French President Sarkozy has promised a carrot and stick approach to dragging France’s poor and deprived suburbs out of the ghetto.
He offered extra cash to improve job prospects and conditions in the sink estates, but also vowed a merciless war against youth gangs and drug dealers.
“I want the reforms to begin with young people in the suburbs,” he said. “We’re going to help 100,000 youngsters towards jobs over the next three years. This is an unprecedented effort we’re putting in place for young people in the suburbs.”
The President confirmed the government will re-build transport links to the suburbs. The layout of bus, tram and metro lines often means poor neighbourhoods are effectively cut off from city centres, even if they are geographically close by.
He also proposed to put thousands of extra police on the beat to tackle gang violence and drugs.
Local elections are looming next month. The President’s popularity has plunged recently, and his UMP party fears a backlash at the polls.
Pierre Cardo, UMP mayor of one Paris suburb said he was pleased to hear the security plans. “If we’re going to have good education and good relations, people need to feel safe on the streets,” he said.
But Socialist Manuel Valls, from another district of the capital, said he had heard nothing new on housing, which is a major problem in the poor areas.
President Sarkozy was interior minister during France’s last serious wave of unrest, and caused deep hostility with his hardline approach. He said today that the state will do all it can to help people, but those who refuse to help themselves will be left with nothing.