09:00 GMT +320 October 2019
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    France's far-right National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen poses in front of a poster for her 2017 French presidential election campaign as she inaugurates her party campaign headquarters L'Escale in Paris, France, November 16, 2016.

    Le Pen's 144 'Commitments': When France's National Interests 'Come First'

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    On Sunday, French presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front movement, published an electoral program compiling resolute steps on a number of crucial issues, including France’s ties with the European Union and NATO, its national security as well as its cultural and migration policies.

    Brexit and then Donald Trump’s victory in the United States presidential election marked a victory of the conception of nation state over the liberal globalization scenario. Le Pen’s program, which can be regarded as a manifesto of anti-globalism and anti-Europeanism, adds to the trend.

    The first round of the French presidential election will take place on April 23, with the run-off scheduled for May 7.

    "What is at stake in this election […] is whether France can still be a free nation. The divide is not between the left and right any more but between patriots and globalists," Le Pen told supporters at her campaign launch rally.

    Dubbed as 144 "commitments," Le Pen’s election program declares the "priority of national interests over political correctness, globalism and the discredited European identity," Gevorg Mirzayan, a lecturer at the Financial University under the Government of Russia, wrote in a piece for RIA Novosti.

    Less Europe, Less NATO

    The economic part of the program presumes withdrawal from the Schengen Area, restoration of a national currency, a referendum on France’s membership in the EU, as well as an increase in import taxes. The program also requires granting state procurement contracts only to French companies.

    In fact, these measures mean abandoning the basic principles of the European integration, according to Mirzayan.

    At the same time, Le Pen is not a die-hard advocate of a Frexit. The politician is ready to agree on a reform of the bloc, including its turning into kind of a union of independent nations.

    "However, the 'commitments' regarding foreign policy is way more radical. For example, Le Pen wants France to become independent from NATO’s military command, in order to prevent it from 'being dragged into wars France is not interested in,'" the article read.

    The initiative makes sense, especially taking account the fact no one is going to attack France, a nuclear power. At the same time, as a NATO member, Paris is committed to protecting other member countries from possible aggression. Moreover, in light of Washington’s intention to expand the alliance, France is facing increased risks of a confrontation with Russia, which does not correspond with its security interests.

    In her electoral plan Le Pen promised to increase France’s defense spending to three percent of GDP, from the current two percent, according to the obligations within NATO. She also promised to boost the French Navy with a second aircraft-carrier and add 50,000 personnel to the armed forces, including drafting in the army.

    "Despite France’s military success in Mali, its joint effort with Britain on Libya ended up in a fiasco. So, many experts are cautious about Paris’ military prospects beyond NATO," the article read.

    Interests of French People First

    The most controversial provisions of Le Pen’s "commitments" are those regarding cultural and migration policies. France is one of the most troubled Western European countries in terms of illegal immigration, with over three million illegal migrants.

    Le Pen proposed a radical solution to the problem, including curbing the immigration flow (to 10,000 people a year), prohibiting admittance of family members and finally expelling all illegal immigrants.

    "Such a Trump-style move is not politically correct, but it is legal and follows the logic of a nation state. While globalism regards admittance of refugees as natural, for a nation state its own citizens come first," Mirzayan pointed out.

    Muslims, numbering nearly 10 percent of France’s population, are also a matter of special importance, according to Le Pen. The main problem is that the majority of them do not want to integrate in the society.

    While the French socialists do not see such situation as a problem, the National Front leader is concerned about Islamic radicalism. Le Pen pledges to wipe out all French Islamic organizations, to close mosques involved in propagating extremism and ban such organization from receiving funds from abroad. The "commitments" also propose revoking French citizenship for involvement in jihadist activities.

    "These measures are correct and important. But the problem is that they should be implemented with a special care, in order to prevent the fight against jihadism from turning into a war on Islam. In the latter case, France would risk facing a civil conflict," the expert noted.

    A Chance for France

    As for now, Le Pen’s prospects at the election are ambiguous. According to polls, she is likely to win the first round of the election but will be defeated by former Prime Minister Francois Fillon in the second.

    "But her defeat will not make her commitments obsolete. It is very interesting to see how many people will vote for Le Pen’s resolute initiatives to restore French’s sovereignty and security in exchange for political correctness, open borders and other signs of globalization," Mirzayan wrote.

    According to the author, if this percentage is sufficiently high or if a right candidate wins (for example, Fillon) the next French president will have to endorse some of Le Pen’s "commitments."

    "They are not perfect, but to a certain extent they are the only way France can overcome the current challenges," the author concluded.


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