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Visiting Greece, Valérie Pécresse does not forget to tackle Macron or talk about immigration


“International issues will be invited into the presidential campaign. » It is with these words spoken at the foot of the Acropolis, in Athens, that Valérie Pécresse justified her second trip abroad as the Republican presidential candidate, on January 14 and 15. She had already visited Armenia in December. Undoubtedly, the objectives were to show that it has allies on which to count in Europe and to formulate ideas on these ” Questions “. And in 48 hours, she set out to achieve these goals in a country that has carried out “extremely courageous reforms” both economically and migratory, she said.

First stage of this trip: a meeting with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, leader of New Democracy, the conservative right-wing party that won the elections in July 2019. Although New Democracy (ND) on the Greek side and Les Républicains on the French side are both members of the European People’s Party (EPP) on a European scale, the president of the Île-de-France region had never met the Greek leader. Barely got off the plane, the candidate for the Elysee Palace found herself facing the Greek Prime Minister in the salons of the Hotel Grande Bretagne. There, Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Valérie Pécresse had lunch ” friendly “, behind closed doors, accompanied by Tasos Chatzivasiliou, head of international relations at ND.

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This discretion with great pomp was perfectly measured. If the Republicans and New Democracy are close ideologically, the Greek Prime Minister personally maintains “excellent relations” we repeat, with French President Macron, his interlocutor in the European Council. However, France holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, and a defense agreement and contracts – notably for armaments – have been signed recently. Corn “lunch was friendly and interesting says a Greek source. This made it possible to discuss the good management of Covid-19 by the Greek government, but above all the situation in the eastern Mediterranean, relations between the European Union and Turkey, and the migration issue. Photos of the lunch conveniently leaked. Within the EPP, “Emmanuel Macron’s Greek friend”, as some observers describe it, has everything of an ally of Pécresse. The candidate succeeded.

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In front of an audience of journalists, the president of the Île-de-France region rented a “country which has [tant] brought to Europe” philosophically, culturally and politically, “cradle of European civilisation”“face of the Europe that I love”… A Greece “exemplary” in terms of borders. The candidate then unfolded this theme at will, including during the meeting she had – again behind closed doors – with around twenty French people living in Greece, including senior business executives who are established there. Way to show that it also has important economic networks in Europe.

Samos, this model camp

It was above all on the island of Samos, on Saturday, that she declined her proposals on the migratory question, thus hunting on the lands of Marine Le Pen and Éric Zemmour, while underlining the convergences with the government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis who has ministers from the extreme right in his ranks. Accompanied by Michel Barnier, Éric Ciotti, Nadine Morano and a few other executives of the Republicans, Valérie Pécresse went to this island, the gateway to Europe for exiles trying to reach the continent from Turkey, located a few kilometers away. .

Guided by the Secretary General of the Ministry of Immigration, the campaign candidate first visited the remains of the Vathy camp, which looks like a slum, then that of Zervou, a “high-tech” center, built far from the center city ​​and out of sight, where a few hundred migrants live. They are subject to extremely strict control rules. They must go through security gates with digital recognition and turnstiles to enter the camp, and exit times are controlled. Those who are refused asylum are parked in a detention area before being sent back either to their country of origin or to Turkey. During the visit, migrants unfurled “Stop Detention” banners. The candidate walked past without stopping.

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A few minutes later, a few steps from the barbed wire surrounding the camp, she had a long discussion with the officers of Frontex, the European agency in charge of border control. Before joining Athens, she considered it to be“a model to develop” which allows a reception “worthy”. Moreover, if elected, Valérie Pécresse promises to develop a “border states alliance” of the EU, structured around a “enhanced cooperation” which will aim to “to set up this asylum at the border, with these centers for accommodation and identity checks, for issuing residence permits, which would make it possible not to let asylum seekers enter European territory but to decide on their fate at the gates of Europe”.

In this context, she would like the EU to finance “barbed wire walls that allow newcomers to converge towards the obligatory crossing points”. The favorite LR took the opportunity to scratch President Emmanuel Macron who “wanted to put dust under the rug. » Even on international issues, domestic politics is never far away.

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