Sunday

25th Feb 2024

Fillon promotes pro-Russia views in Berlin

  • French conservative presidential hopeful Francois Fillon. (Photo: UMP)

Francois Fillon, the French conservative presidential candidate, challenged Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel on Russia and refugees during a visit to Berlin, as both countries face critical elections later this year.

Fillon met with Merkel in a closed-doors meeting on Monday (23 January) in his first visit to the German capital since he won the centre-right primaries in November.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Afterwards, he held a speech at the conservative think tank, the Konrad Adenauer foundation, where he said Russia should “be a major partner” and that the current EU policies towards Moscow were a "deadlock".

Merkel has been one of the main proponents of EU sanctions on Russia, but Fillon said the measures had been "totally ineffective".

He warned that the issue was particularly burning since a president with pro-Russian views has been installed as US president.

"It would be damaging for Europe if Trump went above our heads," Fillon said.

Better relations with Russia and Syria's Bashar al-Assad would also help to contain the threat of Islamist terror, he said.

In an interview with Le Monde and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Sunday, Fillon said that Europe's insistence that the Syrian president would vacate his post had been counterproductive.

"The Russian approach has avoided that the Islamic state takes power in Damascus… I know who Bashar Al-Assad is, I know what crimes he has committed but making his departure a prerequisite was a gross misjudgment which excluded the Europeans from the process," Fillon said.

He proposed that the EU would set up a security conference with Russia, "on the new security challenges in Europe".

Fillon, a former prime minister, is a frontrunner in France's presidential race. A recent poll put him behind the National Front's Marine Le Pen, but if the two make it to the election's second round, he can count of the support of other pro-democratic parties to block the extreme-right leader from power.

Fillon said he opposed an EU scheme to relocate refugees who are stuck in Greece and Italy to other member states.

"We can not accept more refugees," he said, and called for the closing of EU borders.

"If borders are not protected by our European partners, and in the context of the war against Islamic totalitarianism, France will re-establish real checks at its borders," he said.

Fillon also called for stronger Franco-German relations and defended the European Union.

Merkel, who is herself seeking a fourth term as chancellor in Germany's September election, didn't comment on Fillon's proposals.

French candidates avoid EU debate

In their first TV debate, the main candidates for the April election only briefly discussed the country's EU policies, with far-right Le Pen and centrist Macron taking aim at each other.

Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns

Germany is expanding agreements to return rejected asylum seekers to their countries of origin as part of a wider shift in Europe to curtail migration. Berlin has reached deals with Georgia and Morocco since December.

Latest News

  1. EU rewards Tusk's Poland on rule of law with €137bn
  2. UK-EU relations defrosting ahead of near-certain Labour win
  3. EU paid Russia €420-per-capita for fossil fuels since war began
  4. After two years of war, time to hit Putin's LNG exports
  5. Creating the conditions for just peace in Ukraine
  6. Energy and minerals disputes overshadow new EU-ACP pact
  7. Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns
  8. How Amazon lobbyists could be banned from EU Parliament

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us