I agree with Lorenzo that there is something fundamentally wrong about the present European economic and social structure. Increased unemployment, lack of efficient integration models for the immigrants, poor urban planning of the last decades of the XX century, but also global psychosis created by the virtual propaganda of the “war on terror” (that certainly had its impact on Europe as a whole, including those EU states,like France, that did not participate in the war against Iraq) all contributed to the increased alienation of the first, but especially second generation immigrant population.
Here I need to make a small digression, my intention is not to defend the French integration model, but only to expose certain critical reflections on this system to the attention of the readers of our blog. The Economist for example blames the French head-scarf ban and the French “unease” over allowing Turkey into the EU, for the increased social alienation of the Muslim population. This position is unfair, and possibly biased (Economist to a large extent supported the war on Iraq), since it is probably much more the global war on terror and the war in Iraq, than the French slowing down of Turkey’s entrance in the EU, that contributed to the creation of the social climate in France where the Muslim population became ostracized. Arguably, opposition to Turkey’s entrance into the EU, is also a consequence of the global war on terror.
To come to the point, it is more the general social atmosphere that generates the present inflammatory situation, not so much the French assimilatory model or the multicultural model.
As far as the economic situation is concerned, there Lorenzo is right, unemployment in the suburbs is appalling (informal employment practices especially for white-collar jobs are racist) and the French welfare state is in crisis (like the German one), however, what is the alternative? It is probably true that due to the welfare system that does not create incentives to search for work, large parts of the population (mostly second generation immigrants) fall in a situation where they sit at home and do nothing, which makes them frustrated and angry, but in US (E.G.) the situation is similar notwithstanding the different integration model and the neo-liberal economic system. Present riots in France are a daily occurrence and people do not even write about it any more. On the other hand, poor, often minority population in the US, live in their (segregated) parts of big metropolis, and they are excluded not only from the city centres and middle class neighbourhoods but also from the media, so that we do not hear anything about them. More importantly economic situation in poor metropolis areas is so bad that there are no cars and no government employment centres to be burned at the first place. Is that the better model? Certainly not. France is in the centre of attention exactly because it is strange that something like that happens in the welfare-state Europe. This should certainly be the reason that should worry us but not necessarily lead us towards complete reconstruction of the classical European economic and social model. Lorenzo does criticize this model, but fails to propose a concrete alternative, like this, as his position stands, one may think that he advocates an economic model of the US, is the level of social integration better there than in France…this is arguable, but if it is it is certainly not because of the neo-liberal economic model. French riots, until present, caused only one fatal casualty, look at the number of murders in the US. Just another remark on Lorenzo’s writing, I agree with Lorenzo that bad policy choices (appalling – and to remind corruption led urban planning) created a situation that increased the level of frustration of the young immigrants, however, to call their violent behaviour (however justified in terms of causes of their anger) “social struggle” is not-appropriate, a social struggle has its end, not only means, in this sense when black-block members brake cars they leave a clear political message, when young Italians who committ acts of proletarian expropriation take goods from supermarkets they act politically, the young people in French cite do not, they represent no-one but themselves and they do not act politically.
On the fundamental point, however, I agree with Lorenzo, we need to work on the transformation of our European home. In the economic sense this means reforming the welfare state model not in the direction of abolishing it but in the direction of creating a model that accounts for the realities of the global market but that also safeguards the ideal of social solidarity (with the accent on the second). We also need to strengthen our democracy, possibly by introducing new (see Supranationalist 3), technologically innovative models, into the mechanism of democratic representation. Look at the example of Estonia, where it is now possible to vote on parliamentary elections via internet. This would allow slow but steady implementation of the model of direct democracy that would have the propensity to significantly increase the legitimacy of our polity. Moreover, in order to safeguard the international image of the EU, it is of outmost importance to maintain the present foreign policy orientation of the Union, meaning that the EU must strictly work in the direction of strengthening the foreign policy approach that is non violent and respective of the UN and the peremptory legal norms of international public law. This does not mean that the EU should support status quo, the EU could work to reform the UN institutional structure, but the result of the reform must meet the requirements of the present UN Security Council members plus it must acquire a broader consensus on the global level. Such international position, would certainly have a beneficial effect on the internal social and economic situation in Europe. In order to play such a constructive global role, the EU must, have the power to act rapidly and decisively in the international arena, for this reason I must once again express deep regret for the failure of the EU Constitution draft. Finally, it is of fundamental significance that our democracy frees itself from the element of fear, which is having a significant negative impact on the social cohesion of our societies.