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Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French leader who is eyeing a presidential bid next year, has vowed to push for a new EU treaty and prioritise an overhaul of the passport-free Schengen zone after the UK’s EU referendum next week.
The centre-right chief of the Republican party, who has yet to announce his candidacy for his party’s primaries this year, said a treaty was necessary to take back control of EU immigration policy.
“We’ll have to put [on the table] the idea of a Euro-Schengen, which would be made of interior ministers with a stable president,” Mr Sarkozy told Le Figaro newspaper. “It’s clear that it’s not one of our 28 commissioners who can drive Europe’s immigration policy.”
Mr Sarkozy has ramped up his anti-immigration and anti-Brussels rhetoric in the face of a resurgent far-right National Front party that is seeking to lure voters from the mainstream right by tapping increasing anxiety over Islamist terrorism and mounting distrust of EU institutions.
The former president suggested he would push for a two-tier Europe, with a eurozone that would integrate further, with a common budget, a wider union and a smaller remit.
In order to “move towards more integration, solidarity and a common economic policy”, the eurozone would have a Treasury head, a “European monetary fund” and a government, he was quoted as saying.
The wider union would concentrate on research, competition, agriculture and energy.
A Brexit, Mr Sarkozy said, would destabilise Europe and risk “dislocating” the UK. “For our British friends it would be a catastrophe,” he said.
Switching to campaign mode, he lashed out at François Hollande, France’s Socialist president, for not measuring up to Angela Merkel.
Mr Sarkozy would “never have accepted” that the German chancellor should negotiate alone with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish prime minister, he said.
“Because the symbol for Europe was terrible,” he said. “But it’s not her fault. If France was not part of these negotiations the French president is entirely responsible.”
Following the killing by a convicted Islamist extremist of a police officer and his partner near Paris on Monday, Mr Sarkozy suggested that bi-nationals suspected of “direct or indirect links” with terror groups be expelled and electronic tags put on the 11,500 people flagged as potentially posing a threat to national security because of their ties to Islamist extremism.