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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Immigration high on the agenda in the UK and France, WWI commemorations

With a general election on the horizon for 2015,  David Cameron and Nick Clegg set out to define their positions on immigration, certainly with an eye on UKIP for David Cameron.

Cameron outlines immigration curbs 'to put Britain first'


Clegg attacks EU immigration in policy shift ahead of election
"UKIP’s surge in May’s European elections has spooked all the mainstream parties, but particularly the Lib Dems, who were reduced to a single seat. With growing concern that his party could be all but wiped out in the next national election, Clegg will mimic the UKIP formula, saying more needs to be done on migration from Europe."



As governments commemorate the centenary of World War I, many see similarities with today's conflicts. The Guardian newspaper has a series of articles regarding the many issues that started the war then and lessons for today.
First world war 100 years on

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Role of Cities in Immigrant Integration

My week in Berlin continues, as I was walking around the Alexanderplatz I happened to run into a protest of some refugees and recorded a bit of it:



The protest was of particular interest because I'm working on issues related to migrants in Europe, including attending the Cities of Migration conference. This conference focuses on the role of cities in the integration of migrants, and we started with a reception a the Canadian Embassy on Wednesday, June 4th.  Cities of Migration is based in Toronto, Canada. Our first speaker brought in a global perspective, Khalid Koser spoke about the recent Global Migration and Development Forum in Sweden and that these meetings tend to be far too general, compared to a focus on cities that are sharing best practices.  He noted that cities have the potential to make a difference in the discourses around migration, promoting an objective debate and engaging the business sector.

One of the more interesting panels was a group of mayors (and a city council member from Detroit). The entire conference is very pro-immigration, but it was clear that at the city level there are needs that don't get translated into national level legislation. Detroit's mayor has called for bringing in 50,000 skilled migrants in the next 5 years in the face of unemployment being at 30%.  One important point made by Council Member Raquel Casteneda-Lopez was that the definition of skilled migrants needs to be broadened - for example, some construction jobs require high levels of technical ability and those who are qualified should be considered skilled workers. The Mayor of Hamburg, Olaf Scholz has been sending letters encouraging migrants who are eligible for citizenship to apply. This led to a significant increase in naturalizations in Hamburg. Many cities have created "welcome centers" for migrants, basically one-stop shops where they can apply for benefits, get information on educational opportunities, etc.

I appreciated the remarks of Rita Suessmuth who was instrumental in getting immigration legislation passed in Germany. She emphasized that integration is a two-way street and that all humans have skills, it is up to society to tap into those skills so that they can develop their potential. Some other highlights of the conference included a speech by Naika Foroutan who is working on issues of immigrant integration in Germany and is the vice-director of the Berlin Institute for Empirical Research on Integration and Migration (BIM) at Humboldt University. Doug Saunders talked about his experience with arrival cities, he has also written a book on the topic. He notes that some neighborhoods are set up in a way that encourage immigrant success, while others may set up hurdles.  The day ended with a debate about the possibility of soccer (football) playing a role in ending racism.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Berlin - A Day in the Life...Politics and Protest

I arrived in Berlin Monday, June 2nd to attend the Cities of Migration conference and an author's conference on Regional Governance at the Freie Universitaet. I have visited Berlin many times, and it is always a pleasure to get reacquainted with this laid back capital city. During my first day here I walked around town to get a sense of some of the top issues.  The European Parliament election campaign posters were still in view, particularly of Martin Schulz, the candidate for European Commission President as well as posters showing Angela Merkel for the CDU
A motorcyclist rides past election campaign posters for the Social Democratic Party (SPD) (L) featuring the SPD's candidate Martin Schulz and for the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) (R) ahead of European Parliament elections due to take place on May 25, 2014, in Berlin on May 6, 2014. Poster at L reads: 'A Europe of growth, not of stagnation', poster at R reads : 'Decent work and a strong economy, that's how I see Europe'. AFP PHOTO / JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)
The European Parliament maintains an information center near the Brandenburg gate:

Euroskepticism was also on display in this sign that calls for a return to the Deutschmark instead of the Euro:

As cities like Seattle in the U.S. call for a higher minimum wage, this is also a big topic in Germany as this very large poster proclaims that the long-term unemployed and teenagers are not exceptions, and should get wages higher than 8.50 Euros:


I found that Ukraine is a very hot topic. As I walked to the Brandenburg Gate, I saw a protest there that was focused on peace, particularly in Ukraine, anti-capitalism and music...


The protest drew on several strong themes, particularly the Monday protests in the GDR before the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.


"Wir Sind Das Volk (We are the people) for peace in Europe and the World and against the death politics of the central banks - no more lies!"


"No to war!"


"Stop the Nazi's in Ukraine, work together instead of sanctions, dialog not tanks in Kiev!"

On the other side of the gate, another protester on the more extreme fringes of opinion ...


Another set of protesters were there to call for an end to the monarchy in Spain after the abdication of King Juan Carlos:


These Spanish migrants to Germany call for the Spanish Monarchy to migrate...
A bit of video from the protest is available here on youtube: http://youtu.be/ifwTTlxpp7w


In East Berlin, the crossing lights were different than in the West and so the Ampelmann has become a popular mascot and souvenir item...

And the Russian embassy is another reminder of an earlier time: