Unrest on the European Front?

There are more right wing extremists aiming for white supremacy per capita in Sweden than in other EU countries, according to the Swedish intelligence services. And, to make matters worse they frequently have access to machine guns and home made bombs, made with the help of the internet.

Toys, thats how we like to look upon extremists. The last thing we need is for that kind of movements to become reality again.
Toys, that's how we like to look upon extremists. The last thing we need is for that kind of movements to become reality again.

Am absolutely horrified to note that groups with aims like the KuKluxKlan and Nazis are on the rise, and it’s little comfort to know that it’s happening all over Europe. Sweden’s nationalistic political party is on the rise and will most likely get into parliament in elections next year.

Brussels is very aware of these unfortunate developments and EU member countries hence realize the importance of integrating recent immigrants from outside the EU as swiftly as possible as an antidote.

But what is the Swedish government and the EU doing to facilitate integration and counteract these kind of unfortunate developments? Read up on it and really both the Swedish government and the EU are devoting a lot of money, time and effort to build up a multi cultural society where different ethnic groups live side by side in harmony.

But it seems to be easier said than done. There are currently about 13-14 million immigrants from outside Europe, which constitute about four percent of the population. They unfortunately remain concentrated in particular regions and cities, and may remain excluded even after they and their second-generation offspring have become nationals. Some suburbs, like Rinkeby in Stockholm and Rosengård in Malmö have about 85% immigrants and many of them don’t speak Swedish, or even English. Not surprisingly the latter suburb is where racial riots take place on a regular basis. Seven out of ten school children there actually have such poor grades they are not accepted for further education. Students who wish to learn have to ask to be moved to schools outside the area.

But integration is not only up to the authorities but to the immigrants themselves as well. Many want to integrate, make an effort and succeed. But the segment that doesn’t want to are very visible, resulting in many Europeans wrongly tarring all immigrants with the same brush.

So how do we integrate the bad apples? Speaking the language, education and work are fundamental factor. Motivating recently arrived immigrants to learn Swedish has not worked out very well, so the Swedish government is now offering a bonus scheme to newly arrived immigrants to encourage them to learn the language in a stipulated time.

Denmark and Norway also failed to get immigrants to learn their languages. The Danes hence decided to do something about it. They looked at the situation and concluded that few immigrants had little to gain by getting a job in terms of real income and that state-regulated integration programs have not been conducive to providing immigrants and descendants with jobs (once they learn the language they have to get a job and can not claim social security anymore).

So the Danes stopped allowing new immigrants to bring their extended families which has resulted in the new Danes learning Danish and managing to get jobs. Consequently the current level of employment of immigrants in Denmark is on par with native Danes. In Sweden, and most of the EU for that matter, the level of unemployed is, at least, twice as high among immigrants as natives. So maybe other EU countries should follow suit and do what the Danes did; integrate the ones we already have and then bring their families. Presumably the families will then will do as their relative, learn the language, get a job and integrate into society?

But to really succeed we also need to find a common nominator, or nominators, that everybody can unite behind.

Acquisition of citizenship can enhance solidarity and strengthen a sense of belonging to a society both among immigrants and the rest of the population. But, so far, that doesn’t seem to have been enough. So how do we make everybody feel European and subscribe to the same values? What can be done to make all Europeans, regardless of origin, religion and culture live together in harmony? Maybe, like Tito, we have to create a common nominator to unite us all? If not, we will play into the hands of white supremacy groups and nationalistic parties which, in my opinion, would be an absolute disaster.

It is in deep global recessions like now, with massive unemployment, that extremists thrive by playing on peoples fears to foster hatred against minority ethnic groups. So Europeans and immigrants alike now have to step up to the plate to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

(Photo: Hugh Kirk, Flickr)

Re-published on popular demand.

6 thoughts on “Unrest on the European Front?

  1. …(continued)

    My view is that immigrants to Western democracies should only be given access to citizenship and full benefits once they have shown themselves to be able to adapt to the local culture, speak the language and contribute actively to that society. Until then, they are simply expat workers as are those in the Middle East, and are not allowed to stay without having work.

    This is not suggesting there is no room for multiculturalism within a Western society – but the rights of that society as a whole must supercede those of any one individual for any society to function. Once the rights of individuals take precedence over society as a whole anarchy starts to take over. So, the new citizens would be, for example, Swedish first and their native nationality second. They are free to practice different religions, speak different languages and so on among themselves, but must see themselves primarily as citizens of the country in which they have acquired citizenship.

    There should be no more "free rides" for people who have simply managed – by one or other means – to gain entry to a country. Contribute, or leave…

  2. …(continued)

    Local people who have worked for their social security net feel resentment at the recent immigrants who are drawing perceived greater benefits (due to the difference in family sizes), and do not understand why the immigrants coming to the country then want the culture to adapt to them – the argument here being that if you are living in, and benefiting from, that culture, presumably you saw it as an attractive one, or you would not have moved there in the first place. Furthermore, there is a corresponding rise in acts of delinquency so further affecting the negative perceptions of these immigrant communities as a whole.

    In many other countries – for example, those in the Middle East – there is no question of a Social Security net for immigrants. You either contribute to the economy/society or you leave (visa restrictions makes this clear). There is also no question of citizenship – even for those expat children born in a country. Acts of delinquency simply result in that person being deported after serving any appropriate other sentence, and not being allowed re-entry.


