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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Immigration and the French Right

Time to finish up our discussion about immigration and the French political landscape.  Today let's talk about the party in power, the UMP - Union pour un mouvement populaire (The Union for a Popular Movement).

The UMP is yet another party that was created relatively recently (2002) and is the successor to another political party called the RPR (Rassemblement pour la Republique), founded by the Gaullist Jacques Chirac in 1976.

This is the party of Nicolas Sarkozy, the current president of the Republic.  I was living in Tokyo during the last election that pitted Royal (Socialist) against Sarkozy (UMP).  He was an odd duck even then.  You might have noticed that his last name is not very French.  He is the son of a Hungarian immigrant and a Frenchwoman.  I recall, from my discussions with my friends and colleagues in the French ex-patriate community in Tokyo, that he was seen as an outsider, a "law and order" candidate who was going to set France on a new disciplined path with more practical, business-oriented policies.  People had very high expectations.  Today, many of the people I talk to feel that he has not fulfilled his campaign promises.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and do something I never thought I'd do - I'm going to defend him.

When I look at the international context in general and the European context in particular, I think he has done a good job of navigating the ship.  For example, France did not entirely escape the effects of the world financial crisis but she and her people suffered less than many other countries.  Was that entirely to his credit?  Well, imprudent policies could have made it much worse.  He brought France back into NATO, a decision that was not very popular but did get France more say in the organization (the French military got the Lisbon command, the NATO rapid reaction force.)  He was widely praised on the international stage for his actions when France held the EU Presidency.

We, all too often, forget that no national leader is simply free to do as he wishes. Sarkozy and all the European heads of state operate under some serious constraints and must always take into account the web of agreements and interests and laws that make up the EU and the wider world.  Sometimes Sarkozy can snap his fingers at the EU and the world (kicking the gypsies out, for example, or running up the national debt) and sometimes he can't.  With all that in mind, I think he has done a more than adequate job of promoting French interests and projecting French power in the world.  Please feel free to disagree if you have a different take on it.

The UMP stand on immigration.  According to their Project 2012, this topic is at the head of the list.  Let's follow the links under the section "Les défis de l'immigration" ("Challenges of Immigration"):

"Faire divorcer idéologie et immigration" ("Separate ideology and immigration") which calls for Europe and other countries (G20, for example) to act.  France is, they say, a country that has been, by its very nature and tradition, very welcoming to immigrants.  However, France retains the right to think about immigration policy in the context of her own particular needs and interests.

"Découvrez les propositions" ("Discover our proposals") takes you to a page where you can download their political program for immigration which consists of 5 points:
  1. Une réponse globale et concertée à un défi mondial (A united global response to an international challenge)
  2. Une Europe qui assume davantage ses responsabilités (A Europe that assumes its reponsabilities)
  3. Une politique de fermeté et de clarté contre l’immigration illégale (A clear and firm policy against illegal immigration)
  4. Une responsabilisation de tous les acteurs pour adapter l’immigration de travail à nos besoins (All actors taking responsibility for adapting economic integration to France's needs)
  5. Une affirmation permanente de l’équilibre des droits et des devoirs (An unyielding commitment to balancing rights and responsibilities)
From my read, I conclude that, if the Sarkozy remains in power, things will go from bad to worse for the "sans papiers" and that the UMP would really like to kick the entire topic upstairs to supra-national and international organizations.

Is this going to be enough to counter the rhetoric of the Far Right?  Tomorrow, we will finish up our series with a look at the Front National, the party of Marine Le Pen.

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