French President Emmanuel Macron has defended the country’s new immigration bill, addressing left-wing critics who claim he gave too much to the “far Right”.
“This law is the shield that we lacked,” Macron said. “This law must be seen in conjunction with the decisions taken in Europe today,” he said, referring to a deal reached in Brussels, also on December 20, with a primary focus on asylum and illegal migration.
The President insisted the bill was the result of a compromise and said he did not agree with every article it contained.
“Political life consists of crises, of agreements and disagreements,” he said.
“We are a country that has always welcomed, that welcomes women and men who flee their country; it is asylum and it is inviolable.
“This is a real disagreement with the RN [Rassemblement National] and some of the Republicans,” he said.
Macron also insisted he had not “betrayed” the voters who rallied behind him to keep Marine Le Pen from power during his 2022 re-election bid. That was despite the fact that Le Pen’s far-right RN party endorsed the new bill – what some described as a “kiss of death”.
According to many on the Left, the new bill, which does away with birth-right citizenship, introduces migrant quotas, makes it more difficult for migrants to receive benefits and makes it easier to expel illegal migrants, is not “welcoming”.
More than 30 left-wing municipal governments announced on the day of the vote they would not apply certain measures.
Even within Macron’s own party, there was dissidence. The health minister, Aurélien Rousseau, resigned, putting the President’s ruling Renaissance party under pressure.
About a quarter of his party’s deputies and its partners either abstained or voted against the bill in the French Assembly.
Rather than acknowledging the role of Le Pen’s party, which delivered essential support in Parliament, Macron said it was “a defeat for the National Rally [as RN is known in English]” as it “will allow us to fight against what nourishes the National Rally party”, meaning the public’s concerns over migration.
“There is more migratory pressure on our country today than there was 10 years ago. But we’re not overwhelmed, I’ve never used those words.
“We are not overwhelmed by immigration,” he claimed, adding: “But it would be wrong to say that we have everything under control, I think we need to improve things. If we close our eyes, we are playing into the hands of the RN.
“There is an obvious problem with illegal immigration in France,” he went on. “It is not a right-wing position to stand up against this. The new law offers the necessary protection that the country has [lacked].”
Macron did acknowledge that he thought some of the law’s provisions were problematic.
Still, he said, given the Constitutional Council is now reviewing the law, those issues would be removed.