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2022 FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

Le Pen’s plan to legalise discrimination against foreigners in France – including dual nationals

Marine Le Pen will put a bill on immigration and national identity to a referendum within six months if she wins the election - and her plan would have a major impact on all foreigners living in France, even if they have taken French citizenship.

Le Pen's plan to legalise discrimination against foreigners in France - including dual nationals
French far-right party Rassemblement National (RN) presidential candidate Marine Le Pen. (Photo: Christophe Simon / AFP)

This bill, “will modify a number of articles of our Constitution in order to integrate the migration issue into our supreme text but also to prevent supranational jurisdictions from forcing France to follow policies contrary to the will of the French people,” according to Le Pen’s manifesto.

If Le Pen gets in and if the law is passed, an estimated 3.5 million people in France suddenly would not have the same rights here as ‘French nationals’.

This includes people who have lived in France for decades and people who have become French citizens.

The plan for “national priority” sets up legal discrimination between French nationals and foreigners for jobs in the private sector, civil service, as well as access to social housing, healthcare and social benefits.

READ ALSO Macron v Le Pen: What are their policies for foreigners living in France?

Le Pen, a lawyer by profession, knows that the bill she proposes violates the French constitution, European conventions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1789.

That’s why she wants to put it to a referendum, which bypasses parliament and sidesteps the scrutiny of the Conseil Constitutionnel – France’s highest court on all matters related to the constitution, which would be highly likely to say that the move is unconstitutional.

Article one of the proposed bill – available here (pdf) – contains the following text: “The access of foreigners to any public or private employment, to the exercise of certain professions, economic or associative activities, professional or trade union representation functions, as well as to the benefit of solidarity benefits, is determined by law.

“The law sets the conditions and areas in which national priority may be applied, understood as the priority granted to nationals.”

Under article six: “The law may prohibit access to jobs in government agencies, public companies and legal entities, public enterprises and legal persons entrusted with a public service mission to persons who possess the nationality of another State.”

Le Pen’s immigration law would remove the right of foreign-born residents of France to work for – among others – La Poste, EDF, SNCF, businesses in social and health sectors and would also allow for “criminal or administrative sanctions to punish the actions of any person or legal entity who disregards the rules governing the entry, stay or work of foreigners in France, including through any assistance.”

As well as blocking access to certain professions, the bill – if passed – would deprive foreigners in France of family allowances and other benefits, deny them access to trade unions, make gaining French citizenship more difficult, do away with the droit du sol rule (which gives the right to citizenship of people born in France) and prevent many families from reuniting in France. 

It would also make access to healthcare more difficult.

Foreign nationals who want to settle in France under a Le Pen regime, they will have to prove that they are “holders of an insurance contract covering their health expenses” because, warns the RN candidate, “they cannot constitute a cost for the social protection system and for public finances”.

It’s not clear how long foreigners would be required to have private health insurance for and when/if they would be allowed to register within the French health system.

Le Pen’s chief of staff Renaud Labaye has insisted that, as a constitutional text, it was necessary to keep definitions as broad as possible to allow legal implements to then “restrict the scope of prohibitions”, including those who hold dual nationality.

At present certain jobs – including senior civil servant roles – are restricted to French nationals while some  public sector roles are restricted to EU citizens.

You can run for office on a local level – say town councillor or village mayor – if you are an EU citizen, but to run to become an MP, Senator or the president you must be French.

Crucially, however, there is no distinction between people who were born French and those who acquired French nationality later in life through family, marriage or residency – there have been two French presidential candidates (Eva Joly in 2012 and Anne Hidalgo in 2022) who were not French citizens from birth.  

In her 2012 and 2017 election campaigns, Le Pen proposed banning dual nationality, meaning that people could only become French citizens if they renounce the citizenship of their birth country. However in 2022 she has ditched that policy, to the reported surprise of many in her party. 

French citizenship rules are relatively generous, allowing citizenship after five years of residence – albeit with a ton of paperwork, a French language qualification and an average 18-month waiting time.

