Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

In Shift Right, Sarkozy Tries to Pump Life into Campaign

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

In Shift Right, Sarkozy Tries to Pump Life into Campaign

Article excerpt

President Nicolas Sarkozy threatened to pull out of the Shengen pact unless the European Union provided better protection from illegal immigation.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, trailing in opinion polls six weeks before the presidential vote, gave a rousing address to some 50,000 supporters on Sunday, striking strongly conservative notes on immigration, Islam and protectionism.

Mr. Sarkozy, who has mixed apologies for his mistakes of tone and style with an aggressive turn to the right, to consolidate wavering supporters for the first round of voting, promised again that he had "changed" and "I have learned" from errors and challenges. He exhorted the faithful to work hard for victory in the next six weeks and said, "I need you."

Trying to recreate the excitement of his victorious 2007 campaign, Mr. Sarkozy gathered his cabinet, his wife, Carla Bruni- Sarkozy, the former prime minister Edouard Balladur, Bernadette Chirac, wife of former President Jacques Chirac, and even the actor Gerard Depardieu to hear him threaten to pull France out of the Schengen area, the European Union's passport-free zone, unless Europe provided better protection from illegal immigration.

Mr. Sarkozy gave the European Union 12 months to revise and improve its rules on Schengen, or France would suspend its membership. But if he loses the election, with its second round on May 6, Mr. Sarkozy will be gone long before his deadline. "We cannot accept being subjected to the shortcomings of Europe's external borders," Mr. Sarkozy said, warning that illegal immigration threatened "the implosion of Europe."

France is not alone in its criticism of Schengen, however, or its desire to see European borders better policed.

Mr. Sarkozy also spoke of common French values with an emphasis on avoiding religious exceptions favored by some Muslims. He said France's children of both genders should swim together, sit in classes together and eat the same meals in public schools, rejecting the efforts of some Muslims to separate the sexes and provide "halal" meals for children.

"The France you represent," he told the crowd, is "the France of Jeanne d'Arc, the France of Victor Hugo, the France of de Gaulle, the France of Robert Schuman, the France of Jean Monnet, the France of humanists." And he spoke of his supporters with vaguely Nixonian references, calling them "the silent majority" and condemning "intellectuals" who "sit around talking." The Socialist Party is thought to have a larger share of intellectual support than Mr. Sarkozy's party, the Union for a Popular Movement. But he also promised further aid to the heavily immigrant suburbs and said that "I have no lesson to receive from a left that abandoned these neighborhoods," though the left has been out of power for many years.

Mr. Sarkozy also promised to invest more public money to save France's ailing steel industry, which faces severe Asian competition. …

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