Sarkozy blasts PM's ‘apartheid’ comment on immigration

France 2

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has criticised the government’s new counter-terrorism policies and blasted the prime minister's use of the term “apartheid” to describe France’s failure to integrate immigrant communities.


Sarkozy, who heads the opposition UMP party, said on Wednesday he was “dismayed” by Prime Minister Manuel Valls’s talk of an “ethnic and social apartheid” in the wake of deadly attacks by homegrown terrorists.

Valls was referring to conditions in some of France’s poorest suburbs with a heavily immigrant population, where disaffected youths fall prey to crime and extremist groups, including radical Islamists.

The prime minister spoke of “daily discriminations” against people “who do not have the right colour of skin or the right family name”, adding that the violent riots that rocked Paris suburbs in 2005 had “left scars that are still there”.

His words marked a turning point in France’s mainstream political discourse, which has traditionally refrained from talk of ethnicity and faith when describing French society.

Swiftly denouncing the move as “a mistake”, Sarkozy signalled the end of the “national unity” that had prevailed between the Socialist government and the conservative opposition since the January 7-9 attacks in Paris.

In an interview with France 2 television, he described the comparison between France and the “state racism” of apartheid South Africa as “appalling”.

‘War against our civilization’

The UMP leader has been keen to regain the initiative after French President François Hollande won plaudits – and a surprise surge in popularity – for his response to the attacks on satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a Paris kosher store, in which 20 people were killed, including the three gunmen.

The former president criticized the government’s decision to invest an extra €425 million over three years and create 2,680 new jobs in the fight against terrorism, saying the measures would take too long to bear fruit.

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“We have no time to waste,” Sarkozy said, calling instead for the immediate reinstatement of overtime work for police officers, who are bound like other French civil servants to the 35-hour week.

“This would immediately create the equivalent of an extra 4,000 full-time staff,” he said, arguing that under government plans the first new hirings would only be available after two years.

Sarkozy rejected claims, re-affirmed by French daily Le Monde on Thursday, that 12,000 police jobs had been cut during his five-year presidency, between 2007 and 2012.

He also repeated calls to strip “jihadists with dual nationality” of their French citizenship and expel radical imams.

“This is a war against our civilization, our way of living, of dressing, of thinking and of speaking,” he said.


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