  3. Catarina – I think you've hit the nail on the head with your last comment: the issue that lies behind so many of the problems is the social security net that the Western democracies typically have.

    The "bad apples" enter these countries for a free ride. They see the opportunity in not having to work and still receiving a reasonable income – one which grows with the size of their family, what's more! Because they're not looking for work, there is no need to learn the language or try to fit in with the local culture. In fact, they see benefit in trying to make the local culture adapt to them as this gives them further "minority rights."

    Children of such households tend to grow up without being given the right values – after all, if the parents are not contributing actively to the society in which they live, why should the children? – leading to an increase in delinquency, and so on.


  4. Agree with you Harri.

    Manty, have lived and worked all over the world. When I get to a new country, including Saudi Arabia, I adapt to that country and don’t expect them to give me social security, allow me to vote, make me a citizen or anything like that. Don’t understand why Scandinavia should have to adapt to immigrants coming out of their free will? Whenever I have lived in a new country it has been my choice and the same applies to immigrants chosing to come to Scandinavia.

    The big problems apparently started the last few years and even immigrants who have been here for a long time are angry with the new arrivals. Not least since they give all immigrants a bad name.

    Wilde Beast, a big problem here is Iraq, which actually should be an American problem. The Arabs generally integrate very well, learn Swedish and get a job. Problem is that a lot of other nationalities and races come here without a passport claiming to be from Iraq. And from what I’ve seen and heard they don’t adapt since they come here for all the wrong reasons. The Afghans who come here integrate and adapt very well, by the way.

    The biggest problem however, probably is that Sweden pays social security to immigrants from the moment they arrive which is something that attracts the bad apples in the first place. Swedish pensioners have paid their pension throught their taxes but despite that their pensions are being reduced. And unlike newly arrived immigrants they can not get social security. So it’s not extremist parties that’s causing the problems it’s how badly the politicians deal with the mass immigration they have caused by giving money for nothing.

  5. Wow, an intelligent discourse on what's happening. Your observation about what the Danes are doing is great. What struck me about visiting the European continent is that the negative undertones were stronger than what I saw here in the U.S.(an unpopular place to be from at the moment). That having been said, the biggest portion of our immigrants are from Mexico, Christian and a desire to integrate.

    Personally I fear for Europe as I saw the problems you comment on there. I ran into very varied reactions from Europeans being accused of being a war monger to being asked why we didn't just shoot everybody in Iraq and say "It's our now!" But I saw the same thing and when I spoke with a representative from the House of Commons, he glassed over the question.

    Personally, I think the groups you speak about are simply a reaction to immigrant protests and demands. Where does it end, I don't know. But talking and communicating will only work if both side want to work it out. Those that have integrated into society have a responsibility to liaison between the 2 groups or they will simply be caught in the middle and be accused of "condoning" the actions of the more radical groups. To verify this all we have to do is look at history – from ancient China (hated/feared the "barbarians"), to more modern examples such as Hitler (hated jews). To me a lot of this unrest is caused by parties who want build power bases on the hates you described. It could be said Saddam Hussein did that.

    I'd love to hear you comments as you appear to be able to move around within the cultures you describe.

  6. It's always disturbing to read about the rise of extremism. Being in Denmark, I get to hear a lot about how bad the situation in Sweden supposedly is, at least relative to what we have here, but I have also experienced that general Swedish society tends to be more accepting of me as an outsider. Denmark in contrast is generally cooler.

    From the outside, Denmark appears to be the one Nordic country that has tried to do something concrete and "hands on" with its immigrant problem, but I don't really see that as having worked. I've lived in Denmark, as an "educated foreigner" for ten years, and have seen the tough measures from the start : they don't appear to be working. Denmark still has serious problems with disaffected immigrant youth, crime, riots and well-defined parallel communities. Most of the success touted by the current administration is marginal, if not dubious. In fact, they seem to have created a whole new set of problems. Yes, on paper they've succeeded in reducing the total number of "undesirable" immigrants coming to Denmark, but thanks to the overly-broad sweep of the new laws, all immigrants, regardless of origin or culture, are affected, and in the end many who have the capacity to leave Denmark do just that.

    I believe that the greatest failure of the Danish integration process is, as you have mentioned, the inability to make outsiders feel like they have a sense of belonging and solidarity with the host society. I'm not talking about just the "muslim" demographic, but immigrants across the board. The extremely long and difficult naturalization process contributes to this, but from the moment of arrival, we are excluded from almost all decision-making with regard to our interaction with the State. Our integration process is thus not one of discussion, dialog and the finding of common ground, but a series of fixed demands from our host with little room for questioning or feedback. The Danish solution has been to try to exert maximum control over immigrants, presumably to establish a hierarchy with Danes in control and able to steer integration, but the process has backfired and resulted in widespread resentment amongst foreigners.

    You raise a good point and I'm always curious about integration concepts from the Swedish perspective, but, I don't believe Denmark has the answer. While simply ignoring the problem won't make it go away, Denmark has gone to the other extreme and chosen policies so crude and one-sided that they can only alienate. As is often the case, the best answer most likely lies somewhere in the middle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.