French President Nicolas Sarkozy has threatened to pull his country out of the visa-free Schengen zone unless the European Union makes progress on blocking illegal immigration.
Sarkozy, who is running for reelection, told supporters at a campaign rally on the outskirts of Paris on March 11 that unchecked immigration would undermine European efforts to integrate new entrants and would put strains on social safety nets for the disadvantaged across Europe.
"We cannot accept being subjected to the shortcomings of Europe's external borders," Sarkozy said, adding that reform of the current EU immigration legislation was the "only way to avoid the implosion of Europe."
Sarkozy said, "If I note within the next 12 months that no serious progress has been made in this direction, then France will suspend its participation in the Schengen accords."
Immigration has become one of the main issues in France's presidential race. Sarkozy said just days ago that France has too many foreigners.
Sarkozy also said Europe should have a campaign calling on Europeans to purchase products made in Europe, similar to the campaign in the United States.
"Why is it that Europe should forbid itself from what the United States, the world's most free-market country, allows itself?" Sarkozy asked. He said France would start a "Buy European Act" based on the "Buy American Act."
Sarkozy faces a tough challenge from Socialist candidate Francois Hollande in the April 22 election.
French polls show if Sarkozy and Hollande make it through to a second round in May, as many expect, Hollande would defeat the incumbent president.
With AP, AFP, and Reuters reports