Anti-Immigrant Sentiment Grows in Europe

Germany is experiencing increasing tensions related to immigration. Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that Germany’s attempt to create a multicultural society has “utterly failed.” Her comment has added fuel to the debate about immigration and Islam in Germany, which is home to about 4 million Muslims, most of whom have immigrated from Turkey. Merkel had been criticized for not taking a tougher stance on immigrants who resist adapting to German society. Opponents of immigration say there is no room in Germany for people from “alien cultures,” while other government officials propose lowering immigration barriers to meet the shortage of skilled workers in Europe’s largest economy.

Meanwhile in France, the government recently began cracking down on illegal Roma camps throughout the country and deporting the immigrants, also known as Gypsies, to Bulgaria and Romania. The move followed an attack by dozens of French Roma on a police station in the town of Saint Aignan. The riot broke out after a police officer shot and killed a Roma man at a checkpoint.

The office of French president Nicolas Sarkozy issued a statement calling the Roma camps “sources of illegal trafficking, of profoundly shocking living standards, of exploitation of children for begging,” and crime. The expulsions have been met with harsh criticism from the European Union and human rights groups, who argue that France’s actions inflame public opinion and perpetuate discrimination against the Roma. The Roma have endured a long history of persecution in Europe, including during World War II when hundreds of thousands of Roma were killed by the Nazis.

Related Links

  • Merkel Says German Multiculturalism Has Failed
    This article reports on comments made by Chancellor Merkel to members of her political party and on the growing immigration debate in Germany.
    (Source: Reuters, October 17, 2010)
  • Q&A: France Roma Expulsions
    This BBC report examines France’s expulsions of Roma and criticism from the EU regarding freedom of movement; includes map and graph on Europe’s Roma population.
    (Source: BBC News, October 19, 2010)
  • On Location: Paris—the Roma Problem
    This piece of video journalism from GlobalPost provides background on France’s Roma problem from a camp near Paris.
    (Source: GlobalPost, September 27, 2010)
  • French Expulsion of Gypsies Leads to Tension in Europe
    This PBS NewsHour story explores the impact of France’s expulsion of Gypsies in the rest of Europe.
    (Source: PBS NewsHour, September 27, 2010)

Other Issues in the Region

Turmoil in the Balkans

After the former Yugoslavia split into six republics (Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia), separatists in the province of Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008. More than two years later, Serbia and other key European nations have not recognized Kosovo as an independent country. The few countries in the region who recognize its independence have suffered weakened relationships with Serbia, who recalled its ambassador from Montenegro in early 2010 over the dispute.

  • Serbia-Kosovo Diplomatic War Rumbles On
    Several key nations have yet to recognize Kosovo independence. These include the economic powerhouses of China and India, as well as Spain, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union until mid-2010. In late 2009, the International Court of Justice agreed to examine Serbia’s case that Kosovo’s claim to independence is invalid.
    (Source: EurActiv; accessed April 26, 2010)

Cleaning Up Europe

Pollution of the air and waterways is a serious problem in Europe. The pollution comes from many sources, including business, industry, the farming community, and ordinary citizens who use and discard household products. All of these individuals and groups must now work together to find a solution, improve conditions, and prevent further damage.

  • Emissions of air pollutants down in EU-27
    The annual report of the European Environment Agency shows pollution levels in the European Union were lower in 2007 than in the previous year: emissions of the three main pollutants that cause ground-level ozone—carbon monoxide (CO), nonmethane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs), and nitrogen oxides (NOx)—all were down substantially, as were levels of sulphur oxides (SOx).
    (Source: European Environment Agency, August 21, 2009)


The European Union has its origins in 1951, when France and what was then West Germany signed a treaty with four other nations creating the European Coal and Steel Community. Subsequent treaties involved more nations, leading eventually to the signing of the 1993 Maastricht Treaty, which created the European Union. Differences in size and power among EU members and candidates have created problems in expanding the EU, most notably in drafting a constitution. But both old and new member countries are cautiously optimistic about unification.

  • Can the European Union survive the debt crisis?
    In the face of a serious debt crisis, the EU’s cohesiveness is being destabilized. In recent years, European nations have overcome national differences to create a powerful economic bloc, but momentum may be building among EU nations to drop the euro as a common currency.
    (Source: Christian Science Monitor, May 26, 2010)

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