This Thursday, the French Constitutional Court annulled the most discriminatory measures of the controversial immigration law adopted in December. Among other articles, the so-called wise They declared restrictions on access to social benefits for foreigners contrary to the basic law, restrictions which could be understood as a form of “national preference”, a historic slogan of the far right.
The Constitutional Council – equivalent to the Spanish Constitutional Court and chaired by former socialist prime minister Laurent Fabius – censored, in whole or in part, 35 articles out of the 86 contained in the law. The French president himself, Emmanuel Macron, despite promoting the standard, after its adoption, asked the wise be evaluated and declared that he considered several articles to be unconstitutional.
Of the 35 articles censored, three were censored for substantive reasons. And 32, for reasons of procedure or jurisprudence, without the nine members of the Constitutional Court coming to decide whether or not they have violated the principles of the fundamental law. They declared the aforementioned articles invalid for violation of Article 45 of the Constitution, which requires that amendments to a legislative text have a link, direct or indirect, with the initial draft.
The judges concluded, concerning these 32 canceled articles, that they were amendments unrelated to the law. Among them are some of those who have most alarmed a section of society and who have led tens of thousands of people to demonstrate this weekend to defend the rights of immigrants.
For example, there is one that required a deposit from foreign students in certain French universities. Or the one that sets a fine for the offense of illegal residence for undocumented adults. Or even those which restrict family reunification, which allows a foreigner residing in France to be joined by their loved ones. Also the most discussed of all: the requirement for those who are not citizens of the European Union to have a minimum legal residence of five years in France – or two and a half years with work – to benefit, like the French, from of certain state welfare benefits, such as family or housing assistance.
The distinction between natives and foreigners in access to solid French social protection is one of the battlehorses of the far right. With this law, they believed they had made progress. The Constitutional Court, even if it does not examine the merits of whether these measures violate fundamental rights or not, puts an end to this attempt. But that doesn’t solve the problem.
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The first secretary of the Socialist Party, Olivier Faure, stressed in a press release that the decision of the Constitutional Court “is very imperfect”. “By censoring the articles for their lack of link with the text of the law,” he argues, “he is not commenting on their conformity with the Constitution and thus leaves the field open to right-wing and far-right forces. to demand a new text.
This law is the result of an agreement between Macron’s supporters and the Right-wing Republicans (LR), the sister party of the PP in France. In the National Assembly, he also obtained the vote in favor of the National Regroupement (RN), the far-right party of Marine Le Pen, which celebrated an “ideological victory” for its people.
In the parliamentary negotiations, LR imposed on the Macronists articles which toughened the initial text, and which are precisely many of those that the Constitutional Court censored. The adoption of the law, to the applause of Le Pen, caused a crisis in the presidential ranks.
Dozens of deputies voted against or abstained, and the Minister of Health, Aurélien Rousseau, resigned. In early January, Macron replaced the prime minister, the technocrat Élisabeth Borne, with the young and talented Gabriel Attal, and dismissed several ministers from the left wing of the government.
The constitutional decision removes LR’s contributions to the law and gives it a format closer to the original, as Macron had designed it. It is possible that this will serve to quell unrest among social-democratic macronists, unhappy with what they see as a turn to the right in a movement that was initially transversal, neither to the left nor to the right.
The Minister of the Interior and eminent member of the right of the government, Gérald Darmanin, said on It was a way of saying that the final law, despite everything, will be conservative.
The decision is a setback for LR and the far right. They could now propose another law again without the amendments. Or initiate constitutional reform. Also debated is the role of the Constitutional Court, which will have had the last word on the two main reforms of Macron’s second term: that of pensions, which he approved, and now that of immigration, largely rejected.
Jordan Bardella, Le Pen’s right-hand man and president of the RN, described the Constitutional Court’s decision as a “coup de force by the judges” and declared: “The only solution is the referendum on immigration.” The battle has opened for the European elections in June, where Bardella will be head of the list and will be the favorite. Immigration has all the figures to take center stage.
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