Nicolas Sarkozy won last year’s French presidential elections on an anti-immigration platform designed to curry favour with the voters of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s racist National Front. Since his election, he has tightened France’s immigration laws. His talentless lackey of an immigrant minister, Brice Hortefeux, loves talking tough about how France will deport Africans who dare risk their lives trying to come work in France. What, then, are we to make of reports that the commission looking at how to boost the French economy set up by Sarkozy and headed by Jacques Attali, a confidant of the late Socialist president Mitterrand, plans to recommend an increase in immigration as means of revitalising the French economy?
Attali’s logic is impeccable. Just consider how Britain, Ireland, Spain
and Sweden have boomed in recent years, as migrant workers from Poland
and the other new EU member states, as well as from further afield,
have given their economies a new lease of life. Spain’s foreign
population has soared in recent years – and so has the employment rate
among Spaniards. France and Germany, meanwhile, continue to fret about
the threat from the much-maligned Polish plumber.
With France’s growth slowing, its sclerotic labour market could do with
an infusion of foreign blood – of hard-working, enterprising people who
are willing to do the jobs that French people can’t or won’t. In so
doing, they would create new jobs for French jobs, both through their
increased spending power, and in complementary lines of work. France’s
economy would grow faster – a priority for Sarkozy and voters.
Although Sarkozy is notoriously erratic and opportunistic – a political
jackdaw, rather than a man of principle – it seems unlikely that he
will perform an about-turn on immigration. But here’s hoping that when
Attali presents his report to Sarkozy on 23 January, the president sees