Valls Divides Parti socialiste on Immigration Policy, Islam

Minister of the Interior Manuel Valls. Photo: flickr.com/fondapol

Minister of the Interior Manuel Valls has come under fire from his own party for recent comments.
Photo: flickr.com/fondapol

Minster of the Interior Manuel Valls made headlines upon his return from summer break this week as he questioned France’s immigration policy at President François Hollande’s seminar “France in 2025.”  In addition to questioning France’s family reunification policy, his commentary on Islam also made waves, and was a source of conflict amongst members of his Parti socialiste (PS).

The family reunification system allows immigrant legal residents to be rejoined by their immediate family, who also obtain legal residency. While it is understood that support for this policy is “far from unanimous” in the French parliament, the debate is known to generally split the left and right-wingers in government. In the last presidential election, Nicolas Sarkozy made curtailing family reunification in France one of the central issues of his campaign. Hollande is against such measures.

Manuel Valls, a member of the National Assembly since 2002 and today the top law enforcement officer in France, is set to present a bill on immigration at the end of the year. On Monday at the “France in 2025” seminar– designed to prepare government ministers to make long-term investment and policy decisions later this year– the Minister of the Interior delivered a speech on what he views will be the major challenges facing France ten years into the future.

He stated, “all of our immigration policy should be questioned” in light of rapid population growth on the African continent. That same day, Valls broached the subject of Islam, arguing that France would be the one to show that religion is “compatible with democracy.” His speech was leaked to the Libération and Le Parisien by other ministers at the seminar, many of whom were reportedly outraged by what they heard.

The following morning, Valls addressed his statements on television news, claiming that France needs to “rebuild a partnership with Africa on immigration issues,” including family reunification.

In the wake of these comments, members of the PS have been at odds over the Minister of the Interior’s meaning. In an effort to maintain unity within his own party, Hollande claimed, “there is no debate” on family reunification within the PS.

Other ministers in his party tried to distance themselves from Valls’ comments. Party spokesperson Senator David Assouline responded, “I do not think we should ask for a reconsideration of family reunification, which is an achievement.” Minister of Social Affairs Marisol Touraine added on France 2 television, “I do not think the questioning of family reunification would be a way to live by our republican framework.”

Razzy Hammadi, PS deputy of Seine-Saint-Denis, added to the criticism of Valls’ statements. “The relationship between France and Africa is not limited to security issues or migration. The real issue is the economic and cultural development of Africa,” and “respectable mobility conditions” are important to encourage that development, he explained. “Valls has done a disservice to the left,” Hammadi concluded .

Only Economic Minster Pierre Moscovici supported Valls regarding his statements on Islam, claiming they were misinterpreted. In an interview with France Inter, Moscovici elaborated, “When I read that some say that Manuel Valls doubts that Islam is compatible with the Republic: not at all. It’s exactly the opposite.”

Minister Valls reportedly shot back at those within his party, saying that “the cheerful reunion of government has been short-lived” as his colleagues “distort” his comments.

Valls is currently the most popular politician within what is likely one of the most unpopular governments in French Republican history. According to a poll conducted by Ifop, Valls has a 61 percent approval rating. In comparison, Hollande and Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault can claim only 30 percent. Perhaps channeling confidence from his polls, the Interior Minister has slowly taken a tougher stance on a variety of issues in France, now being confident enough to go against his own party.

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  1. […] Minster of the Interior Manuel Valls made headlines upon his return from summer break this week as he questioned France’s immigration policy at President François Hollande’s seminar “France in 2025.”  In addition to questioning France’s family reunification policy, his commentary on Islam also made waves, and was a source of conflict amongst members of his Parti socialiste (PS). The family reunification system allows immigrant legal residents… […]

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