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Immigration, social cohesion and right-wing populism seminar

  • Date(s)
    22 February 2007
  • Location
    East London


Following a previous successful seminar last October, where 40 international and UK experts analysed and discussed the changing nature and scope of immigration into Western societies, the second Policy Network/ Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Foundation seminar was held on Thursday 22nd and Friday 23rd February 2007.

The seminar focused on immigration, social cohesion and the right wing populist movements in Europe.

The problems associated with mass immigration in Europe not only tend to alienate immigrant communities, but also traditional communities in the host countries. Working and lower-middle class communities - generally a core electorate of centre-left parties - show a growing tendency to desert these parties and look to other, populist electoral options.

The defeat of Lionel Jospin in the last French presidential elections, the election results of the PvdA in the Netherlands in 2002, the success of the Vlaams Belang in Belgium, Lega Norte in Italy or the rise of right wing populist movements in Austria and, at a regional level, in Germany, are all examples of this tendency.

Furthermore, all industrialized countries face a decline of traditional institutions and communities, and a need to define new bases of solidarity and respect in an ethnically and culturally diverse world.

Based on the assumption that multicultural societies make it increasingly difficult to generate feelings of national solidarity and trust across ethnic/racial lines, some argue that policies which recognize or accommodate ethnic groups tend to further undermine national solidarity and trust. According to this line of argument, there is a trade-off between diversity and solidarity, and this threatens to destroy the traditional European welfare states.

In order to avoid the political exploitation of these issues by the right, the centre-left must come up with its own idea of citizenship to rebuild a collective sense of obligation and strengthen a sense of common identity.

Aim of the seminar

The conference was part of a series of activities with an aim to contribute to the formulation of a basic European centre left consensus on how to deal with the challenges of integration and disseminate “best-practice”-experiences at the various levels of governance.

Part of this aim is to develop strategies to bridge the growing political gap between former core electoral constituencies and centre-left parties in Europe.

Our seminar involved around 40 senior politicians, government advisors and renowned experts from across Europe, including John Reid (British Home Secretary), Liam Byrne (British Minister for immigration), Dieter Wiefelspütz (Spokesperson of the parliamentary group of the German SPD on domestic politics), and Jeroen Dijsselbloem (Dutch Labour Party’s Home Affairs Spokesperson).

 

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