France granted citizenship to 86,000 people in 2020, and since the Brexit referendum many British long-term residents of France have taken French citizenship in order to hold onto their EU rights.

READ ALSO Am I eligible for French citizenship?

Member comments

  1. For a nation that fought so hard against the Apartheid regime and policies in South Africa, it is surprising that they seem to have taken so much from that rule book to apply in their own nation…I will be surprised (but not terribly so) if this comes to pass…

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POLITICS

Rugby tickets, coffee and stickers – French presidential candidates chastised over expenses claims

From coffee runs to rugby tickets and professional photos - France's election financing body has revealed some of the items it has refused to reimburse from the 2022 presidential race.

Rugby tickets, coffee and stickers - French presidential candidates chastised over expenses claims

Spending on the election trail is tightly regulated in France, with maximum campaign spends per candidate as well as a list of acceptable expenses that can be reimbursed.

In France the State pays at least some of the election campaign costs, with the budget calculated according to how many votes the candidate ends up getting. 

READ MORE: 5 things to know about French election campaign financing

On Friday, the government body (la Commission nationale des comptes de campagne et des financements politiques – or CNCCFP) released its findings for the 12 candidates who ran in the April 2022 presidential campaign. 

All of the candidates had their accounts approved, but 11 out of the 12 were refused reimbursement on certain items. Here are some of the items that did not get CNCCFP approval;

Rugby tickets 

Jean Lassalle – the wildcard ‘pro farmer’ candidate who received about three percent of votes cast in the first round of the 2022 election – bought “19 tickets to attend a rugby match” according to the CNCCFP’s findings. The organisation said it would not be reimbursing the tickets and questioned “the electoral nature of the event”. 

The total cost of the tickets was €465 (or €24.50 each).

Too many coffees

Socialist candidate, and current mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo reportedly spent at least €1,600 on coffee for her team during the campaign.

According to the CNCCFP, however, the caffeine needed to keep a presidential campaign running did not qualify under the country’s strict campaign financing rules.

Too many stickers

Hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s was told that the 1.2 million stickers that were bought – to the tune of €28,875 – to advertise the campaign would not be reimbursed. Mélenchon justified the purchasing of the stickers – saying that in the vast majority of cases they were used to build up visibility for campaign events, but CNCCFP ruled that “such a large number” was not justified. 

Mélenchon was not the only one to get in trouble for his signage. Extreme-right candidate Éric Zemmour was accused of having put up over 10,000 posters outside official places reserved for signage. The same went for the far-right’s Marine Le Pen, who decided to appeal the CNCCFP’s decision not to reimburse €300,000 spent on putting posters of her face with the phrase “M la France” on 12 campaign buses.

Poster pictures

Emmanuel Macron – who won re-election in 2022 – will not be reimbursed for the €30,000 spent on a professional photographer Soazig de la Moissonière, who works as his official photographer and took the picture for his campaign poster. 

The CNCCFP said that Macron’s team had “not sufficiently justified” the expenditure.

Expensive Airbnbs

Green party member Yannick Jadot reportedly spent €6,048 on Airbnbs in the city of Paris for some of his campaign employees – an expense that the CNCCFP said that public funds would not cover.

Translating posters

The campaign finance body also refused to reimburse the Mélenchon campaign’s decision to translate its programme into several foreign languages at a cost of €5,398.

The CNCCFP said that they did not consider the translations to be “an expense specifically intended to obtain votes” in a French election.

Best and worst in class

The extreme-right pundit Zemmour had the largest amount of money not reimbursed. Zemmour created a campaign video that used film clips and historic news footage without permission and also appeared on CNews without declaring his candidacy – because of these two offences, CNCCFP has reduced his reimbursement by €200,000. He has been hit with a separate bill of €70,000 after he was found guilty of copyright infringement over the campaign video. 

The star pupil was Nathalie Arthaud, high-school teacher and candidate for the far-left Lutte Ouvriere party, who apparently had “completely clean accounts”. A CNCCFP spokesperson told Le Parisien that if all candidate accounts were like Arthauds’, then “we would be unemployed”.

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