How French must immigrants be?

"Once you become French, your ancestors are the Gauls!" With these words former president and conservative primary candidate Nicolas Sarkozy has triggered a debate on the assimilation of immigrants. The election campaign has clearly gone to his head, some commentators grumble. Others share Sarkozy's pride in the heritage of the Gauls.

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La Tribune de Genève (CH) /

Denying cultural roots slows integration

The fact that Nicolas Sarkozy, who himself has Hungarian and Greek origins, should consider the Gauls as France's sole legitimate ancestors does not bode well for the country, La Tribune de Genève believes:

“In Geneva as elsewhere in Switzerland, people know where they come from and don't conceal it, even if generations lie between the citizen of today and the ancestors of the past. Denying your roots prevents you from feeling comfortable on unfamiliar turf, and from developing appropriately. If a candidate for the presidency of a country like France refuses to take that truth into account it can only be that he is guided by ambition alone. An ambition that leads him so far astray that he starts to resemble the dictator of the last century who would have liked all his subjects to be the blonde children of the same Nordic legend.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Of course we're all Gauls

One forgets just how important the myth of the Gauls really is in the search for national unity, the conservative mayor of Chalon-sur-Saône, Gille Platret, writes in Le Figaro:

“Referring back to the Gauls after the 80 generations and the many nations that separate us means seeing ourselves as part of the same community, sharing the same history and the same destiny. It's in reference to these roots - which are more mythical than historical - that different ethnic groups and different individuals can come together to constitute a single country. The Gauls stand for the search for national unity. This is the dream of a France that is now reconciled with itself in a newfound sense of unity. Although it is so hard to achieve and so difficult to maintain, this unity must always be sought.”