PARIS (Reuters) - France's Nicolas Sarkozy called for better protection of Europe's companies and borders in a re-election campaign speech on Sunday, saying he wanted to renegotiate the open-borders Schengen Agreement and push for a "Buy European Act".
Sarkozy, who is lagging Socialist Francois Hollande in opinion polls for the April-May election, said a system of sanctions was needed to control immigration in Europe and that France could suspend its membership of the Schengen zone if progress was not made.
He said legislation was needed along the lines of the "Buy American Act" to require governments to favour European-made products in their purchases, and said that without progress in this area, France would apply that rule unilaterally.
"I want a Europe that protects its citizens. I no longer want this savage competition," Sarkozy said in a speech likely to appeal to far-right voters whose support he will need to win a second term.
"I say no to a Europe that opens up its markets when others don't. Such behaviour does not mean accepting free trade, it means accepting being a Europe that is a sieve," he said.
Reporting by Lionel Laurent; Editing by Catherine Bremer