Immigrants from across the Mediterranean are an opportunity for France to make France even greater, French President Emmanuel Macron claimed at the opening of the Forum of Mediterranean Peoples in Marseille on Monday.
Macron praised the “richness” of the French, which he said was due to those from southern Europe, the countries of North Africa, and the Middle East, and criticized his anti-mass migration presidential rivals “who have doubts about those from elsewhere.”
“To arouse doubt in today’s French public discourse, saying that so many of us, just because they have different backgrounds, sometimes different first names, means they should forget the wealth and culture of their families, sometimes their ties across the Mediterranean. I believe the opposite,” Macron said, referring to right-wing conservative Éric Zemmour’s electoral pledge to make it mandatory for all French citizens to adopt a “French first name,” thus banning forenames of foreign origin.
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Under Macron’s watch, migration numbers have only grown, despite the French public being overwhelmingly opposed to further migration. He has been labeled weak on protecting France’s borders, and his government has overseen a number of security failures that led to headlining-grabbing cases of Islamic terrorism, including the beheading of French history teacher Samuel Paty.
Macron has attempted to play both sides though, offering harsh rhetoric on immigration to peel off voters who might choose Marine Le Pen or others, while simultaneously pursuing pro-migration rhetoric, such as at the Forum of Mediterranean Peoples.
“I expect all our compatriots to be completely French and European, to respect the rules of the republic, to love their homeland, but my message to all the children of the Republic is that regardless of the history of their family, when they cross the sea, they can give fantastic things to France, and this is an opportunity to make France greater,” Macron said.
“Our diasporas, our dual citizens, are a fantastic fortune for France, and we need to help them succeed, including those from the other side of the Mediterranean,” he added.
President Macron has announced that the government will create a €100 million fund for entrepreneurs living in France who invest in North African countries. He also indicated that Paris would “facilitate travel for those who contribute to economic, cultural and scientific relations” in the framework of cooperation with North African countries on “effective migration management.”
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The latter regulation will be the subject of a summit between the European Union and the African Union to be held in Brussels on Feb. 17-18.
Despite Macron’s recent statements, fewer people are being allowed in from Africa by his government:
France tightened entry conditions for citizens of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia in September.
While Moroccans receive 50 percent fewer entry visas, Algerians and Tunisians receive 33 percent fewer visas because North African countries are unwilling to take back their citizens expelled from France. Macron also announced in October that he wanted to reach a new peace and friendship agreement with Africa under the auspices of the European Union.
“A much better organized migration policy needs to be thought through with countries of origin, especially Africa,” said Macron last year, stressing that this requires better protection against illegal immigration, regular return to countries of origin and reform of the Schengen area.