Sarkozy gets tough with the EU over trade and immigration in attempt to save his presidency

 

Paris

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, made a calculated lurch towards protectionism and Euroscepticism yesterday in an attempt to rescue his presidency.

Before a crowd of 40,000 tricolour-waving supporters near Paris, he promised to suspend France's participation in the Schengen open-borders agreement unless migration was placed under the direct control of EU governments within 12 months. He also called for a "Buy European Act" to reserve part of all state purchases within the EU for European industry, especially small businesses. If Brussels failed to make progress towards mirroring the Buy American Act within 12 months, he said, France would go ahead unilaterally – breaking European trade law.

Six weeks before the first round of the presidential election, President Sarkozy is trailing the Socialist candidate, François Hollande, in the opinion polls. Yesterday's mass rally at Villepinte – gathering Sarkozy loyalists by bus and train from all over France at a cost of €4m – had been billed as his last chance to change the momentum of the campaign. The President gave a confident, energetic performance, in which the words "je" and "France" were repeated in almost every sentence. He addressed the mainly young crowd from a large white platform swept by red, white and blue lights.

Celebrities in the audience included the actor, Gérard Depardieu, and the president's wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. She looked on serenely, despite suggesting in a widely-mocked interview on Friday that her husband worked so hard for the country that she feared that he might "drop dead".

The Sarkozy campaign had promised new ideas to revive a campaign which has been playing, unsuccessfully, with hard-right issues such as immigration and the alleged threat to the French way of life from halal meat. In the event, Mr Sarkozy came up with a double-theme carefully calculated to appeal to both the nationalist right and the nationalist left: Euro-bashing and protectionism. The President claimed that he had "saved the euro and the EU" in the past 12 months. He had always been a convinced European, he said, but the EU could no longer be an "abstract" idea, served by an "elite looking at itself in the mirror".

The Schengen agreement, which allows people to travel freely without border checks, "could no longer cope with the gravity" of the immigration threat, he said. He called for a government of the Schengen zone, which would bring together national governments to take emergency measures to control migrants.

If progress was not made within a year, he would suspend France's membership of Schengen, to which the UK does not belong. Similarly, he said, it was time for the EU to get tough with trade partners, if we wanted to have "any factories left in 10 years' time".

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'