Saturday Oct. 16th 2010, in a speech hold in front of the young German conservatives, Angela Merkel, German Chancellor, noted the failure and sentenced to death the idea of multiculturalism in Germany, following in the footsteps and trying to save from a controversial debate her Minister Horst Seehofer who few days before killed the concept as an ideology for the German society1.
The provocative remarks made by Angela Merkel marked a milestone in the awareness of the failure of policies towards immigrants in Germany and the societal risk of fracture with namely the Muslim community, which Merkel addressed specifically. Anyhow, even if there is a clear political and electoral message behind, this means a formidable move for Germany and for Europe. Merkels position is not only sentencing to death the ideology applied to Germany, she also operates among Euroland countries, noting that the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Belgium, currently face the same conclusions from their failed immigration policies based on multiculturalism, a reconciliation between the French and Northern visions to define and face the hot topic of how to deal with immigrants not only in Germany but in Europe.
For many years Newropeans, and by its president Franck Biancheri, argued that multiculturalism is a nonsense in Europe, but it has never been clearly stated by the political leaders so far it has now be done in Germany by Angela Merkel. The statement of the German Chancellor is essential in order to move to something else, namely integration of immigrants and define a common policy urgently needed in Europe, essentially in Euroland, to tackle with the raising difficulties we face in this time of global crisis, awakening hatred and leading to easy solutions against foreigners, especially when they live on the margins of the society, its common values and rules. NewropMag presents the discussion on German/Dutch/French visions of the debate Multikulti vs Integration.
“It's only 20 years that I have been saying that multiculturalism was an American concept with no sense in Europe” - declares Franck Biancheri, president of Newropeans2, and author of the book World crisis - The Path to the World Afterwards - Europe and the World in the decade from 2010 to 20203 - “at last, multiculturalism is dead, Europe can from now on speak with one vision about integration”.
Multiculturalism vs integration
What is the difference in outcome of a vision of multiculturalism or integration? What did the traditional french vision of integration bring to France? And why would it be better for the rest of Europe? asks Veronique Swinkels, Dutch board member of Newropeans.
an American concept with no sense in Europe. A pure ideology based on theories and not on reality
“We have in Germany now - again - a big discussion for weeks about immigration, triggered by Thilo Sarrazin, with his book” says Margit Reiser-Schober, member of Newropeans board in Germany to introduce the debate.
Indeed this discussion was triggered by Thilo Sarrazin, (former SPD politician and board member of the Bundesbank), who as a retired politician needs some publicity in order to find a place on a board and therefor does not care for the so called political correctness in his party. His book (Deutschland schafft sich ab "Germany Does Away With Itself" ... more than 500 pages - including racist and xenophobic statements against the Muslim community) was already sold out three times before the first issue was in the bookstores (!). “By the end of the year this book will be sold more than 1 million times, as an expert pointed out” adds Margit Reiser-Schober.
The same situation is observed in Holland where Gert Wilders is currently leading the country, in Sweden, where the first time the right extremist anti-Muslim party entered the Parliament, in Belgium...
“There are several reasons why people and politicians had tried to avoid a serious discussion about immigration - continues Margit Reiser-Schober - in Germany a lot of citizens/politicians are just afraid to say their true opinion in public because of the racist Nazi past. So problems tend to pile up. People normally have the wrong understanding of tolerance. Tolerance is not to accept everything, it is the last possibility to live in peace together with those who share some other values.”
it is more a matter of solidarity and accepting a new and growing class of people with mixed (non Dutch) background to share our wealth
“What is interesting in Holland is that the multicultural approach worked very well with immigrants from Indonesia, we have no problems with the Chinese, argues Veronique Swinkels, member of Newropeans board in Amsterdam... Suriname and Antillean people have a well integrated 2nd and 3th generation. They all kept a lot of their own cultural values and integrated very well. We never had the urge to make them accept our values because that was never an issue. So why is it so difficult with people from Morocco for example. It is not only religion because we have far less problems with people from Turks. Is it (cultural) distance? The policy we choose in NL did not have the same effect on all immigrants. So we still have to figure out what will work and what not. Dutch people think it is more a matter of solidarity and accepting a new and growing class of people with mixed (non Dutch) background to share our wealth.
