Betwixt and between.
Photographer: Sean Gallup
Following the Italian election, French President Macron noted that rising populism and anti-establishment (and anti-Europe) sentiment was linked to growing unease over immigration policies. It won't have escaped him that former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, whose center-left party lost badly, was once the darling of the media, technocracy and European elite too.
Macron is relying on a new and controversial law to fix France's dysfunctional immigration policy and hopefully prevent a similar fate. The law promises to streamline the processing of asylum applications while introducing tough penalties, including detention, for illegals. It is popular with the French right, but viewed as a serious breaking of the faith on the left, the bedrock of Macron's majority. Many in his own party remembered his statements praising Merkel's 2015 stance toward migrants in Germany and calling refugees the "heroes" of modern times.
Macron is certainly right when he says that France's migration and integration policies are broken. Migrants who have been denied refugee status are rarely expelled from the country, a fact that fuels resentment across the whole of society and a problem former President Nicolas Sarkozy had promised but failed to address. Governing parties have long feared that addressing problems with immigration would fuel the vote for the far-right National Front. But their silence left the impression that the extreme right was the only party preoccupied by the subject and exasperated many mainstream voters.