The candidate for France’s right-wing presidential primary has pledged to defend the European Union in his campaign. This sets him apart from his competitors Nicolas Sarkozy, Bruno Le Maire and François Fillon. EURACTIV France reports.
“I will lead a pro-European campaign,” Alain Juppé said at a press conference in Strasbourg on Tuesday (13 September), where he held his first major campaign meeting.
During this meeting, Juppée said that his presidential bid would soon give him “the chance to express more fully [his] European ambition and to give this ambition back to France”.
But in the race to secure the right wing Republican party’s nomination for the French presidential elections in 2017, the former prime minister chose a rather more national theme for his first campaign meeting, that of “French identity”.
“I do not see a painful amputation between the European dream and French identity, but a fruitful addition,” Juppé said.
Strasbourg was the first in a series of eight or nine big regional meetings Juppé plans to hold before the Republican candidate is chosen on 20 November.
The other nomination hopefuls have adopted a more national-centred stance on Europe. In the wake of Brexit, Bruno Le Maire, for example, called for the EU to be recentred around its six founding countries and for a referendum to be held on France’s membership of the bloc.
Nicolas Sarkozy also said he would consult the French people on the European project. He proposed that certain European Commission competences should be repatriated, particularly those concerning the transatlantic trade negotiations.
Not to be outdone, François Fillon has called for the 28-member European Union to be abolished. Sarkozy’s former prime minister is opposed to the EU in its current form, which he sees as too federalist, and has called for a referendum on the reconstruction of Europe.
In a campaign increasingly dominated by the European question, Juppé may have wrong-footed his rivals. “Holding a referendum on the state of the European Union today would be to ask the people to solve our problems for us,” he said, adding that he found the idea “irresponsible”.
Juppé’s position on Britain’s decision is firm. “The Brits need to assume their responsibilities,” he said. “Brexit should not be dragged out.”
The UK’s decision to leave the EU has also cast doubt on the Touquet agreement, under which France allows Britain to carry out its border controls on French soil.
“Why have we not already started the process of taking this agreement apart?” Juppé asked, adding that it was a “deeply unfair” arrangement.
But despite displaying a more pro-European streak than his rivals, Juppé toes France’s conservative line on ending Turkey’s EU accession negotiations and reviewing the Schengen border-free zone.
“Schengen must be reformed to avoid the drama that would occur if we had to re-establish the border between France and Germany,” Juppé said.
But he does not see Schengen reform necessarily as a compulsory process for all its member countries. “We have to see who wants to do it and who does not,” he said.