Sarkozy woos right with threat to 'visa-free' immigrants
Nicolas Sarkozy threatened yesterday to pull France out of Europe's visa-free zone unless the EU tightened its borders against illegal immigration in a "make or break" campaign rally before 60,000 supporters outside Paris.
His call came as the French centre-Right threw its full firepower behind their candidate in Villepinte, near Charles de Gaulle airport, in a huge, glitzy show of force designed to breathe new life into his flagging campaign.
Announced like a prizefighter, Mr Sarkozy climbed the huge white stage to the strains of his campaign anthem and an amended slogan: "Strong France with You".
Gerard Depardieu, the actor, lent some star power to proceedings, along with Mr Sarkozy's wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and her predecessor as First Lady, Bernadette Chirac. Days after telling France that he would give up politics if he lost the forthcoming elections, Mr Sarkozy told supporters: "I have lost none of my desire to act," before launching into a series of protectionist proposals for France and Europe.
These included suspending France's participation in the Schengen visa-free zone signed by all 27 EU states bar Britain and Ireland, if its rules were not revised to fight illegal immigration in the next 12 months.
France would stay out of Schengen "until negotiations conclude," he said.
Since his official campaign launch three weeks ago, Mr Sarkozy has veered Right in an effort to capture the far-Right National Front vote.
Last week he said there were "too many foreigners in France" and promised to half the influx of migrants.
Yesterday, he said France would not leave policing Europe's borders to "technocrats".
It reiterated a call France made last year when it refused to allow 25,000 Tunisians migrants fleeing the revolution to cross the southeastern border from Italy, which had issued residence visas.
His call followed a proposal last week by Britain, France and other European states for an action plan to stem the tide of illegal migration into the EU, the subject of a European Commission report due in May.
Three weeks since he officially launched his re-election campaign, Mr Sarkozy has so far failed to catch up with Francois Hollande, the Socialist front-runner. (© Daily Telegraph, London)