sexta-feira, 21 de outubro de 2016
Alain Juppé calls for UK border to move from Calais to Kent
Alain Juppé calls for UK border to move from Calais to Kent
Exclusive: French presidential frontrunner says France should not be managing migrants on UK’s behalf and urges overhaul of Le Touquet agreement
Angelique Chrisafis in Paris
Thursday 20 October 2016 22.00 BST
France must push back its border with Britain from Calais to the Kent coast and stop managing refugees and migrants for the UK, Alain Juppé has told the Guardian.
Juppé, 71, the current favourite to become the next French president, said he wants a complete renegotiation of the Le Touquet accord, the deal between France and Britain that keeps border checks, and thousands of refugees and migrants, on the French side of the Channel.
“We can’t tolerate what is going on in Calais, the image is disastrous for our country and there are also extremely serious economic and security consequences for the people of Calais,” Juppé said in an interview in Paris with the Guardian and a handful of European newspapers.
“So the first thing is to denounce the Le Touquet accords. We cannot accept making the selection on French territory of people that Britain does or doesn’t want. It’s up to Britain to do that job.”
Juppé said he was not afraid of Britain’s strong opposition to changing the accord.
Asked whether the border should be pushed back to the English coast, he replied: “Of course. Don’t tell me that it’s difficult because the British don’t want it.
“If we entered international negotiations in that spirit, there would never be any negotiations. So the debate must be opened and a new accord obtained with Britain.”
He said France “must say no to a certain number of things” on the international stage, notably Le Touquet.
Under the bilateral treaty signed in 2003, British officials can check passports in France and vice versa, meaning the English border is effectively in France and migrants and refugees trying to reach the UK are stuck in a no-man’s land at makeshift camps in Calais and along France’s northern coast.
Juppé’s comments come as attention on the situation in Calais has increased in the run-up to the 2017 French presidential election. Under political pressure, in a few days France’s Socialist government will begin demolishing the main migrant and refugee camp in Calais, where thousands sleep rough, many trying to reach Britain by stowing away on trucks heading across the Channel.
The pace at which children are transferred to Britain from the camp increased this week after Paris demanded that London show more solidarity with minors who make the perilous journey to Europe alone, in the hope of joining relatives in the UK.
On the question of Britain’s vote to leave the EU, Juppé felt that France must be firm and clear. “You have chosen and we respect your choice. Now it must be put into action quickly,” he said.
He warned that the UK could not be both “outside and inside” the EU. “It’s not about punishing Britain, it’s about being coherent,” he said, stressing that France would keep “very close bilateral cooperation with the UK”, particularly on military and defence issues.
Juppé said he wanted to restore France’s influence on the international stage, fearing that the nation was no longer “audible”, partly because it had not been able to reform itself structurally and economically.
He has promised pro-business changes and public spending cuts as a response to France’s sluggish economy and mass unemployment. Juppé argued that tackling the pensions shortfall and loosening labour market rules would help France regain credibility and put it on a more equal footing with Germany, its key European partner.
Juppé, who was prime minister under Jacques Chirac in 1995 and is currently mayor of Bordeaux, is the frontrunner for the Les Républicains party presidential nomination, ahead of the former president Nicolas Sarkozy. It is the first time the French right has held an open primary race to choose its candidate, making the turnout and result hard to predict.
The presidential election, only six months away, is more open than any previously. The Socialist François Hollande, France’s least popular president since the second world war, will announce in December whether he will attempt a re-election campaign that some fear would already be doomed. The far-right Front National’s Marine Le Pen is tipped to easily make it through to the final runoff.
Juppé has undergone a profound image transformation to become France’s most popular politician, perceived as a trusted elder statesman preaching a moderate, centrist message of social harmony in a rising tide of national identity politics on the right.
Twenty-one years ago, he was the most loathed French prime minister in modern times after 2 million people took to the streets in protest against his pension changes. In 2004, he received a 14-month suspended sentence and was barred from holding elected office for a year over a corrupt 1980s scheme that illegally put workers for Jacques Chirac’s party on the payroll of the Paris town hall.
However, the conviction has not so far come back to haunt him. It is accepted that he did not profit personally and instead he is seen as having taken the flak for Chirac.
At his campaign headquarters on Paris’s left bank, he stuck by his promise to lead a diverse France that could live together harmoniously. He said his concept of “happy national identity” was clearly not the current reality in France, but a collective aim.
“I’m not so naive as to think that France is swimming in happiness – France today is in great difficulty. Economically our unemployment is still very high, particularly among young people, and politically the current leadership has lost all credibility,” he said. “But the role of a politician is not to bring a message of pessimism and decline, but to share confidence and optimism.”
Juppé’s take on positive French community relations is an attack on Sarkozy’s hardline brand of national identity politics, focused on immigration and Islam, which has dominated the headlines. During the summer row over banning burkinis on beaches, rightwing commentators suggested that France’s divided society could descend into “civil war”, with terrorist attacks having killed more than 230 people in little more than 18 months.
On terrorism, Juppé said: “We have to improve our intelligence services, which have been weakened in the past.” He said this included restoring community policing posts and tougher sentencing in court.
He warned against talk of “a war of civilisations,” saying: “We mustn’t stoke, we mustn’t fall into hysteria. Let’s keep our calm. All studies show that the majority of French Muslims are totally prepared to respect the laws of the republic.”
Muslims in France must organise to combat radicalism and stand together to say that French secularism, the strict separation of church and state, intended to foster equality for all private beliefs, takes precedence in France, he said.
Juppé maintained his criticism of burkini bans and brushed aside suggestions of any new laws on the Muslim headscarf, which Sarkozy had proposed banning from universities.
“The headscarf is not radical Islamism,” Juppé said. “Look around the pavements at all the women wearing headscarves. We’re not going to ban all women from wearing a headscarf! You can’t decree laws that can’t be respected.”
Of the ceremony to commemorate the victims of the Nice terrorist attack, in which 86 people were killed when a lorry driver ploughed into crowds celebrating Bastille Day, he said: “We saw families that were Christian, Muslim, of every faith and origin. And those people told us that dialogue and the will to stand together could fight unhappiness, hatred and antagonism.”
Asked whether he thought France was impossible to reform economically, he said: “Every country is hard to reform. France maybe more than others, I admit, but it’s also moving, our universities have transformed themselves, lots of sectors of public life have been transformed.”