The debate between Bardella and Hayer: key points

A little more than a month before the European elections, the two top candidates from the National Rally and the Renaissance discussed their differences on BFMTV and presented their programs to French viewers and voters.

During a more than two-hour debate on May 2, the president and candidate for the National Rally, Jordan Bardella, and Valérie Hayer, the head of the Renaissance list, outlined their respective camps’ key ideas for the forthcoming European elections.

Bardella is a far-right politician who is unsatisfied with the current direction of EU policy and promotes the idea of “sanctioning Emmanuel Macron’s policies.” His opponent, Hayer, is a pro-European liberal who advocates that “the fight for Europe is also the fight against the extreme right.”.

Migration issue 

In light of Europe’s ongoing migration crisis and the resulting policy debates, the European Parliament’s recent vote on the Migration and Asylum Pact in early April marks a pivotal attempt to reform the EU’s refugee policy. 

This development ties back to the differing viewpoints expressed by French politicians Valérie Hayer and Jordan Bardella regarding the tragic incident involving the young Matisse.

Valérie Hayer supports the newly adopted pact, highlighting its emphasis on managing the Schengen zone and addressing migration challenges through measures such as processing asylum applications directly at EU borders.

This approach aligns with her earlier expressed sentiments of responsibility and dignity following Matisse’s death, suggesting a balanced view on migration and its societal impacts.

Jordan Bardella, on the other hand, maintains his critical stance on immigration, as seen in his reaction to the stabbing incident, advocating for stricter controls. He suggests restricting movement within the Schengen area to only EU nationals and processing asylum applications at embassies and consulates in their countries of origin.

Bardella’s comments reflect his broader concerns about immigration contributing to social instability and crime, emphasizing the need for more stringent measures to protect societal security.

They cited the tragic death of 16-year-old Matisse in Châteauroux, which happened on April 27, as an example of different approaches. This has stirred significant emotional responses and differing political reactions in France. 

Valérie Hayer referred to the incident as a “drama” and expressed solidarity with the victim’s family, emphasizing the need for “responsibility and dignity.” On the other hand, Jordan Bardella, a far-right political figure, described the incident not as an isolated news item but as a reflection of broader societal issues. 

He highlighted the perpetrator’s background as a young Afghan, suggesting a link between immigration and rising crime rates, and criticized immigration policies, blaming them for increasing street violence and insecurity in the country.

Accusations of anti-Semitism and the shadow of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s legacy

Hayer condemned Bardella’s association with Le Pen, emphasizing the disgrace he brought to his political party over five decades. This confrontation underlines the deep-rooted issues within Bardella’s far-right party, previously known as the National Front, now rebranded in an attempt to distance itself from its historically anti-Semitic and extremist roots.

During discussions on French university actions supporting Palestinian causes, Bardella labeled these actions as anti-Semitic, critiquing both the rebellious segments of France and governmental tolerance of such movements. He argued that criticizing partnerships between Sciences Po and Israeli universities was veiled anti-Semitism rather than legitimate political discourse or the defense of Palestinian rights.

“When we denounce partnerships between Sciences Po and Israeli universities, we are not in the defense of Palestine; we are in the most dirty anti-Semitism,” Bardella stated.

Hayer challenged Bardella to disavow the anti-Semitic views long associated with his party’s founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, highlighting the ongoing struggle within far-right circles to redefine their image while tethered to a controversial past.

Bardella’s attempt to recast his party as a protector of Jewish communities against Islamist extremism—allegedly exacerbated by government migration policies—does not fully mitigate the party’s historical context and its implications for its current ideological stance.

France’s support for Ukraine

Hayer strongly supports Ukraine’s accession to the EU, seeing it as integral to the security and stability of Europe. She argues that the security of Ukrainians is intertwined with that of Europeans, especially in a rapidly changing global context. This stance reflects a broader vision of strengthening European defense capabilities and solidarity.

Bardella has voiced his opposition to any further EU enlargement, including Ukraine’s potential membership. He draws parallels with the stalled accession talks with Turkey, suggesting a general skepticism about expanding the EU. Bardella’s apprehension centers around the risks of escalation and the need for a comprehensive reevaluation of the European budget to accommodate new members.

“He plays the game of the division of the western camp,” Bardella critiqued, advocating for a de-escalation in Europe’s approach to international conflicts.

The French National Rally (formerly National Front) has been associated with pro-Russian stance and statements, and links with Russian political leadership for years. However, after Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Marine Le Pen’s party has tried to distance itself from Moscow.

These different viewpoints of the two parties’ leaders highlight a significant ideological divide. Hayer represents a pro-European integration perspective, emphasizing unity and collective security as essential for facing modern challenges.

Bardella’s resistance to enlargement and call for budget reconsideration signify a cautious, if not skeptical, approach to EU expansion, reflecting broader far-right concerns about the implications of broadening EU membership on existing member states’ sovereignty and resources.

Farmers and French agriculture

Jordan Bardella sharply criticized what he perceives as French farmers’ declining competitiveness due to EU policies. Bardella accused the current administration under Emmanuel Macron of exacerbating the struggles of farmers, linking recent widespread protests to detrimental economic policies and free trade agreements. He argued that these agreements fail to match the stringent standards imposed on French farmers, creating a landscape of “unfair competition.”

Valérie Hayer, defending the actions and decisions of the Macron administration and her alignment in the European Parliament, highlighted the proactive steps taken to support agriculture through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). She pointed out that this policy secures €10 billion annually to aid French farmers, suggesting that substantial support mechanisms are indeed in place to safeguard and promote French agriculture on the European stage.

Bardella maintained that French farmers remain uncompetitive in the current EU framework, despite Hayer’s detailed support. He advocated for a “French agricultural exception,” proposing that specific national provisions are necessary to shield and advance French agriculture independently of broader EU regulations and competitive pressures.


The discussions outlined expose significant flaws in the far-right political approach, particularly as represented by Jordan Bardella. His positions, from migration policies to EU expansion and agricultural strategies, reflect a tendency towards isolationism and resistance to broader cooperative frameworks. 

Bardella’s critiques of immigration and EU enlargement reveal a perspective often grounded in fear and protectionism, which risks undermining the solidarity and unity essential for addressing complex modern challenges like security and economic competitiveness. 

Furthermore, his stance on agriculture, emphasizing the need for a “French agricultural exception,” underscores a reluctance to adapt to global standards and competitive markets, potentially isolating French farmers rather than equipping them for success. 

Overall, these debates highlight the potential drawbacks of far-right policies, including xenophobia, economic insularity, and a fragmented approach to European integration.

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