Too many immigrants in France, Sarkozy says

    Just Watched

    French president: 'Too many foreigners'

French president: 'Too many foreigners' 02:31

Story highlights

  • France has an influx of about 130,000 people a year
  • France is not integrating immigrants well, President Sarkozy says
  • He is running for a second term in office and facing a strong challenge
  • He says he cannot imagine his rival Francois Hollande as president

France has too many foreigners and is not integrating them properly, President Nicolas Sarkozy said in an interview on French television.

"Today we have a problem," Sarkozy said Tuesday night on France 2 TV.

"Our system of integration is working worse and worse because we have too many foreigners on our territory, and we can no longer manage to find them accommodation, a job, a school," he said.

France places a premium on national identity, pressing the population to put "Frenchness" before religion or national background.

Sarkozy is running for a second term in office, with voting set for April 22. He faces a strong challenge from Francois Hollande of the Socialist party and a range of candidates from smaller parties, including the far-right Marine Le Pen.

Sarkozy, a conservative, offered cautious praise for Hollande, but said he could not imagine his rival as president.

    Just Watched

    No shock in France: Sarkozy will run

No shock in France: Sarkozy will run 06:38
PLAY VIDEO

"Francois Hollande is an intelligent man," Sarkozy said. "I do not have a problem with him. The only thing is, he has never held office at the state level. Honestly, can you imagine Francois Hollande as president of France? Imagine it!"

    He said peace in the Middle East would be a top priority for him if he were re-elected.

    "I hope that France -- and all of Europe -- we would take an initiative for the year 2012 to be the year of peace between Israel and the Palestinians," he said.

    And he said if he won a second term he would "celebrate with those I love -- my wife and daughter."

    Issues surrounding immigration and integration have troubled French politicians for years.

    Last year, a controversial French law went into effect banning Islamic face coverings in public places.

    In 2010, hundreds of Muslim youths rioted after a man died in a shootout with police.

    France has had an influx of about 130,000 people from other countries each year for the past several years, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

    The country also had about 48,000 asylum seekers in 2010.

    The French population is about 66 million, according to the CIA World Factbook.

        CNN recommends

      • pkg clancy north korea nuclear dreams_00002004.jpg

        As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
      • Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
      • pkg rivers uk football match fixing_00005026.jpg

        Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
      • No Eiffel Towers, Statues of Liberties, Mt. Rushmores, Taj Mahals, Aussie koalas or Chairman Maos.

        It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.