FRENCH Prime Minister Jacques Chirac deserves support for the new measures being taken against terrorism in the wake of a rash of bombings in Paris, which have so far left five dead and more than 200 wounded. France is phasing in requirements for visas for all international visitors, except those from European Community countries and from Switzerland, many of whose citizens cross the border daily to work in France.
The border police are to be reinforced with regular Army soldiers, and certain unspecified covert measures will also be undertaken. The Committee for Solidarity With Arab Political Prisoners, a group seeking the release from French prisons of three suspected or convicted terrorists, has claimed responsibility.
Polls indicate that Mr. Chirac has strong public backing for keeping those prisoners where they are; the public also demands action against the bombings, and the visa requirements and other steps are clearly a response to that demand.
France's allies are pleased with the new program; United States officials have apologized to their fellow citizens for whatever ``inconvenience'' may be caused by the visa requirements. (The US has long required visas of visitors from France.) Moreover, a meeting of the 12 EC interior ministers has been set up, at France's request, for Sept. 25.
The decision to tighten the borders cannot have come easily. France is proud of its tradition as ``land of asylum.'' Its society has been enriched by 'emigr'es of every stripe. And France's adamant egalitarianism has given it a credible voice in the developing world.
But openness can become carelessness. For France to fail to control its borders in a reasonable manner would be to yield a portion of its sovereignty to those who have no respect for its traditions of reason, order, and human rights.