"The problem in the Netherlands is that the Dutch elites have left immigrants developed cultural bubbles, which progressively became totally alien to Dutch culture and society", answers Franck Biancheri.
Those who got well were those who could, without much help/pressure, integrate. Their bubble was not very big or with many holes, so integration could take place despite the multicultural ideology. But for most communities, especially when 'cultural distance' is big, if there is no 'help/pressure' to integrate, it just does not work.
Now, the difficulty is to bring these bubbles to a situation where the people concerned (even 3rd generations) can accept/learn to behave like the average Dutch, regarding the core values (including language) of society. And that's going to be very difficult.
To give an example, which I use in my book (World crisis - The Path to the World Afterwards - Europe and the World in the decade from 2010 to 2020):4
if Muslim don't accept to build mosques with no minaret (as the Swiss voted for), which is an integration process (Islam yes, but with no objective of proselytism because we are in a laic European context), then let's be very candid, it will take some years, but the backlash will be terrible in the end, with racist movements taking the lead in public opinions and bringing back Europe to its worst : mass expulsions of all Muslims.
Most important also is that strong lobbies on the field of economy want to keep on immigration in order to restrain workers interests...
For Margit Reiser-Schober (so called) conservative politicians in Germany use this subject very often directly before elections in order to get voters. So citizens had to notice that this subject is being exploited by interested political forces.
The “Muslim” minorities are now an important group with influence in elections and in Germany. Social Democrats, die Linke and mainly the Green party want to have their votes. And parties do not every-time want to solve problems but every-time to win elections.
Most important also is that strong lobbies on the field of economy want to keep on immigration in order to restrain workers interests. For employers it is much more easier! Milton Friedman said that you can have an immigration country OR a welfare state. "So sometimes I have the feeling that those strong lobbies are making the politics while the Green/SPD/Linke delivers the convenient ideology", Margit Reiser-Schober concludes.
There are also some difficulties to talk about because there are a lot of integrated immigrants and so differences have to be made.
In the Netherlands, adds Taco Dankers, there were and are still very big problems with Moluccas from Indonesia.
Most of them were send to "camps" on their arrival outside the Randstad, now transformed to suburbs outside the Randstad. They still have their yearly small riot in The Hague. And last year they had major clashes with Moroccans. They are now staunched supporters of Wilders.
Integration is tested in France since the second part of the XIXth century as France is the European country which faced the oldest immigration trends in modern times (that's why France has a Hungarian 2nd generation immigrant as president) exposes Franck Biancheri.
France has only a problem of social integration focused in a handful of tough suburbs, resulting from getthoisation of those immigrants. It may make the headlines but it's de facto marginal if you take the overall immigration (1st, 2nd and 3rd generation). For the vast majority, they just become and act as normal French citizens, the religion is not a determinant value to act as citizen in a secular state of right.
Integration a long and costly process through education/training,command of the language of the country, legal enforcement,
fair treatment for jobs, social helps...
Integration a very simple concept .. tough complex to implement, he continues.
Integration prevents that you get communitarian and then, strong racist reactions. The newcomers have to acquire and adopt the main socio-cultural features of the society they get into. Of course, the more a society has a clear-cut set of values, the easier it is.
In the case of Euroland as one entity for instance, this set of values could comprise (rapid overview):
. command of the language of the country you live into
. non discrimination because of races, religions and sex
. separation of religion and state
. individual freedoms
. respect of common good/social responsibility.
These values are obtained through education/training, legal enforcement if needed (not 'special' rules for other cultures, ...). And it requires a fair treatment of people for jobs, social helps, education ...
Otherwise it's a one sided deal : you have to integrate to our culture, but we discriminate you to find jobs.
By the way, this has been the main problem in the suburbs spots in France where our side of the contract (education, equality for jobs, ...) was not respected : we just let these places go into a black holes and especially since Sarkozy became Interior minister (2005) they sank into 'wild west' where police is acting like Cowboys among Indians.
Then personal opinions on that or this issues is something else. It's an individual right.
Essentially, you make a deal with the newcomer, who can keep of course his culture in his private sphere (provide it does not break local laws of course), and has to adapt when it comes to public sphere. In no way, he/she, with fellow people, can develop 'special spheres' where other sets of rules are making the norm.
For many decades, integration was portrayed, by the multicultural dominant ideology, as a method 'erasing' the immigrant's culture,
but it is wrong
“For many decades, integration was portrayed, by the multicultural dominant ideology, as a method 'erasing' the immigrant's culture. But it is wrong”, underlines Franck Biancheri. "Integration does not mean erasing the immigrant culture".
Integration means on the contrary allowing him/her to positively, constructively input the home country culture with his/her cultural inheritance.
Taking the example France, Italian immigrants did bring a lot in French culture because they integrated. And today, French culture (food, music, cinema, ..) is getting a lot of inputs from Maghreb, Arabic culture for instance, or from black Africa.
The problem we have in France, like elsewhere in Europe though, is that rightist extremist leaders have understood that rather than solving the question by integrating immigrants, a long and costly (on short term) process, they have more short term electoral benefits to stigmatize them and to use immigration as a scapegoat for all other difficult issues.
Towards an Euroland policy:a government has the obligation to secure the European fundamentals
Taco Dankers points out that a government has the obligation to secure the European fundamentals.
Even with some unconventional measures.
Europe should prevent immigration from people who despise the western European society and prevent other countries running organizations that prevent intermingling of Muslims. There is active policy from for example Morocco to prevent people to become European.
Though, like what Merkel said, the good thing is that this multicultural ideology (it has never been anything else than a pure ideology based on theories and not on reality) is now officially dead.It's a pre-condition to start moving towards integration and towards implementing the necessary policies, concludes Franck Biancheri.
As always, the shortest way in politics is never the straight line : if you want to get along well with newcomers from different cultural background, it's not by letting them do what they want in your backyard (though this is exactly what multiculturalism did for 3/4 decades).
The difficulty now in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium - Scandinavia and UK too - will be for the elites trained in the past 4 decades, with the politically correct vision of multiculturalism to learn a complete different way of thinking/acting.
Whatever Angela Merkel and German politicians do now from this recognition of the failure of their multikulti system in the German approach of integration of their immigrants, should it be a real willingness to change, or a simple political-election parade, for Europe the very good thing is made of two sides:
► Multiculturalism has been one of the strong force nurturing racist/xenophobic trends among our populations. So by suppressing this cause we may hope that it will contribute to decrease the trends supporting the racist/xenophobic rise.
► It was impossible to have the necessary common European immigration policy (the one we advocate in Newropeans) when Europe was divided with different visions of how to deal with immigrants. From now on, it will be easier to get a common policy on a topic which require on.
A program already defined by Newropeans in its proposals for a European Immigration and Integration Policy5. Europe should urgently follow the lead, there are reforms that do not wait.
Margit Reiser-Schober, Veronique Swinkels, Franck Biancheri, Taco Dankers
An interview directed by Marianne Ranke-Cormier NewropMag
After a long battle against the disease Franck Biancheri passed away 30th of October 2012, at the age of 51. A great European, a militant democrat, a wonderful person. Franck Biancheri was founder of AEGEE and founding fathers of the ERASMUS programme. He also was research director of the European thinktank LEAP 2020. In 2005, following the ´no’ of the Dutch and French to the Constitutional Treaty, Franck Biancheri founded the European citizens movement Newropeans.