EU/economy – Schengen/immigration - Turkey
Paris, May 9, 2011
Q. – Are you surprised by this poll which shows that French people still believe in the European Union?
THE MINISTER – French people have understood that Europe has become a matter of common sense.
In the face of the global giants we’re competing with – the United States, China, Brazil, India – and challenges that are bigger than us (sustainable development, financial speculation etc.), the shield of Europe is a necessity.
Q. – On employment, can’t it do more?
THE MINISTER – Post-crisis Europe cannot and must not be the same as pre-crisis Europe. We need a better recognition of public services in the European system. Unlike the American or Chinese systems, ours is a social market economy in which public services play a full role: public services ranging from the small social care centre delivering meals to elderly people to the post office and SNCF.
Q. – Is this vision shares by all the EU countries, the majority of which are liberal?
THE MINISTER – It’s for us to defend it strongly! The European Union must also agree to take on China and the United States. Opening up our domestic public works contracts is okay, provided it’s reciprocated.
Q. – Should Europe practise a form of protectionism?
THE MINISTER – All I’m saying is that if the others close their markets, we mustn’t naively open ours. If the others are hawks, we don’t have to play doves.
Q. – 67% of French people want to remain in the Euro Area. Does that surprise you?
THE MINISTER – Frankly, yes. French people have understood clearly that Germany’s presence makes the euro a credible and stronger currency. It also shows that Mme Le Pen’s great weakness is Europe. She upholds the path of national withdrawal. We can see a very clear rejection of her proposal, which is to leave the euro and return to the franc. That would translate into a 20% devaluation of the French currency. What does that mean? That you have 20% less value on your savings account. And every time you fill up your tank you’ll pay 20% more for the petrol because it’s bought in dollars. Even if prices have increased, French people have understood that the euro protects them.
Q. – France wants a revision of the Schengen Agreement. Is it doomed?
THE MINISTER – Absolutely not. We don’t want less Europe, we want better Europe. What Lampedusa shows is that a problem in one country affects the other countries, because our borders are European borders. We have migratory pressure concentrated in three places: Spain, Italy and Greece. Once people have entered through one of those doors, they can move around the EU. So it’s a problem for us all. We want European border guards; we want Europe to equip itself with shared surveillance boats and planes for patrolling together. Ten years ago, we had real problems in Spain, with massive illegal immigration flows from Senegal and Morocco. Europe handled that with Madrid. Today that border is under control and has calmed down. We must do the same job with Italy and Greece.
Q. – Will Turkish membership be a campaign issue?
THE MINISTER – Yes. The President has said clearly that Turkey isn’t in the EU and isn’t destined to join it, whereas the PS [Socialist Party] is very ambiguous on the subject. We’re talking about 80 million people joining!
Q. – Eighty million people or 80 million Muslims?
THE MINISTER – The question is where the limits of European identity are. I argue that Europe should accept its roots, and Europe also has Christian roots. That doesn’t mean there’s no place for Muslims in Europe, but we must accept our history. Europe needs to reinvest in its identity; we must debate it with citizens. I’d like to see Victor Hugo, Shakespeare, Voltaire, etc. on the euro notes./.