Europe News


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:

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:

Friday, May 23, 2014

European Parliament election begins, and Ukraine's Presidential Election looms

There has been a great deal of anticipation of the outcome of this year's EU Parliament elections, turning around the presidential battle between Juncker and Schulz, and whether the Euro-skeptic parties will come out on top.  Here's a few articles of interest:

Six Seminal Moments in Britain's Euroskepticism

In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders' Freedom Party has underperformed expectations:

The latest from the German Marshall Fund Blog looks at the implications of this weekend's election:

Four Lessons from the European Parliamentary Election Campaigns

Meanwhile, the EU continues to focus on issues surrounding the Euro and banking crisis:
Ukraine's presidential will be held this Sunday, despite violence continuing in the Eastern part of the country. The Center for Strategic and International Studies has developed a very helpful timeline of the crisis in Ukraine:

Monday, May 19, 2014

Equality Bodies in the fiscal crisis -- from the new book: Legislating Equality

Today's post is drawn from the new book Legislating Equality: The Politics of Antidiscrimination Policy in Europe by Terri E. Givens and Rhonda Evans Case (Oxford University Press, May 2014). You can download the first chapter at Oxford University Press - UK

In October of 1999 politicians around the European Union (EU) were stunned by the success of Jörg Haider’s far right Freedom Party. When Haider’s party became part of the Austrian government in early 2000, the other EU countries responded with diplomatic sanctions and within a few months would pass the Racial Equality Directive (RED), a measure which would require all 15 member states (and future members) to pass antidiscrimination policy into national law. Ten years later, despite some initial success with the development of national level equality bodies, many EU governments were slashing funding and moving once-independent entities into larger human rights bodies, thereby diluting their influence. The institutions created by the RED were under fire partially because of the ongoing fiscal crisis, but also due to political pressure. The RED and consequent Equal employment and Gender equality directives were a set of policies which developed along with European integration in the 1990s, but ran into the integration slowdown after enlargement in the mid-2000s, a fiscal crisis, and a lack of prioritization by mostly conservative governments.

In our book, Legislating Equality: The Politics of Antidiscrimination Policy in Europe, we examine the development and implementation of the RED in Europe. Two factors played an important role for the development of antidiscrimination policy in the EU. The first is racist anti-immigrant sentiment, and the second is Left vs. Right politics, i.e. the rise of the radical right as a catalyst for the passage of legislation and Left support for antidiscrimination policy. However, these policy developments were also dependent upon the process of Europeanization – as the European Union developed, political opportunities developed which allowed the issue of racism and antidiscrimination policy to move forward as a policy issue.

The RED’s most visible accomplishment was the creation of national equality bodies tasked with combating discrimination. The equality bodies have three principal goals: to assist and support victims to pursue complaints, to conduct independent surveys, and to publish independent reports on discrimination. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) delineated the following competencies as central to a body’s success:

  • Providing aid and assistance to victims, including legal aid, and (where appropriate) to ensure victims have recourse to the courts or other judicial authorities. 
  • Monitoring the content and impact of legislation intended to combat racial discrimination, and recommending, where necessary, improvements to this legislation. 
  • Advising policymakers on how to improve regulations and practices. 
  • Hearing complaints concerning specific cases of discrimination and seeking resolutions either through mediation or through binding and enforceable decisions. 
  • Sharing information with other national and European institutions tasked with promoting equality. 
  • Issuing advice on best practices of anti-discriminatory practice. 
  • Promoting public awareness of discrimination and disseminating pertinent information (European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, 1997). 
By 2008 most countries in the EU, including those that had recently joined, had passed laws implementing the EU’s equality directives. In the first few years after the transposition of the Equal Treatment Directives there was growth in both the number and staffing of the equality bodies and in some cases success in “naming and shaming” corporations and other entities for discrimination. The equality bodies were also somewhat successful in bringing awareness to the issues around discrimination. However, by the ten year anniversary of the passage of the RED in 2010 it was clear that both politics and the European fiscal crisis were having a negative impact on the equality bodies.

By 2010, antidiscrimination policy enforcement was put on the backburner in most countries.  Britain’s Labour government decided to merge the long-standing Commission for Race Equality into the Equality and Human Rights Commission, potentially blunting its impact in the area of racial discrimination. In France, the Haute Autorité de Lutte contre les Discriminations et pour L’Egalité (HALDE) became an important contact point for those who felt discrimination. However, in 2011, the French Assembly passed a law that folded the HALDE into a larger human rights entity, the Defenseur des Droits. Both staff from the HALDE and academic commentators expected this change to reduce the visibility, effectiveness and power of the HALDE, particularly in the area of racial discrimination.

The global economic downturn has been perceived to be a “trigger” for increased intolerance and discrimination against migrants and members of minority groups, exacerbated by budget cuts and waning political will to combat it. However, this is likely a temporary spike that does not yet point to an increase in institutional discrimination. This does point to a need for governments to act quickly: the right measures need to be put in place during countries’ recovery period from the crisis to stave off a worsening of the situation of migrants and minorities—groups already at risk.

In light of these challenges, the European Union’s antidiscrimination priority for the next decade should not be to create more legislation or more institutions; instead, the EU needs to strengthen the ones it already has. European governments, EU institutions, and civil society partners will continue to evaluate what is working and what is not, and reinforce the existing structures.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

French Elections and the aftermath

France held its municipal elections on March 30th.  Francois Holland's Socialists were not expected to perform well, and they met those expectations.  After the election debacle, President Hollande reshuffled his cabinet, hoping to mitigate some of the damage:

French reshuffle may loom after Hollande's Socialists routed in local elections

François Hollande.
There was a great deal of focus on the success of the far right National Front, but the party still has some way to go to be considered a mainstream party:
Marine Le Pen