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16th Dec 2017

Focus

Hollande warns voters not to fall for anti-EU rhetoric

French President François Hollande intervened in the EU election campaign Friday (9 May) criticising anti-EU rhetoric as anachronistic and financially ruinous.

In a piece for left-leaning daily Le Monde, Hollande targets the far-right National Front – set to emerge top in the 25 May EU vote – although he never explicitly mentions the party or its leader Marine Le Pen.

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He warned against those who "speculate on disappointment, play on discouragement by stirring up fear" and says leaving the euro – one of the National Front's flagship policies – would lead to inflation, "implacable austerity" and "national decline".

While he says the EU has not done enough to create jobs for young people and is often overly bureaucratic, Hollande says it is up to voters to fix the Union. "To exit Europe is to exit history."

His column offers no answers or proposals for the EU. Instead it refers to the EU's success as a peace project after World War II.

"Whom do we owe this incredible rebirth, this exceptional renaissance? The union! The union of citizens, the union of economies, the union of nations," he writes.

Quoting another socialist, former French president François Mitterrand in his last speech to the European Parliament, Hollande adds: "Nationalism means war! … Europe means peace."

The president also notes that the EU vote will be different this time round. He writes that for the first time "voters, with their ballot, will designate the future president of the European Commission".

"How many (voters) know that?"

The strongly pro-EU message contrasts deeply with the current popular and political sentiment in France.

According to a CSA survey published this month, 51 percent of the French still back EU membership. Ten years ago it was 67 percent.

Meanwhile Hollande himself has the lowest approval rating of any French president and his Socialist party suffered heavy losses in recent local elections. By contrast, the National Front won 11 mayoral posts – an unprecedented result.

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