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    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Many Europeans these days seem to hold views very hostile to anything that smacks of immigration, multiculturalism, cosmopolitanism and insufficient national awareness. Do you think that the following measures should be in place in EU member states ("host member state") in respect of people residing in the host member state but coming from other EU member states/non-EU countries ("immigrants"):

    - compulsory language courses in the national language of the host member state, assessed by a compulsory language test - for immigrants and for those of immigrant descent;
    - compulsory courses and/or tests on national history of the host member state;
    - introduction of an official national history of the host member state and promotion of that history, for instance by exhibitions about national heroes of that host member state;
    - official campaigns to promote national unity within the host member state, and individual identification with the nation of the host member state;
    - official lists of national values of the host member states, and tests of acceptance of these values;
    - restriction on spouses or children joining immigrants already in the host member state, and age and income restrictions on marriage partners from host member state, sometimes with language tests for potential spouses, in their country of origin;
    - attitudes/practises/laws specifying that only the national language of the host member state may be spoken in certain areas;
    - language prohibitions in schools, universities, and public buildings, public transport and hospitals.
    - prohibitions on dress not typical in the host member state;
    - introduction of an oath of allegiance or loyalty oath to the host member state for immigrants?

    [source: wikipedia's entry on multiculturalism]

    Should the view prevail in most EU member states that such measures are desirable, do you think that the continued existence of the EU would be compatible with such view? Should such measures in EU member states be permissible under EU laws? As a more general proposition, do you think that the idea of nation-state is in the long term compatible with the EU?
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    oulematou,

    I would prefer if you stated your opinion right out, instead of posing it as a set of Socratic questions to which your answer is obvious. If you want to criticise the growing intolerance towards immigrants and foreigners in general, just say so.

    I share your concern about this intolerance trend. However, it would be wrong to view this phenomenon as a recent one. It’s a trait of centralised states which dates back at least to the eighteenth century, according to which all diversity is seen as a threat to national unity.

    The initial targets, however, were not foreigners, but ethnic minorities, who were persecuted so effectively that many have since disappeared. Some of the measures you cited, namely the prohibitions in schools and public buildings, were still in effect well into the twentieth century in countries like Spain and France. Although in Spain this is commonly associated with Franco’s dictatorship, France has been a democracy for the last two centuries, which goes a long way to prove that democracies can be as ruthless as dictatorships.

    I must also point out that imposing an official language to the entire EU, regardless of which language is chosen, can very easily lead to similar results. I believe uniformity and centralism will inevitably lead to some sort of diktat, even under a democratic regime. The only alternative I see to forcing all citizens to speak the same language is to force the authorities to speak all the languages citizens speak. The authorities don’t even need to spend resources teaching their officials the many languages involved; hiring native speakers of those languages is more effective and additionally constitutes an equal opportunity employment policy.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    I think the language courses are the only good idea. The others smell nationalist.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Seilach - maybe the difference is that nationalism in the 18th, 19th and 1st half of 20th century could not be inconsistent with the EU since there was no EU. What such nationalisms led to is obvious - wars, imperialism, colonialism. Using that idealogy to address today's global challenges will lead to unmitigated disasters.

    Just because I don't like nationalism doesn't mean it not on the rise in the EU.

    There's considerable room between radical nationalist measures and forcing all Europeans to give up their native language. You are arguing with arguments that I never put forward (the most I ever proposed was that every European should have a right to use English in public life throughout the whole EU in addition to the local language). I don't share your optimism that EU's member states are capable of providing the full range of administrative services (tax returns, courts, notaries, hospitals, police force ...) in several different languages at the same time. Hiring native or foreign speakers on a large scale is a good idea but I'm afraid it wouldn't work in today's conditions - I'm sure national administrations would be dumb enough to require fluency in the local language for any such employment candidates :-)

    The pre-condition to political integration is dismantling protectionism and nationalism. I am tired of political leaders who strive to bully Europe into adopting the constitution and yet seek to gain political points by advocating protectionist and nationalist policies in domestic politics. It makes me wonder whether such leaders are cowards or outright liars. The word "multiculturalism" is now viewed as politically incorrect in public debates in many EU member states and has come to symbolize what it never represented. And yet it is obvious that EU needs significant doses of cosmopolitan/pan-European (whatever term is used for it) thinking and actions if the EU is to proceed towards more integration.

