It was one of the highlights of this European election campaign, two weeks before the vote. The Prime Minister, Gabriel Attal, and the head of the National Rally (RN) list, Jordan Bardella, debated for 1 hour 15 minutes, Thursday May 23, on the France 2 set.

As he became accustomed to during this campaign, the RN MEP tried to nationalize the issues of the election, attacking Emmanuel Macron from the start. According to Mr. Bardella, with this debate, “it is a project and an assessment that will face each other.” “This assessment is that of Mr. Attal, of Mr. Macron, of Macron’s Europe, which for seven years now has been eroding the purchasing power of the French with the increase in energy prices, imposing migratory overwhelm, a punitive vision of ecology and unfair competition,” he said.

For his part, the Prime Minister dramatized the stakes of these elections, “the most important in our history”, evoking “the return of war in Europe, climate change” or even the challenges posed by artificial intelligence. MM. Attal and Bardella then discussed the energy transition, immigration and European defense.

For the RN MEP, elected to Parliament for the first time in 2019, Europe has become “the sick man of developed economies”. He notably denounced a “major economic decline” which poses “a risk of France disappearing on the European scene, but also on the international scene”.

Repeating his ambition to “change the rules” and “the current functioning of the European Union”, Mr. Bardella expressed his wish to “move from the idea of ​​total free trade to fair trade”. He notably defended “economic patriotism” and the increase in “customs duties”.

Gabriel Attal then castigated Jordan Bardella’s proposal to establish “national priority in public procurement”, which has, he recalled, “always been proposed by the National Front”. After giving several examples of French companies which have concluded contracts in European countries, “if Jordan Barella’s proposal is applied, all these companies will have their legs cut off,” he lambasted.

“You say: “France will now reserve these public contracts as a priority for French companies”. Other European countries will do exactly the same thing and our companies will lose markets,” continued Mr. Attal, asserting that “80% of our SMEs export to a European country.” However, for Mr. Bardella, the Prime Minister “does not trust French know-how”. “I assume the end of naivety,” defended Mr. Bardella.

Then questioned about the fight against climate change, Gabriel Attal reiterated that the list of the presidential camp proposes a “massive investment plan of a thousand billion euros in 2030 for the ecological transition, for the decarbonized industry”. Because, according to the Prime Minister, “the fight against climate change is the fight of our generation”, arguing that Europe “is the continent which has set itself the most ambitious objectives on the ecological transition” .

In response, Jordan Bardella “join[ed]” Mr. Attal’s point of view: “The climate challenge is one of the great challenges of our generation. » But, for him, “hell is paved with good intentions”, and the RN MEP denounced “the unrealistic environmental ambitions” of the government, referring to the ban on the sale of thermal vehicles in 2035. With this agreement, beyond 2035, only battery electric vehicles will be authorized for sale on the new market, while the sale of used thermal automobiles will remain possible.

“You are going to make us move from a known dependence on hydrocarbons, which is certainly not viable in the long term, to a completely unknown dependence which will put us back in the hands of China in particular,” he said. attacked Mr. Bardella. A European decision justified by Gabriel Attal: “Why is setting the long-term objective of getting out of thermal vehicles good for the French? The price of a barrel, in the years to come, will necessarily continue to increase. » After the opening of megabattery gigafactories, “we will be able in 2030 to produce 2 million electric vehicles on French soil,” assured the Prime Minister.

For Jordan Bardella, the anger of farmers in France and Europe at the start of 2024 was caused by “the model that Mr. Attal defends”, saying he “believes in French agricultural power”. To respond to farmers’ concerns, Mr. Bardella proposes to “stop putting [them] in competition with products that come from the ends of the world and that do not respect any of the economic, social and health standards that are imposed” on the French.

Attacking “the multiplication of free trade agreements with economic areas with which we will never be competitive”, the far-right candidate believes that these agreements “clearly threaten the existence of our sectors today”, wishing ” defend the French agricultural exception”.

The Prime Minister, in return, accused Mr. Bardella of citing “trade agreements that are very different from each other”, and recalled that the government and the President of the Republic opposed Mercosur, the trade agreement negotiated between the EU and the South American bloc. “Moreover, if Mercosur was not adopted or signed, it is precisely because France, through the voice of the president, opposed it,” argued Mr. Attal.

During the second major theme covered in the program, the Prime Minister questioned the head of the RN list on his proposal for a “double border” within the European Union for foreign nationals from outside the EU. “The double border is first of all the systematic pushback of migrant boats arriving on European soil,” explained Mr. Bardella. Who then proposed that “free movement in the Schengen area be reserved for European nationals”.

“You are Syrian, Libyan, you arrive in Italy, in Sweden, you obtain a residence permit, for example to work. I do not want this residence permit to give you the right to travel in all the countries of the European Union,” explained Mr. Bardella.

“How do you manage to control everyone at France’s land borders? “, replied the Prime Minister, recalling that there are “half a million French people who cross the borders of Germany, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland and Spain by car to to go to work “.

The Schengen code makes it possible to “reestablish border controls which are random, I want to strengthen them”, replied Jordan Bardella. “In a few seconds, we moved in the program that you are presenting to the French from a double border where everyone will be checked at the borders to an increase in random checks,” the Prime Minister quipped in the process.

MM. During the last minutes of the show, Attal and Bardella addressed the issue of Russia and the war in Ukraine. The opportunity for the Prime Minister to attack his evening opponent on the links of the National Rally with Moscow. If he affirmed that his opponent is not “particularly Russophile or fan of Vladimir Putin”, Gabriel Attal believes “that at one point there was an alliance of mutual interest”.

“Your party, that of Ms. Le Pen and Jean-Marie Le Pen, needed money. Russia needed a party in Europe to weaken Europe from within,” continued Mr. Attal, for whom the RN has “even though it has repaid [its] debt, you have a moral contract with them, this which means that you are not free in your votes and your decisions in the European Parliament”. “Why did you not vote for the resolution which provides support for Alexeï Navalny who was languishing in Russian jails and who died today? » asked Gabriel Attal.

“In the European Parliament, I have always been very clear and [I have] always condemned without the slightest ambiguity the aggression of Ukraine by Russia, which is today a multidimensional threat,” responded Jordan Bardella. For the RN MEP, there was, in France, “a collective naivety with regard to Vladimir Putin and his intentions”, including himself.

While this face-to-face meeting had been widely criticized by the other parties for the lack of fairness on the part of France 2 in terms of speaking time, the eight main leaders of the list met on Monday May 27 on BFM-TV to a new debate.