Minister mocked over bid to scrap French nationality test
FRANCE'S new Socialist interior minister has pledged to scrap a Gallic civilisation test for candidates for French nationality, claiming even fellow ministers would find it hard to answer questions such as: "What is the French national anthem called?"
Manuel Valls has exposed himself to ridicule, however, as it transpired that the test was designed to be easy enough for a first-year French secondary school pupil to answer.
Mr Valls told a senate hearing on Wednesday that the test on French history, culture and society, "surreptitiously put in place" by his predecessor from former President Nicolas Sarkozy's conservative government, "resembles a TV game show".
He said he would remove it as part of a wider overhaul of the naturalisation process in France, which he deemed deeply unfair. His decisive argument for getting rid of the tests, which candidates for French nationality were due to start taking this month, was: "Ministers and senators would have difficulty answering them, given how off-the-wall they are."
First on the list was: "France's national anthem is: The Marseillaise, The Versaillaise, the Paimpolaise?" Another was: "Brigitte Bardot was: a film actress, a fashion designer, a female boxer?" Some were slightly trickier, such as: "The wars of religion of the 16th century were between: Catholics and Protestants, Christians and Muslims, state and private schools?"
The questions, compiled by historians and educational experts, were the brainchild of Claude Gueant, Mr Sarkozy's interior minister, who introduced French language tests for would-be French citizens.
Yesterday, Mr Gueant criticised Mr Valls' crusade to scrap his measures, warning that to do so risked "seriously damaging social cohesion".
"It seems totally normal and common sense that a French person knows the major principles of the society in which he lives," he said. "These multiple choice questions were tested over several months and in no way correspond to Manuel Valls' description."
Tests on 2,000 foreigners hoping to be naturalised found that they scored on average between 70 and 80pc. The Spanish-born Mr Valls, who obtained French nationality 30 years ago, attacked the current naturalisation process as a "discriminatory obstacle course" and promised a complete overhaul.
He accused the former government of having a "policy of excluding from French nationality deserving people posing no problem".
The new rules had seen the number of new French nationals drop by 40pc in the past year, he said. Seen as a relative hardliner on security in the left-wing government, Mr Valls said he would maintain his predecessor's drive to dismantle illegal Roma gypsy camps and would not increase the number of undocumented immigrants given French nationality.
He did promise to scrap a law making it a criminal offence to help or house an illegal immigrant on humanitarian grounds, currently seen as tantamount to human trafficking. (© Daily Telegraph, London)