    I feel like I have sufficiently explained my views on this forum. So bye-bye and perhaps I'll rejoin in a few months if the discussion is worth it.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    oulematou,

    I was agreeing with you. You are right, European leaders definitively have two sets of measures for European politics and domestic politics. And nationalism, be it disguised as economic protectionism or openly asserted in rightwing speeches, is the most serious obstacle to the EU. I was just stressing the point that all of this precedes the EU itself, in all its forms, which many see as the final stages of a centripetal process in European politics. Given the violence implied in these centripetal processes in the last three centuries, I think I have reasons to be worried about its continuance into the twenty-first century…

    As for your decision to leave, I don’t think you’ll be missing out on much. It’s my impression this forum is deader than the dodo.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Dear Oulematou

    My own thoughts on a few of these questions, for what they are worth are:

    - compulsory language courses in the national language of the host member state, assessed by a compulsory language test - for immigrants and for those of immigrant descent; - Yes, for pragmatic reasons of reducing administration difficulties and reducing a sense of hostility in the host community.

    - compulsory courses and/or tests on national history of the host member state; - No, as these do not apply to the citizens / subjects of the host state themselves.

    - introduction of an official national history of the host member state and promotion of that history, for instance by exhibitions about national heroes of that host member state; - No. 'Official' histories are, by their very nature political, and therefore propagandistic. They cannot encompass everything. Anything which purports to be official history should be treated with extreme caution.

    - official campaigns to promote national unity within the host member state, and individual identification with the nation of the host member state; - a good idea, but Jack Straw's intervention at the weekend in this sort of field shows the dangers here. Furthermore, 'unity within' has so often run with 'hostility outwith'. How would this fit with the concept of our European Story?

    - official lists of national values of the host member states, and tests of acceptance of these values; - Absolutely not. 'National values' are stereotyping self promotion. The sort of self congratulatory 'heres tae us, wha's like us?' that denies realities. Everyone claims 'tolerance' for example, yet how many embody it in day to day life? Values are held by individuals, not by states.

    - restriction on spouses or children joining immigrants already in the host member state, and age and income restrictions on marriage partners from host member state, sometimes with language tests for potential spouses, in their country of origin; - Age and income restictions? Human rights?

    - attitudes/practises/laws specifying that only the national language of the host member state may be spoken in certain areas;
    - language prohibitions in schools, universities, and public buildings, public transport and hospitals. - these two seem to run together, but some aceptance that official forms and claims need to be made in the language of the host country would not seem unreasonable to me, at the very least it transfers the onus and cost of thanslation to the individual rather than imposing a burden on the state

    - prohibitions on dress not typical in the host member state; - No. Human rights again, and where does this stop? My ill fitting trousers to be banned?

    - introduction of an oath of allegiance or loyalty oath to the host member state for immigrants? - Actions not words. Besides, why the assumption that because I am born here I will be 'loyal' without needing to make a promise? 'I promise to pay my taxes and abide by the law' is all that is required of anyone, and it hardly seems worth the bother getting them to swear it.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    wyszynski, I share many of your reactions, with only a few differences:

    "- compulsory language courses in the national language of the host member state, assessed by a compulsory language test - for immigrants and for those of immigrant descent; - Yes, for pragmatic reasons of reducing administration difficulties and reducing a sense of hostility in the host community."

    In small and mid-sized EU states with minor or exotic national languages, this requirement has the potential of negating many of the benefits of the free movement (especially with regard to people and services). If immigrants (including EU individuals and businesses taking advantage of the freedom of movement) are required to communicate in Czech, Finnish or Greek in the relevant EU states, then almost no one will be able to take advantage of this right under such conditions. Wouldn't it be sufficient, for most practical purposes, if such persons and businesses could communicate in a widely used foreign language (primarily I mean English)? Of course, this would require that national authorities and public services are able to communicate in English. Perhaps a reasonable compromise on a case-by-case basis could be found. But such compromise can hardly be sought if the requirement for fluency in the national language is applied in a dogmatic manner. A negative example is evidenced in a recently proposed amendment to Czech act on foreigners' residency which makes fluency in Czech a condition to awarding a permanent residency permit to foreign spouses of Czech nationals. I find that quite scandalous but many people seem to support that kind of a regulation.

    "- restriction on spouses or children joining immigrants already in the host member state, and age and income restrictions on marriage partners from host member state, sometimes with language tests for potential spouses, in their country of origin; - Age and income restictions? Human rights?"

    I believe such restrictions exist in some countries (e.g. I believe restrictions on grounds of income in Denmark and in the US).

    "- attitudes/practises/laws specifying that only the national language of the host member state may be spoken in certain areas;
    - language prohibitions in schools, universities, and public buildings, public transport and hospitals. - these two seem to run together, but some aceptance that official forms and claims need to be made in the language of the host country would not seem unreasonable to me, at the very least it transfers the onus and cost of thanslation to the individual rather than imposing a burden on the state"

    Again, see above, in smaller countries this needs to be applied reasonably. An across-the-board requirement for fluency in the national language may be a serious hurdle for any immigration or intra-EU movement of people in such countries.