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French presidential candidate says strong EU borders needed in visit to Greece

Conservative party Les Republicains candidate for the French presidential election 2022, Valerie Pecresse, center, answers questions to journalists outside the ancient Herodes Atticus theater in Athens on Jan. 14, 2022. [Petros Giannakouris/AP]

French presidential candidate Valerie Pecresse stressed the need for strong European borders Friday, during a visit to Greece that will also see her visit a camp for asylum seekers on an Aegean island used by migrants to enter Europe from neighboring Turkey.

Pecresse, the presidential candidate for the conservative Republicans party is seen by many as the most significant challenger to centrist President Emmanuel Macron — who is expected to run for re-election in April even though he’s has not formally announced it.

“There is no Europe without borders, and the question of borders is absolutely key today to building European power,” Pecresse said, standing at the foot of the ancient Acropolis in Athens.

Pecresse is seeking to elevate her stature as a potential stateswoman by traveling abroad, and to establish her credentials as tough on migration as she tries to lure voters away from the influential French far right.

“It is not at all fortress Europe, but it is not a supermarket Europe either. When we have required entry points, that means there are doors. There are doors and you must go through the door, and for me, that is my European model,” she said at the start of her two-day visit.

“It is a model that when we want to enter someone’s house, we knock on the door and ask for permission to enter. It is not a model where everything is open to everyone.”

A former government minister and current president of the Paris region, Pecresse has more governing experience than other leading candidates. Polls at this stage suggest that if anyone can unseat Macron, she could. However, the race is unpredictable and many voters remain undecided three months before the election.

Polls suggest as many as a third of voters could choose one of two far-right candidates in the first round of voting April 10 — Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour, both of whom have made anti-immigrant rhetoric central to their strategies.

Macron’s government has also sought to limit immigration, calling for tougher EU rules and stepping up efforts against migrant smuggling.


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