French far-right leader Marine Le Pen proposed Thursday that the children of illegal immigrants should be refused public school places as part of tough proposals to restrict state services for foreigners.
"I've got nothing against foreigners but I say to them: if you come to our country, don't expect that you will be taken care of, treated (by the health system) and that your children will be educated for free," Le Pen said.
"That's finished now, it's the end of playtime," she told a conference in Paris in comments that provoked a storm of condemnation from the Socialist government.
Opinion polls suggest the leader of the National Front (FN) will finish second in next year's presidential election, but she is hoping for new momentum after Donald Trump's victory in the United States.
Le Pen clarified that she wanted to block education for immigrants who are in France illegally, not all foreigners.
Such a move would contravene current French law, which guarantees school places for all children.
She also said that any foreigner using the public education system without paying tax in France would face a bill for school, which would affect European workers based temporarily in the country.
"We're going to reserve our efforts and our national solidarity for the most humble, the most modest and the most poor among us," Le Pen told the conference.
The nationalist FN sees itself as part of a global revolt against immigration, established political parties and globalisation epitomised by Trump's victory last month.
Its leaders regularly criticise the use of France's chronically over-budget social security system for foreigners, arguing that needy French people should be prioritised.
Polls currently show Le Pen qualifying for the second round of May's election where she is forecast to face, and lose to, rightwing Republicans party candidate Francois Fillon.
Few analysts see her taking power, but it has been an unpredictable year in politics and France's sickly economy and immigration are top issues for voters.
The country has unemployment of around 10 percent and rising national debt equivalent to one year's economic output, or 98.4 percent of gross domestic product. It last ran a federal budget surplus in the 1970s.
Le Pen wants to withdraw France from the eurozone and has called for a referendum to pull the country out of the 28-member European Union, a move that might unravel the project.
Socialist Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem attacked the school proposals as shameful and unworkable, while the minister for children, Laurence Rossignol, called them "inhumane".
Vallaud-Belkacem underlined that France guaranteed free education for all school-age children on its territory under its national laws and the international conventions it has signed.
"I remind you that it's a matter of honour for the French republic to guarantee to children, to all children, the right to an education -- in other words, the right to a future," she said.
A spokesman for the Socialist party, Corinne Narassiguin, said Le Pen had shown the "real face of the FN" after years of trying to softer the party's historic racist and antisemitic image.
The party has a long-standing policy of wanting to expel all illegal immigrants in France.
After a string of terror attacks over the last two years and the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II, hardline rhetoric on immigration is seen as a vote-winner on the right.
Le Pen's proposals have echoes of plans reportedly drawn up by the interior ministry in Britain in 2015 when it was headed by Theresa May, who is now prime minister.
Alessandro Di Battista, a leader of Italy's populist 5-Star Movement is pressing for a vote on whether the country should keep the euro as its official currency, a pitch for support as the party eyes national power for the first time.
Di Battista, one of the populist party's several leaders, said that "euro and Europe aren't the same thing."
"We want only that the Italians decide," Di Battista said, suggesting the party might push for a referendum on abandoning the single currency.
Movement founder Beppe Grillo has long railed against Italy's membership in the eurozone, the 19 countries where the euro is the official currency.
The Movement, Parliament's second-largest party, is hoping to gain the premiership following Matteo Renzi's resignation Wednesday night as head of Italy's center-left government.
Renzi's tenure came to an abrupt end when voters by a wide margin rejected constitutional reforms he had made an essential goal of his nearly three years in office.
The next national election is not scheduled until 2018, but the 5-Star Movement and other opposition parties have started advocating for voting to take place earlier.
President Sergio Mattarella, as head of state, opened formal talks Thursday as he weighs who should get the mandate to try to form a new government to lead in the meantime.
The heads of both chambers of Parliament left the presidential palace without commenting to reporters about their meetings.
Mattarella is scheduled to start consulting the leaders of Italy's political parties on Friday, beginning with representatives from the parties with the smallest number of seats in Parliament.
He expects to finish the talks on Saturday after meeting with Renzi's Democrats, the 5-Star Movement, the anti-migrant Northern League and former Premier Silvio Berlusconi's center-right Forza Italia.
Some Democrats, whose party is the largest in Parliament, are lobbying for the broadest possible coalition government to guide the country to elections.
Whoever succeeds in cobbling a governing coalition will have overhauling Italy's election law as an urgent first task.
Parts of the current law are being challenged in the Constitutional Court, which plans to rule in late January. Even if the challenges are rebuffed, lawmakers are insisting on new rules for electing the Senate.
The defeated constitutional reforms would have made the Senate of Parliament no longer elected by voters. Unless lawmakers fashion a fresh electoral law for the upper chamber, the country risks going to the polls with one set a rules for electing the lower Chamber of Deputies, and another for the Senate. Many political leaders predict that would invite government gridlock.