LONDON – French President Nicolas Sarkozy has threatened to pull France out of Europe’s 25-nation open border zone unless the EU does more to fight illegal immigration, six weeks ahead of a presidential election polls suggest he will not win.
Sarkozy told 50,000 cheering supporters at a major campaign rally in Paris on Sunday that reform was the only way to avoid the “implosion” of Europe:
“In the coming 12 months, [if] there is no serious progress towards this, France would then suspend its participation in the Schengen accords until negotiations conclude,” he declared, according to the Agence France Presse.
The Schengen agreement allows passport-free travel among all 27 EU countries except the UK and Ireland. Last year France and other EU states complained that immigrants fleeing fighting in Tunisia were able to travel uncontrolled from Italy into other countries, The Financial Times reports.
The EU is due to present a report on the system’s operation in May. The president, who previously said France had too many foreigners and pledged to halve the number of immigrants arriving if re-elected, declared at Sunday’s rally that he would not leave policing Europe’s borders to European “technocrats”, according to The Daily Telegraph.
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Illegal immigration has been a major issue ahead of France’s presidential election. The first round of voting will take place on April 22, and Sarkozy is currently lagging far behind his Socialist rival, François Hollande, in opinion polls.
According to The New York Times, yesterday’s rally represented an attempt to recreate the excitement of Sarkozy’s successful 2007 campaign, with the French cabinet, Sarkozy’s wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, former Prime Minister Édouard Balladur and the actor Gérard Depardieu gathered together for the event.
Sarkozy struck a further populist note with a call for a ‘Buy European Act’ along the lines of the ‘Buy American Act,’ which would require governments to favor European-made products and allow companies that produce in Europe to “benefit from European state money,” the BBC reported.
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