François Fillon is a conservative Catholic who has been endorsed by the Republican party as its presidential candidate. He was nominated after winning the centre-right primary in November 2016. He has served as a minister on several occasions and was Prime Minister during Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency (2007-2012).
Often compared to Margaret Thatcher (he is a self-described "Thatcherite") his political platform is socially conservative. “Everywhere I go my fellow French citizens have told me they want to break away from a bureaucratic system which saps their energy. Everywhere, they have told me about their desire for strong leadership. Everywhere, they have told me of their desire to be respected as French nationals.”
“I want to restore [France’s] influence and reclaim its rightful status. Not because of some sort of national pride, but because that is what people expect of us, and often, what they admire about us. France, this old country steeped in Greek and Latin culture, shaped by its Judeo-Christian roots, accounts for less than 1% of the world population, and has earned no guaranteed entitlements on the world stage. As new powers rise rapidly up in Asia and elsewhere, we have to prove to the world every single day that we have the ability to help it face its challenges.
François Fillon is calling for a renewal of the European Union and wants France to be the engine of this renewal, of a new “Europe of Nations.” Sovereignty is at the heart of his proposals for the European Union.
“Europe must be a tool and not a religion. This is why I am one of the few, along with Philippe Seguin, who campaigned against the Maastricht Treaty. Europe should focus on a few clearly defined competences and leave member states the freedom to govern themselves as they wish on most issues, as is required by the principle of subsidiarity. … So I propose that we relaunch Europe by focusing on three strategic priorities which can be defined and executed right away without the need for a new treaty: the safety of our citizens, with effective borders, immigration under control and our own independent defence capability; economic and financial sovereignty supported by making the Euro a reserve currency; investment, innovation and research in the service of major European projects, leading towards a knowledge society.”
Fillon says, “We must build a new relationship with Turkey whose position cannot be ignored. Turkey’s place is not in the EU, which is why France must design a new partnership with this strategic country.”
“I am not in favour of integrated European defence but rather a European defence alliance. ... We must pool our resources, build a European [defence] industry and create a fund to mutualise and finance spending on external operations. … We are at the end of the post-war years and at the beginning of an extremely dangerous new era. … The need for European unity is far greater today than it was 25 years ago. Following the attack on Berlin, I have the feeling that Germany is becoming aware of these new hazards.”
“France must reclaim its role as a political and military leader. There can be no diplomacy in the community of nations without a strong army. There can be no strong army without modern, high quality equipment. My first responsibility will be to give our military the means to carry out their difficult task of protecting our country, guaranteeing our liberty and our safety: I will do this by giving our armed forces the budgetary means to prepare for the future.”
“My project for our armed forces is part of my general plan for our country’s recovery. The safeguarding of our assets, the defence of our interests, of our values and of our responsible participation to the development of peace and international security are all at stake.” Fillon also intends to maintain and modernize France’s nuclear deterrent.
Terrorism and Islamist extremism
Fillon would prevent any French citizen who has gone to fight in Syria from returning to France by stripping them of their citizenship.
He also intends to reinforce European cooperation in the war on terrorism through Europol and Eurojust.
“There are no problems with religion in France. There is a problem linked to Islam”, says Fillon. In his essay Conquering Islamic Totalitarianism, Fillon writes: “Let’s forget political correctness and vague prejudices: it’s high time we called a spade a spade, and identified totalitarianism for what it is. Yes, the bloody invasion of Islamism into our daily lives is setting the scene for a third world war. Yes, the real question, the big question today is knowing how to defeat this terrible threat which has targeted France and the French people.”
François Fillon criticizes the European Union and indeed the West in general for its treatment of Russia. He calls for a rapprochement with Putin’s Russia, although he has always denied any personal friendship with Putin.
“Our alignment with American foreign policy, … our submission to Europe’s intolerable decision-making process … are not compatible with the French people’s aspirations.”
“Russia is the biggest country in the world and we never cease to push it back towards Asia even though it represents no conceivable threat.”
“In July 2012, I urged François Hollande to stand closer with Russia … on Syria. I warned that the West’s strategy, to which France was aligned, would lead to a disaster. And here we are.”
“As regards Africa and in the Middle-East, nothing could be more dangerous than the idea that the West is leading the battle, when the battle actually involves the entire world. The more we appear on the front line, the more we increase the chances of fuelling the discourse of those who long for a clash of civilizations. This is why Africa and the Muslim Arabs must accept their responsibilities.”
Says Fillon: “I have been saying repeatedly for the last three years that, because we made Assad’s departure our priority, we have allowed ISIS to gain ground and wasted our chances of building a real international coalition. … In this context, only one power has demonstrated any realism: Russia. … While Obama and Hollande took issue with Russia’s decision to bomb Assad’s opponents indiscriminately, Putin gave the Syrian forces breathing-space so that they could start to fight ISIS effectively. In six months, Russia achieved what the United States and its allies had been unable to achieve since their intervention in this conflict started in 2014.”
François Fillon has emphasised the defence of Eastern Christians and has travelled to Iraq and Lebanon to pursue this theme.
Fillon is in favour of the two-state solution. He says: “Can we stabilize the Near and Middle East without moving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process forward? No! The United States and Europe must re-engage in the process of dialogue, and take the risk, if nothing moves forward, of recognizing the state of Palestine.”
Fillon declares that “France cannot drop its guard when it comes to controlling migration and yet this is what the Socialist government has been doing since 2012. There are places in France where the feeling of belonging to the same nation has fallen apart. Inward-looking attitudes are gaining ground and integration is in retreat. France is a nation which is free to choose who can join it, and free to demand that foreigners comply with its laws and customs. A new immigration policy is needed, for the sake of national unity.”
Fillon wants to control immigration by setting up a quota system. He also wants to renegotiate the borders of the Schengen area and reinforce Frontex.
His emphasis is on the integration of migrants, and would like to “reserve French nationality for properly assimilated foreigners.”