German President Urges French to Resist Appeals of EU Skeptics

  • Steinmeier, asked about Le Pen, criticizes ‘siren songs’
  • President says refugee integration in Germany insufficient

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said French voters should resist the appeal of anti-European Union politicians as far-right leader Marine Le Pen is among the candidates who may be qualified for the runoff after April 23’s first round of the presidential election.

Steinmeier, the former foreign minister who took over as president last month, defended the EU as a stable force in an interview published this weekend with Funke Mediengruppe, whose newspapers include Berliner Morgenpost.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Source: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Le Pen, the 48-year-old anti-immigration candidate, has seen her lead erode ahead of the April 23 vote, while Jean-Luc Melenchon, a far-left candidate who has expressed only conditional support of the EU, has surged to make it a four-way race.

“I can only call on the French: don’t listen to the siren songs of those promising you a great French future after getting rid of things that today too make up France -- being a guarantor of stability and pillar of the European Union,” he said in an interview with Funke Mediengruppe in response to a question about Le Pen. “The EU might be difficult, but the union is a win for us all, including France.”

‘Monetary Sovereignty’

Le Pen said she would seek to recover a “monetary sovereignty” if elected president. She says France should return to the franc and use it with its neighbors for trading a shared European currency pegged on a basket of national currencies. She vows to renegotiate France’s EU membership for a much looser arrangement, including the end of the Schengen agreement on open borders. If she failed to win changes in France’s EU relationship, she has said she would recommend a referendum on leaving the union.

Support in first-round voting for the two leading candidates slipped 0.5 percent, to 23.5 percent for Le Pen and 22.5 percent for centrist Emmanuel Macron, with 19 percent for Melenchon in the Ifop poll on Thursday. National Front leader Le Pen was at 26.5 percent in mid-March. 

Steinmeier also said Germany must “urgently” deal with integrating refugees fleeing war and unrest in nations like Syria and Afghanistan. The arrival in Germany of more than a million migrants in 2015 and 2016 stoked support for anti-immigration party Alternative for Deutschland at the expense of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU, with polls indicating the far-right party would gain 9 percent in national elections Sept. 24.

“Right now, the urgent problem to me doesn’t appear to be so much the number of refugees arriving here but how we’re managing the integration of those who’ve arrived already,” Steinmeier said.

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