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French right backs Cameron on EU immigration curbs

04 March 2014, 13:45 CET

(PARIS) - One of France's top centre-right politicians has backed British Prime Minister David Cameron's call for limits on the free movement of workers across the European Union.

Rachida Dati, who was justice minister under former president Nicolas Sarkozy, said migration issues would be a major campaign issue in upcoming elections to the European Parliament.

Writing in business daily Les Echos, Dati welcomed Cameron's proposal to allow national governments to impose quotas to limit immigration from other EU countries.

"This word 'quota', set on the basis of (a country's) capacity to integrate and economic needs, must not scare us," Dati wrote.

"How can we look a worker, whose job has been taken by someone brought in from eastern Europe, in the eyes and tell him that the free movement (of workers) must remain an inviolable principle?"

Dati's column was signed by two other former ministers, David Douillet and Thierry Mariani, and 15 lawmakers from Sarkozy's UMP party.

France holds nationwide municipal elections later this month and the European vote in May.

Opinion polls are currently pointing to major advances for the anti-immigration, anti-EU National Front in both French elections, and for populist, Eurosceptic parties in the European elections in a number of other countries.

A recent opinion poll suggested 59 percent of French voters would back curbs on immigration from other EU countries.

Cameron has proposed restoring national governments' power to control the numbers of immigrants as part of a package of reforms he wants the European Union to make before a referendum on continued British membership, which he has promised if his Conservative party wins the next election due by 2015.

His proposals have met with a lukewarm response among other European leaders, and the EU's executive arm, the Commission, is opposed to immigration curbs it says would violate one of the founding principles of the bloc.

In her column, Dati also urged France's Socialist government to block Bulgaria and Romania's entry to the Schengen group of countries which allow passport-free movement between them.

As EU members, the two countries are obliged to join Schengen but their accession to the zone is currently being blocked by several member states with concerns about the security of their external borders.

Britain and Ireland are not part of Schengen.

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