Monday

23rd Apr 2018

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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.

Analysis

New EU party finance rules short circuit accountability

The EU's latest funding rules for European political parties and their think tanks fails to address the underlying problems of abuse. Instead of tackling the loans and donations culture, it has simply made access to EU funds a lot easier.

MEPs set limits to Macron's ambitions

The French president tried to woo the European Parliament but found that his quest for leadership will have to abide by the rules set by the European political groups.

Analysis

Macron relaunches his bid for EU leadership

In a speech to the European Parliament on Tuesday and then at a meeting with German chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday, the French president will try to get support for his EU reform proposals.

Getting secret EU trilogue documents: a case study

On Thursday, the European Parliament will vote on a political deal on organic farming, following 19 months of behind-closed-doors negotiations. EUobserver here details a five-month odyssey to get access to the secret documents that led to the deal.

News in Brief

  1. Commission will 'not shy away' from Malta killing repercussions
  2. EU Commission opens probe on Alitalia state loan
  3. Paris suspect given 20-year sentence for Brussels shoot-out
  4. Merkel and Pena Nieto praise EU-Mexico trade agreement
  5. Nahles elected new leader of Germany's SPD
  6. Report: EU budget to refocus on South
  7. Audit office: Brexit 'divorce' bill could be billions higher
  8. MEPs urge better protection for journalists

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  2. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  3. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  4. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  5. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  6. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  7. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  10. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  11. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia

Latest News

  1. 'Strong suspicion' of corruption in Council of Europe assembly
  2. France tightens immigration law, sparking division
  3. ECJ ruling set to end 10-year 'mouth tobacco' lobbying saga
  4. Whistleblowers, Syria and digital revolution This WEEK
  5. MEP friendship groups offer 'backdoor' for pariah regimes
  6. Macron and Merkel pledge euro reform
  7. Obscurity surrounds EU military fund's expert groups
  8. New EU party finance rules short circuit accountability

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  2. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  3. Europea Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  4. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  5. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  6. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  7. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  8. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  9. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  10. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  12. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights