France is 'dumping' ground for EU migration and visa-free Schengen area must be scrapped, says Nicolas Sarkozy
Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president, calls for Europe's visa-free Schengen zone to be "suspended" as it has become a catalyst for welfare tourism
By Henry Samuel
5:20PM BST 22 May 2014
Nicolas Sarkozy entered the political fray ahead of European elections today, describing current EU immigration policies as “an abject failure” and calling for the bloc’s visa-free Schengen area to be rewritten.
Angling for re-election in 2017, the former centre-Right French president called for the creation of a Franco-German economic bloc at the heart of the eurozone, in an opinion piece in Le Point magazine .
With the far-Right Front National polled to pip Mr Sarkozy’s crisis-wracked UMP to the post in Sunday’s EU elections in France, the ex-president said: "Schengen I must be immediately suspended and be replaced by a Schengen II of which member countries can only be a part if they previously agree to the same immigration policy.”
Europe migration policy has failed and the need to replace Schengen I has become obvious, he added, as the current system allows immigrants who enter it to “choose the (European) country with the most generous welfare system”.
Designed to foster the free movement of people and goods, the Schengen area comprises 26 European countries that have abolished passport or any other type of border control in-between their common borders.
Non-EU countries like Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are part of the area, but EU members Britain, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland and Romania are not.
Without mentioning by name his Socialist French presidential successor, François Hollande, Mr Sarkozy nevertheless decried an “absence of leadership (that) is placing Europe in danger, as it is without vision, direction or priorities”.
He also called for half of the competences of Brussels to be returned to national governments. The European Commission, meanwhile, should be stripped of all legislative powers – the sole preserve of the EU parliament.
However, he warned against the rise of populist anti-EU sentiment, saying the bloc protects its citizens from the "ideological veering off course of governments and majority parties.
"If the European Union broke up centuries-old hatred and conflicts of interest would resurface more violently."
"We must correct its excesses but as a project it must be preserved."
A "large, coherent and stable" Franco-German economic bloc at the heart of the eurozone would allow France "to better defend (its) interests in the face of German competition by doing away with fiscal and social disadvantages", he added.
This "would allow us to take over the leadership of the 18 countries that make up our monetary union", and to focus on a list of core priorities, including industry, agriculture, trade negotiations, energy and research.
Mr Sarkozy made no mention of the EU elections in France, in which an Ipsos poll out Wednesday suggested Marine Le Pen’s FN will come first with 23.5 per cent of the vote, just one point ahead of Mr Sarkozy’s UMP – in the midst of a corruption scandal involving its current leader, Jean-François Copé.
The Socialists are polled to trail in third place, on 17 per cent.
Reacting to the tribune, Miss Le Pen slammed the tribune as “the comedy of repetition”.
“Mr Sarkozy lies all the time. He never respects the commitments he regularly makes before the French.”
Harlem Désir, the Socialist Europe minister, said Mr Sarkozy’s text "paints a severe portrait of ten years of Right-wing politics in Europe and of his own policies."
"Who allowed debt to pile up if not him ?"
But Brice Hortefeux, a Sarkozy loyalist, said his non-partisan approach “reconciles Eurosceptics with those who are for European construction”.
Sylvie Goulard, French centrist Euro MP, said that "Sarkozy is demolishing the existing Europe while saying he loves it".
"To lay into the Schengen accords just three days before the vote is to pay lipservice to the idea there is a foreign threat. It's a clear bid to swipe the FN vote but could end up inciting people to vote for the most radical candidates".
She also warned that his suggestion that France and Germany could take the leadership of the eurozone would go down badly in Berlin. "Why would the Germans, who are at the heart of the 28 EU countries and have managed to optimise their gains from the euro, buy this step backwards?," she asked.