for an unprecedented victory in this weekend’s vote.

The FN, which is fiercely eurosceptic, has campaigned for the European Parliament on the slogan “No to Brussels, yes to France.” The party’s rising popularity and strong performance in recent opinion polls has left politicians from the centre-right and left scrambling to remind voters of the EU’s relevance, with observers warning that a win for the party would tarnish France’s image.

In his six-page op-ed, Sarkozy, a member of the country’s conservative UMP party, added his voice to the chorus of political figures touting the EU’s importance, invoking the years of violence and wars before its creation.

“We were only able to turn the page on centuries of fighting between Europeans with the creation of the European Union,” he wrote. “We’ve now known 60 years of peace. For this reason alone, the European Union should be praised and supported with enthusiasm.”

End to Schengen area

But Sarkozy also outlined his own vision of Europe, calling for an immediate end to its open borders agreement, which allows people to travel freely within the 26 European countries that comprise what is known as the Schengen area.

“Schengen I should be immediately suspended and replaced by a Schengen II, which member states will not be allowed to join until they have adopted a unilateral policy on immigration,” he said.

The former president argued that Europe’s immigration policy had clearly failed, allowing immigrants to pick and choose which country to settle in once within the Schengen area – often to France’s detriment.

“If we don’t react rapidly in the coming years, our social system will explode!” he warned.

European ‘myth’

Despite his earlier praise for the EU, Sarkozy criticised its leadership, arguing that its lack of vision, limits and priority had left Europe in danger. Pushing for fundamental changes to the European Union’s structure, he wrote that “we must stop believing in the myth that all member countries share equal rights.”

He also called for the European Union to be relieved of much of its authority, because it was stretched too thin among its 28 member countries.

“I sincerely believe that there is no other alternative than to drastically reduce the extent of [the European Union’s] power over member states. The situation today is borderline ridiculous,” he wrote. “At least half of its power to make decisions today should be removed, and should be taken over by national states [as soon as possible]”.

Sarkozy also made a case for building a “large, coherent and stable” Franco-German economic bloc within the euro zone, which would enable France to “better defend our interests in the face of German competition by doing away with our fiscal and social disadvantages.”

“[This] would allow us to take leadership of the 18 countries which make up our monetary union,” he explained.

Sarkozy’s op-ed was applauded by other members of his UMP party, which has been divided between those who support the EU and eurosceptics.

“This intervention unites us because it brings together the eurosceptics and those that want to keep on building up Europe,” Brice Hortefeux, a former minister under Sarkozy and a long-time ally, told France Info radio.

“This is something on which we can build for the future,” he said.

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