Immigration has been a key issue in the French presidential election, with French President Nicolas Sarkozy promising to drastically reduce immigration inflows, as well as to withdraw France from the European Union's open-border internal Schengen zone unless the EU tightens its own border controls by the end of 2012. Both measures are widely seen as an effort to win over the first-round voters of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.
But according to Saskia Sassen, a professor at Columbia University and an expert on European immigration, Sarkozy is simply the latest in a long line of European presidents and prime ministers to suggest that he has far more power than actual EU treaty law grants him.
"Treaty law is difficult to change," said Sassen. "There is a limit to what Sarkozy can do."