French PM: ‘Urgent’ Reform Needed

CNN, Nov. 29

PARIS, France—France has a very serious social problem that requires dramatic solutions, the French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has told CNN.

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He said the government was launching a “very intensive” program to help deprived neighborhoods, including tripling the scholarships to boarding schools given to children from these areas.

De Villepin said the country’s employment agency would see all the young people from deprived areas in the next month “in order to either propose either a job, either a training program or an internship.”

“We are willing to take into account that their very specific difficulties and individually to answer these difficulties,” he said.

He said the government wanted to create more tax-free zones in deprived areas, but also wanted people in these areas to accept jobs outside these neighborhoods.

“We need a social mix in order to have a real equilibrium now in our society,” he said.

De Villepin said the government intended to do away with high-rise housing estates, replacing them quickly with smaller scale buildings.

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He said members of minority groups in France “did not want . . . to be recognized as Muslims, or as blacks, or as people coming from North Africa. They want to be recognized as French and they want to have equal opportunity during their lives.”

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PARIS—Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin announced plans on Tuesday to tighten immigration controls in response to France’s worst urban rioting in almost 40 years.

He proposed a longer wait for citizenship for foreigners who marry French people, a tougher selection process for students visiting France and close checks on immigration by families joining a foreign worker already living in the country.

“The government will act firmly and with a sense of responsibility,” Villepin told reporters after a ministerial meeting on immigration control.

He also called for tight policing of polygamy, which is illegal in France but some center-right politicians say was one of the causes of the unrest because children from large polygamous families have problems integrating into society.

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Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who threatened to expel any foreigners involved in the riots, told parliament on Tuesday that France no longer wanted “those people that nobody else in the world wants.”

“I agree with what the prime minister said. We want selective immigration,” Sarkozy said.

Foreign workers in France can now be joined by their family after a year, and around 25,000 people were involved in such moves in 2004. But Villepin said this was not long enough and the waiting time should be increased to two years.

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Around 34,000 French married foreigners from countries outside the European Union and Switzerland last year.

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