In a recent discussion on immigration reform, right-wing French politicians are giving a nod in the direction of Switzerland. On Sunday, Feb. 9, a narrow majority of 50.3% in Switzerland approved an immigration referendum placing strict quotas on immigration from European Union (EU) countries, of which Switzerland is not a member.
The decision, which was met with international backlash across the EU, was supported by a number of members of conservative parties within France, worrying the Parti socialiste (PS) currently in power.
The Wednesday following the Swiss vote, the mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, promoted the referendum during his campaign, voicing his displeasure with the European Schengen rules, which he finds “unfavorable” to France. The mayor, who is a member of the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), said he would support a similar such referendum in France.
On the same day, Marine Le Pen, the controversial leader of the Front National (FN), called on the French to hold a similar referendum on the subject. In an interview with news source Les Echos, Le Pen argued, “the people have the right to control their borders, to decide who lives there, who works there, and secondly, in this context of completely limited immigration, to open a little and decide whom to open to, and that is the issue of the Swiss vote.”
While the statements are significant in and of themselves, the PS took specific note of their rival parties’ agreement on this issue. Eduardo Rihan Cypel, a PS member of the National Assembly, remarked that the novelty of the commentary is that the UMP, typically the more moderate of the two parties, took the far-right position before the radical FN.
This observation echoes an incident occurring earlier on Feb. 12, where the PS and UMP clashed over the censorship of the novel Tous à poil (All Naked!), during which the PS Minister of Labor, Michel Sapin, accused the UMP of using “the same language” as the FN.