Sarkozy's pledge on the hot-button theme of immigration came in a wide-ranging speech to thousands of supporters at a boisterous campaign rally, as polls show he faces a tough battle for re-election in April and May.
Unchecked immigration would thwart 's ability to take in and integrate new entrants, putting strains on social safety nets for the most disadvantaged across the continent, Sarkozy said to chants of "We're going to win!" against a sea of blue, white and red French flags.
"It's urgent because we cannot accept being subjected to the shortcomings of Europe's external borders," Sarkozy said, calling reform the "only way to avoid the implosion of Europe."
During the Arab world uprisings last year, Italy infuriated France and some other European countries by granting temporary residence permits to thousands of Tunisians who fled the violence at home. Many sought to join up with relatives and friends in France — Tunisia's former colonial overseer.
The Schengen zone applies to all 27 EU member states except Britain and Ireland. On Wednesday, bloc members Austria, Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, The Netherlands and Sweden called for an action plan to stem the tide of illegal migration into the union. The EU's executive commission is due to submit in May a report on the functioning of the Schengen system.
As all of this was going, yet another small boat was pulling away from Libyan shores heading for Italy, as reported by the Associated Press.
Five migrants were found dead on Saturday on a small boat off the coast of Libya while another 51 were rescued after the vessel sent out an SOS when its engine stopped working, according to the Italian coastguard.
Thousands of migrants from Africa and Asia have died attempting to cross by sea into Italy, mainly travelling in overloaded and unsafe fishing vessels.
In 2011 a record 1,500 migrants, mainly from Somalia and other parts of Africa, died trying to reach European shores, according to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR).
And, as this was going on, Greece began building a razor-wire topped fence along its border with Turkey to try to deter illegal migrants from entering Europe through Greece, according to the New York Times.
The fence will be coupled with a network of fixed night-vision cameras providing real-time video to a new command center, Mr. Papoutsis said.
Most of Greece’s 125-mile border with Turkey runs along a river known as Evros in Greece and Meric in Turkey. The new fence, which Turkey’s government has not opposed, will block a short stretch of dry land between the two countries.
“Traffickers should know that this route will be closed to them,” Mr. Papoutsis said. “Their life is about to get much harder.”
This sounds a lot like the US-Mexico border, and we know about its deterrent effects...