1. One of the most important issues to voters in this election is the high rate of unemployment in France which consistently is higher than other European countries, particularly among younger citizens. How will you solve this problem?
Unemployment is one of the most serious challenges we face. The first thing we have to acknowledge is we're not going to get anywhere if we lurch left or swerve right -- what we need to do is simply move forward for France. What does that mean? It means we have to take the best ideas from both left and right, or from sources that are neither, and put them together to come up with a comprehensive solution.
We have to start by telling the truth about our underlying problems. We not only have a high unemployment rate, we also have jobs to spare. Why the mismatch? It's because we're suffering from a skills gap, we have people who need jobs but don't have the skills to do the jobs that are available. I'm not just talking about jobs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, though we do need to better cultivate those skills. We're seeing a lack of skilled workers even for jobs that are accessible without the need for years more education. On top of that, we're seeing a lack of housing in the areas where these jobs are available. If French workers don't have the skills to do these jobs and can't live where these jobs are located, they can't do these jobs. So this is not just an unemployment problem, it's an education problem and a housing problem. We need to take a page from our Nordic friends and overhaul our education system to emphasize lifelong learning for the skills we'll need tomorrow. We also need to put more resources into affordable housing in the areas jobs are available. There's a little truth-telling from the left. But the right has something to say as well.
We're making it too easy for French workers to be complacent about unemployment. We have to make sure our unemployment system provides the necessary safety net for those who are out of work, but it can't be a long-term alternative to work. We can't have workers turning down jobs, but employers are seeing that happening. It's clear we need reform, which will have to include reducing both the amount and the length of unemployment benefits. What I propose is a progressive reduction in benefits over time, to encourage workers to be proactive about finding work without sending too much of a shock through the system. Aside from that, we need to be honest that this is a problem with our migration policy. Last year the number of unemployed migrants was almost double the number of unemployed Frenchmen. That's a problem of assimilation -- a skills gap, a language gap, a culture gap -- and it's a problem that can only be solved by reducing migration and imposing more stringent assimilation requirements.
2. Last year the British people rejected a referendum to leave the European Union. There have been similar calls in France and this has even become a central point of several candidates for President. Do you support it? Why or why not?
I do support a referendum, for two reasons. First, France must always be committed to our republican principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity, and those principles require us from time to time to consult free Frenchmen in equal measure regarding the future of France, trusting in our brothers and sisters to make the right decision, come what may. We must be brave, we must be bold, and we must not shy away from our duty to let Frenchmen determine the future of France because their choices may be challenging. A referendum is our duty to the French people.
I also support a referendum because I strongly believe France would be stronger both at home and in securing our vital interests abroad if we parted ways with the European Union. What we're increasingly seeing is a shift away from national decisions being made by national populations and their representatives, in favor of decisions being imposed by distant EU bureaucrats who put amorphous, supposedly European interests ahead of each nation's interests. The truth is in many cases these aren't even European interests being pursued, they're the interests of the bureaucrats and the EU administrative state, the cosmopolitan interests of the so-called "citizens of the world." Efforts have been made to reverse this trend in the EU, but those efforts have not been strong enough or well enough coordinated, and they haven't yielded results. I believe it's time to leave the EU and return to pursuing France's interests, in migration, in trade, in matters great and small, domestic and foreign. Should my fellow Frenchmen disagree with me, at the very least a referendum will deliver the message to the EU that change must come. A referendum is a win-win.
3. As recently as a year and a half ago we were all reminded how vulnerable France remains to terrorist attacks. As President, how will you protect the French people from future attacks?
Restraining migration and encouraging assimilation are the two vital components. I've proposed a strict net legal migration rate of 10,000 -- we simply must stop taking in migrants faster than they can be assimilated into French culture. I have also proposed completely halting migration from high risk countries in the Middle East and Africa, countries which are frankly the homelands of terror. We also need to pass strict new laws prohibiting religious discrimination against women, against Jews, against LGBT and other at-risk populations, because we need to send an unequivocal message that France values religious pluralism and secular protections against discrimination. Finally, we need to enhance our educational and outreach campaigns to promote assimilation of migrant populations. The best way to do this is through our schools, and we need to ensure French schools are teaching French values. Diversity must be respected, but the timeless values of Frenchmen must unite us in our diversity.
4. How should France approach the civil war in Turkey?
We should approach the Turkish civil war as we should approach all matters of international relations, with French interests firmly in mind. It is quite simply not in French interests to see restoration of the Islamist Erdogan regime, which has eroded important secular values in Turkey and reoriented Turkey away from Europe and toward Islamic radicalism. France should unequivocally support the Peace at Home Council, and we must insist on free and fair elections for the Turkish people. Fair elections also mean ensuring the process isn't rigged in favor of Islamist parties.
We can also approach the Turkish civil war by reevaluating our approach to the region, particularly Syria. The Syrian civil war has had a destabilizing effect on its neighbors, including Turkey, as well as having a dramatic effect on France and our neighbors by contributing to the migration crisis. France has thus far been committed to toppling the Assad regime, but we must reject the fiction that Assad will be replaced by a more rational, democratic, and peaceful alternative. Assad will be replaced by ISIS. Assad will be replaced by terror worse than that which he has inflicted on the Syrian people, and that terror will be exported -- to Turkey, and from Turkey to Eastern Europe, and from Eastern Europe to Western Europe. Our approach to Syria is encouraging terror in Turkey and ultimately terror in France. The madness must end. We must end our intervention in the Syrian civil war and seek a peaceful resolution, and we must do it in cooperation with other partners for peace in Syria, especially Russia. We must restore stability to the region.
5. How will you address issues of global warming?
Domestically, we are already a leader on climate change compared to many developed nations. This is not only due to our serious pursuit of renewable energy, but also our longtime development of nuclear power, which is emissions free. Nuclear power accounts for at least 40% of our energy consumption. I would like to see that increase to 50% over the next decade, which is a realistic goal and one that will further reduce our carbon footprint. Because we have been harnessing nuclear power so long and so effectively, we are also in a unique position to encourage other nations to shift toward greater reliance on nuclear power, and to lead the world in developing nuclear infrastructure. This will be especially important in reducing the massive carbon footprint of the Americans, who have fallen years behind in developing renewable energy but who would be able to develop nuclear power at a much faster pace. France should be prepared to assist the Americans and provide leadership in this area.
6. A 2010 poll found that 2 in 3 French people support the French-speaking region of Belgium (Wallonia) leaving Belgium and joining France. This idea has even become a key component of Mr. Daniau's campaign. Is this a movement that you support? Why or why not?
Frenchmen are Frenchmen, no matter where they are in the world, and that's a principle that must be respected. At the same time, it would be premature to commit to supporting Wallonian union with France. That should ultimately be a decision for the people of Wallonia, in much the same way our membership in the EU must be a decision for Frenchmen. I certainly do support a referendum on the question, and I call upon the Belgian government to oversee such a referendum, with international oversight if needed. That is the necessary first step before we can talk further about resolving the Wallonian question. Should the people of Wallonia wish to join France, there would then be many issues to address with the Belgian government. A French government dedicated solely to French interests, and not to the interests of the EU bureaucracy, is the exact kind of government we would need to ensure responsible but firm negotiations for French interests in resolving those issues, and that's the kind of government I'll provide.