Chirac Says France Needs to Do More on Integration

Bloomberg, Nov. 10

President Jacques Chirac said France needs to do more to create equal opportunities for its citizens as the worst outbreak of violence in the country since 1968 ebbed.

“Everyone has a right to respect and equality of chances and not everyone has the impression that they have it,” Chirac said at a press briefing in Paris after a meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. “An important effort has been made for three years. It has probably hasn’t gone fast enough.”

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“We are in a time of action to re-establish public order and that’s my priority,” Chirac said. “This should not prevent us from understanding that there is a problem. It can be analyzed in terms of equality of chances, of respect of every person in the republic.”

Chirac said he has asked his government to intensify efforts to aid immigrants and their descendents, many of whom are French.

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Five of the 25 regional departments given the power to introduce emergency restrictions imposed curfews. Towns on the French Riviera in the south and Amiens in the north were among the areas where night-time restrictions are in force.

The prefect of Alpes-Maritimes, in southern France, imposed a curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. local time, his press office said in a faxed statement late yesterday. Unaccompanied minors won’t be allowed on the streets during these hours in about 20 towns, including Cannes and Nice from Nov. 9 to Nov. 20.

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Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy told lawmakers yesterday foreigners, including both legal and illegal immigrants, would be expelled if they are convicted of rioting.

The 1955 curfew law enforced by Chirac was passed to curb unrest in Algeria during that country’s war of independence between 1954 and 1962. It was used again in French New Caledonia in 1985.

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PARIS—France’s opposition Socialist Party intends to put forward immigrant candidates in the next legislative elections in 2007 as an anti-discrimination measure aimed at addressing the underlying problems of the current unrest, a leading MP with the party said Wednesday.

Jack Lang, a former government minister who is seeking to be the Socialists’ candidate for presidential elections to be held the same year, told journalists that a future Socialist government would aim for a cabinet with diverse backgrounds.

Sociologists and residents in the tough urban areas that have exploded into violence over the past two weeks have said that the youths behind the unrest—mostly from Arab and African immigrant families—had very few role models in French society.

Political and media figures are almost exclusively white French people, with the number of black or Arab faces well below the proportion they represent in French society, estimated at least 10 percent.

Lang told the Anglo-American Press Association that he favoured “positive discrimination”, a practice implemented in the United States and other countries whereby underrepresented minorities have easier access to jobs.

He called for a national reconstruction program that would be modelled on the ‘New Deal’ in the United States or postwar recovery efforts, and said the left-wing opposition would press for a wide-ranging plan to achieve “territorial equality” between rich and poor areas.

The plan would improve opportunities for immigrants and other economically disadvantaged groups in housing, education, employment and health care, but Lang said any action must be general and not focused on individual religious or ethnic groups.

That idea has also been proposed by interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy, an ambitious conservative politician who also intends to run for president.

Recent public opinion polls show both Lang and Sarkozy to be more popular than current conservative President Jacques Chirac.

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