Saturday

6th Jun 2020

Fillon keeps momentum after French primary debate

  • Fillon: "It is true that my project is more radical, perhaps more difficult" (Photo: Reuters)

Thursday evening's debate (24 November) between the two candidates for the centre-right primary election has laid bare differences on the pace of reforms, multiculturalism and Russia, with favourite Francois Fillon holding the upper hand.

Fillon, who came ahead in the first round of the Republicans party's election last Sunday, and rival Alain Juppe held a polite and sometimes detailed debate where the EU was barely mentioned.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

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

... or subscribe as a group

A 62-year-old Catholic conservative, Fillon was considered the most convincing in several polls after the debate. He remains the favourite to gain the party's nomination for next year's presidential election, in the second round on Sunday.

"It is true that my project is more radical, perhaps more difficult," said Fillon, who in recent days has been labelled "a French Thatcher".

He said that the French social model, where 6 million people are unemployed, "doesn't exist anymore" and that "France is on the verge of revolt". He said he would "get things moving in the first three months" of his term.

His programme includes cutting spending by €100 billion in five years, cutting 500,000 public jobs, cutting corporation and income taxes while raising VAT and abolishing the 35-hour working week.

Juppe, who wants smaller spending and tax cuts, says it wouldn't be feasible to cut so many public sector jobs, adding "you cannot ask civil servants to work more and earn less."

The two candidates also opposed each other on migration and the state of French society.

Juppe, who campaigned under the slogan "happy identity", says "the identity of France is diversity," while Fillon says "France is not a multicultural nation."

Fillon said that to address the country's identity crisis he would have school history books rewritten to introduce a "grand narrative" including figures like the first French king Clovis, Joan of Arc, or Voltaire.

One of the most striking points of difference between the two candidates was Russia.

After officials in Moscow, including president Vladimir Putin, praised Fillon in the wake of the primary's first round, Juppe quipped that he was "surprised that, for the first time, the Russian leader chooses his candidate."

He said Russia was a "partner," with which a pan-European security agreement could be negotiated, but that "we must be able to tell some truths to Russia" and that Moscow must respect the Minsk agreement in Ukraine.

'Absurd' Russia policy

Fillon, for his part, said that French policy towards Russia in the last five years was "absurd" and that "we should sit around a table with Russia without asking permission with the US to reforge a bond."

He said that Russia was "packed with nuclear weapons, and therefore a dangerous country if we treat it as we have done for five years."

But he added that Russia was "not the main threat to Europe," pointing instead to Asian economies.

He said, however, that he did not approve the annexation of Crimea by Russia and that "the interest of France is obviously not to change alliance."

Voters from the right and centre will choose between Fillon and Juppe on Sunday for presidential candidate.

More than four million people voted in the first round last Sunday, where former president Nicolas Sarkozy was knocked out and Fillon proved opinion polls wrong.

Although Fillon is now leading polls against Juppe, the outcome of the second round remains uncertain and will likely depend on turnout, especially from centrist voters, of which many participated in the first round mainly to stymie Sarkozy's run.

Fillon leads French right primary as Sarkozy falls

The former French president came third in the first round of the centre-right primary election on Sunday. Francois Fillon, a pro-Russia conservative, is the new favourite for next year's presidential vote.

Jourova: Ease emergency powers - especially Hungary

The EU commission vice-president said that as member states relax lockdwon measures, it is time to roll back the state of emergencies that affect democracy and fundamental rights. Hungary said it might end extra powers in June.

Commission struggles with German court challenge

While the EU commission has suggested there could be EU probes becasue of the German consitutional court's decision, chancellor Angela Merkel argued to her party that a clash is avoidable.

News in Brief

  1. Poland accused of 'blatant violation' of EU court injunction
  2. EU concerned by US approach to Kosovo and Serbia
  3. City morgues cast doubt on Putin's virus data
  4. ECB increases pandemic stimulus to €1.35 trillion
  5. New EU cloud computing platform 'moonshot'
  6. City of Berlin passes anti-discrimination law
  7. Iran hits record corona cases in second wave
  8. EU job losses tell tale of pandemic damage

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  3. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  5. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers call for post-corona synergies between economic recovery and green transition

Latest News

  1. EU warns UK to abide by Brexit political declaration
  2. Internal EU borders open by 15 June - bar V4, Portugal, Spain
  3. CAP 'failed to halt biodiversity loss', auditors find
  4. After Covid-19, deserted Venice struggles to survive
  5. Commission plans strategy to 'maximise' vaccine access
  6. How spies use women to steal EU secrets
  7. Hong Kong - when the Chinese Dream became a nightmare
  8. Right of reply: Letter from the Hungarian government

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us