Vice-chairwoman of the French Senate Foreign Affairs and Defense Forces Committee - Creative Commons via Flickr/Nathalie Goulet
CAIRO – 7 May 2017: In an exclusive interview with Egypt Today, French Senator Nathalie Goulet spoke about her expectations ahead of the second round of the presidential election in France, set to begin Sunday, saying that she favors the independent centrist Emmanuel Macron over far-right leader Marine Le Pen “for the sake of France,” in an interview conducted by Egypt Today.
ET: What are your Expectations for the French presidential run-off today?
Goulet: I hope that Marine Le-Pen does not win the French presidential elections. Not only because she is an extremist, but also for the future of France. I certainly hope that Emmanuel Macron does win, not for his sake, but for the sake of France and its image in the world. I think that during this period he needs to focus on convincing voters of his political program and on issues that have remained unresolved for 30 years. Issues on which the Front National has laid its foundations.
ET: Emmanuel Macron has said; "The EU must reform or face a Frexit." How do you perceive Macron's remarks? And do you favor "Frexit"?
Goulet: I don’t specifically have information on Macron's political program on this matter. I believe it is an apparent fact that the EU requires reform due to the excessive and complex administrative regulations binding the union. As for "Frexit", I don’t see France going in that direction for the time being.
ET: Both Le-Pen and Macron focused on fighting terrorism in their election campaigns and political programs. What do you think of their anti-terror strategies?
Goulet: Marine Le-Pen is continuously lying to the French people. Neither she nor any member of her political party voted for any law against terrorism. Not in the Senate, nor in the General Assembly, nor at the European Parliament.
By the way, Macron will not be weak when it comes to confronting terrorism. I believe he will follow what the previous government's has been doing since the Chariot incident. Le-Pen is known for her Islamophobia. If she wins, she will ban Muslims and refugees from entering France as a mean to combat terrorism. But this is not the right solution; she is promoting Islamophobia and using it to serve her own interests.
ET: President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi called on the international community to take more active and effective measures to confront and combat terrorism, and to stand against countries that support and finance terrorism. What role can both France and the French Senate have in this regard?
Goulet: I personally lead an investigative committee on jihadists in France and Europe with the participation of other senators. We have been working on this issue for three years now. We are prepared to fully cooperate with Egypt on discussing counterterrorism intelligence as well transforming the know-how on developing effective measures to stop the financing of terrorism. France has already started to advance cooperation with Egypt on the level of various criminal systems, as well as information sharing.
Last September, I visited Egypt with a French parliamentary delegation to discuss this vital issue and ways to enhance bilateral cooperation between the two countries. We already agreed on a road map and we have some agreement on counterterrorism,... I look forward to continuous cooperation on this front.
ET: Is it possible for France to reconsider relations with Qatar, especially since both Le-Pen and Macron expressed their intention to do so?
Goulet: It is very difficult to propose amendments to bilateral economic agreements between the two countries. The French have a negative perception of Gulf Cooperation Council countries in general, considering them as states that ignore women's rights and support laws and regulations that violate human rights, including executions and stoning. Perhaps this is unfair but it is understandable. Also, I think that the reason behind this perception is that some Gulf countries are implicated in financing terrorism and terrorist groups.
Currently it is difficult to discuss normalizing relations with Qatar. Even if Le-Pen and Macron emphasized that during their election campaigns, I think that election campaigns are not the right platform to express such feelings. My answer to your question is: let's wait and see.
ET: How do you perceive the Pope's visit to Egypt?
Goulet: Great. I think that the Pope was courageous to insist on visiting Egypt despite the terrorist incidents. He did not cancel the visit, and this was his approach to show respect for the victims as well as providing full support to all Christians in Egypt and the Middle East. The Pope wanted to highlight that Christians contributed to the creation of many nations. The visit emphasizes the basic principles of humanity and respect for cultures.
ET: Do you think that the French Senate should designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group?
Goulet: I cannot answer this question right now. However, I know that a number of parliamentarians are working on this issue in accordance with our own laws. My opinion on that matter is that we certainly have to keep in mind the principle of freedom of expression when making such decisions.
ET: Can we expect French tourists to resume trips to Egypt soon?
Goulet: We are doing the best we can in this regard. We must keep in mind that personal security is the main concern and priority for every tourist. A group of French journalists from various local and national newspapers visited Egypt in October.
The aim of that visit was to present the positive side of Egypt to the French people. The journalists published enthusiastic articles about Egypt. Unfortunately though, that is not enough.
After any terror attack whether in Paris, London, or Sinai the level of fear and insecurity increases among tourists. This is a visceral and natural human response. Certainly the situation is complicated but we are working to change it and we hope the visits to Egypt will resume sooner than later.