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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sarkozy's War

Recent times have been tough for French President Nicholas Sarkozy. Over the past number of weeks there has been mounting scandal in Paris over alleged illegal campaign funding cash given to Sarkozy in 2007. The cash was said to have come from the billionaire heiress to the L'Oreal fortune Liliane Bettencourt .

The claims came from Ms Bettencourt's former accountant who say that the Sarkozy campaign received €150,000 or $196,000 in 2007. The woman also claimed that she had been put under "severe pressure" to retract the claims and that Sarkozy's current Labour Minister and Treasurer of his Party Eric Woerth was the man who is said to have picked up the illegal donation. Liliane Bettencourt is also in trouble over claims she dodged millions in tax illegally. Woerth's wife was a former financial adviser to Ms Bettencourt.
So against this backdrop of scandal Sarkozy's ratings in the polls began to tumble considerably.  Before the scandal his approval rating was around 36% owing to considerable unemployment and apparent policy gaffes in the minds of the French people. After the scandal broke in July it is now sailing around the 25% mark. Indeed, times are tough for the French leader.

It seems that Nicholas isn't going to rest on his laurels. One of the reasons for his rise to the position of President was that he proposed to take a tough stance on security and immigration issues and this policy he has returned to in recent weeks, to highly publiceised results.

just last week the international news wire was awash with stories of Sarkozy's battle with the Romany community in France. He proposed their immediate expulsion from the country triggered by clashes between the group and police following the shooting dead of a young member of their community while he was trying to flee from the police. He claimed those involved in the clashes would be "severely punished".

The problem for Sarkozy is the majority of immigrants are coming from Bulgaria and Romania which are EU member states who's residents are legally entitled to stay in France for a time without a visa.

Now the President has announced new tough measures planning to revoke citizenship to people who were born outside of France if they are found to commit crimes threatening the authority of the state. These are people who were born outside of France but have earned their French citizenship.

France's constitution enshrines a blindness towards ethnicity. If a citizen has French citizenship then they are simply French. Therefore, targeting people who were not born in France or specific ethnic groups raises doubts about their constitutionality.

These reforms are planning on being pushed through quickly but unfortunately for sarkozy their announcement has come at a time when France's immigration policy is facing severe scrutiny. In the past few days this shocking video of police quieting African immigrants protesting in Paris which sent shockwave's through the nation. It is clear Sarkozy's war is far from won.


  1. from a historical viewpoint, sarkozy's actions against immigration (of which i shake my head) reflects france's longtime status as a nation-state. unlike italy and germany where multiple states came to found a sovereign nation, the french people has always considered themselves to be from france and not any particular area.

    it will be interesting to see france's development after decades of globalization, and whether, in the very long run, this sort of ethnic mixing will be beneficial or harmful. how will the culture of france change? then, in turn, how does that affect the economy? the educational systems? they already have had a dilemma of headbands in school, so cultural variety have been impacting france quite a bit.

    as for the accusations of illegal funding, isn't this practice pretty common among all leaders? how else can they really rise to power?

  2. You make some interesting points. Actually France has a good few ethnic minorities. As in the people from Brittany and the Basque regions. Indeed they were divided along linguistic lines a couple of centuries back between those who spoke German related languages and those of romance origin.

    Certainly France has grave problems with integrating immigrants. Sarkozy a
    has said there is a direct link between immigration and crime and there have been numerous high profile riots between police and ethnic minorities particularly in the suburbs of Paris. More even than the crisis of religious symbols in schools they now have a full ban on head covering veils in public, a controversial measure with Muslims.

    As for the illegal funding,yes I believe it is common and I cant quite pinpoint why this donation is illegal but I do know laws on the issue vary from country to country and it has been a major bone of contention in France with the President.

    Thanks for the comment.