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During a two-hour, primetime interview on France 2 television, Juppé presented his policies for addressing France’s ailing economy, Europe’s migrant crisis, and fighting terrorism. He also spent plenty of time criticising former president Sarkozy, with whom he is in a bitter contest for Les Républicains party’s presidential nomination.
The Bordeaux Mayor defended his vision of France as a country that celebrates diversity and attacked Sarkozy’s assertions that the French identity is under attack from minorities. Last month, the former president (2007-2012) declared that all French citizens should consider their ancestors to be Gauls [the ancient Celtic people who inhabited France and much of Northern Europe], in what many condemned as a clear bid to seduce far-right National Front voters.
“I love France, my vision of France is a country that respects diversity because it’s an asset… I spoke about this with Corsicans. Corsicans are not Gauls,”” the popular veteran politician said in a clear swipe at Sarkozy’s views on immigrants and his views on what it means to be French.
Well-respected Juppé, 71, is considered the frontrunner in Les Républicains two-round primary this November, and Sarkozy appears to be Juppé’s only serious challenger out of the seven contenders.
However, Sarkozy has accused Juppé’s camp of “cheating” and “perjury” for calling on left-leaning voters to take part in Les Républicains primary vote this autumn.
“This outburst is a bad sign, he’s clearly panicking,” Juppé hit back during the interview on Thursday evening.
“The only chance Sarkozy has of winning is if he gets far-right votes,” Juppé added.
Criticises Merkel on immigration
While criticising Sarkozy’s increasingly inflammatory rhetoric, Juppé also sought to underscore his conservative credentials.
Juppé has said that as president he would eliminate France’s tax on the super-rich, end the cherished 35-hour working week, raise the retirement age, and possibly reduce unemployed benefits.
Explaining his tax-cutting proposals, Juppé said, “My goal is to do what I can so that French people who have money can reinvest it in French companies.”
He also took aim at German Chancellor Angela Merkel for raising the hopes of Syrian refugees looking to settle in Europe.
“It was a mistake to make people think she was going to fling her arms open to the entire world,” he said.
Juppé said on France 2 that he wants to streamline the asylum process, while insisting that there is a limit to the number of refugees France could help.
“A good migrant policy is built on two pillars: welcoming those who we can help – it’s a French tradition and our international obligation – and turning back those that we can’t,” said Juppé.