A speech by Nicolas Sarkozy which was meant to add momentum to his presidential campaign has rattled the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
At an election rally in Paris Mr. Sarkozy threatened to withdraw from Europe’s open border zone unless more is done to stop illegal immigration.
Should he have used the French presidential campaign to seek to influence EU immigration policy? Fury, incredulity and mockery were evident in the debating chamber as one MEP, Hannes Swodboda stood and waved his passport.
“Have the absent MEP’s gone back home to get their passports so they are able to come to Strasbourg ? This can’t be serious,” he said.
The condemnation by MEPs came from the left and centre of the political spectrum with one questioning who is the real presidential candidate for the far right, Marine Le Pen or Sarkozy? His supporters in Strasbourg maintain there are real problems policing Europe’s external borders.
“Mr Sarkozy has always respected Schengen, but there is a problem of control of the external borders of Europe. It is a real problem, there is a problem financing these boundaries. There some countries like Greece which have financial difficulties and cannot manage their external borders,” explained
Joseph Daul, of the European People’s Party. Does Greece need more money from the EU?
“It is not only money, we need legislation and we need a very strong force that will be after the traffickers in the borders of Europe,” Niki Tzavela MEP.
Our correspondent in Strasbourg, Paul Hackett says, “Condemnation from MEPs for using the Schengen treaty as a political football is unlikely to perturb the French president particularly when Mr.Sarkozy appears to be clawing his way back in the opinion polls.”