Posts Tagged ‘crime’

Treating immigrants as individuals enhances integration – Cepos

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

By Michael de Laine, Copenhagen, 13th October 2009

Almost a third of the people in Denmark believe that the consequences of immigration are mainly negative, while nearly one-fifth believe the consequences are mainly positive, the Cepos think-tank says in a new note about immigration. The negative attitude is related more to societal problems arising from immigration than to the differences between immigrants and Danes. Immigrants say they must be treated as individuals to enhance integration.

While 47% of the people in Denmark believe that the positive and negative consequences of immigration are equally divided, 32% believe that the consequences of immigration are ‘more negative than positive’ or ‘exclusively negative’, and 18% believe the consequences are ‘more positive than negative’ or ‘exclusively positive’.

Cepos says that although the general attitude cannot be said to predominantly negative, the aggregate result does have a negative trendThe negative attitude is related more to societal problems arising from immigration than to the differences between immigrants and Danes, the think-tank adds.

To discover what actually drives the scepticism towards immigration, Cepos commissioned Statistics Denmark to conduct a questionnaire study focusing on a number of concrete problems that are related to immigration in the public debate.

The Cepos report shows that people living in Denmark believe there are real problems arising from immigration. For example, 70% of the people asked said they believe it to be a problem that women have other rights among ethnic minorities; 68% saw the different behaviour of male children of non-western immigrants in school compared with boys of ethnic Danish parents as a problem; that comparatively more non-western immigrants commit crimes that ethnic Danes is a problem according to 67% of those asked; and 65% said it is a problem that non-western immigrants are often more religious than ethnic Danes.

Coupling the assessments of the consequences of immigration held by the people asked to their assessment of problem areas, societal problems such as unemployment, crime, and problems at school are more important in the overall assessment than aspects related to adaptation in private life, such as degree of religious affiliation and attitude towards alcohol, Cepos says.

The think-tank added that social position has significant importance for the attitudes of the people asked: people with higher incomes are more concerned about social integration than people with low incomes, it says.

On the basis of this study, the conclusion must be that Danes are not as negative towards the consequences of immigration as the picture that is often painted,” Cepos said. “At the same time the report shows that negative attitude that does exist is related more to societal problems arising from immigration than to the differences between immigrants and Danes.

If you want a more positive attitude to immigration among Danes, the greatest positive effect will arise through policies that solve these problems – such as an effective judicial policy, greater motivation to join the labour market and greater consequences for disturbances at school,” the Cepos think-tank says.

Referring to the chapter on Denmark in a report entitled ‘Muslims in EU Cities’, published in 2007 by the EU Monitoring and Advocacy Program (EUMAP), sociologist Mustafa Hussain, an external lecturer at the Roskilde University Centre, told a meeting yesterday arranged by the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) that 70% of Muslims living in Copenhagen’s Nørrebro district – as well as 50% of the district’s inhabitants generally – say that, over the past five years, they have seen a rise in prejudice against people showing their religious affiliations.

Danes are the people in the European Union showing the greatest Islamophobia,” he added.

According to the EUMAP report, one of the most debated publications has been a nationwide survey of the attitude of Danes towards ethnic minorities. This found that 37% of Danes would not like a Muslim for a neighbour, but, interestingly, when the adjective ‘Muslim’ was replaced by ‘a person from another race’, the proportion fell to 18%.

The report adds that there are two main schools of thought on public perceptions of Muslims in Denmark.

The first finds that there has been no significant change in the public attitudes towards the immigrants, and that intolerance towards Muslims is rather a reflection of the fact that Danes are overwhelmingly secularised,” the report states. “By contrast, the other school finds that the situation has deteriorated since the late 1980s and that there has been a change of direction in perception, attitudes and institutional behaviour.”

In comparison with other EU countries, the EUMAP report notes, much of the research on perception and attitudes in Denmark remains at a rudimentary stage. Nonetheless, it can be concluded that the ways in which Muslims are talked about in the public sphere and the daily media reduces the complexity of the cultural variations among Muslims and reproduces the existing stereotypes of them.

Ethnic relations have become much more strained today, and intolerance and right-wing extremism has increased,” the report states. “Public opinion has become more critical towards Muslims, who, in the popular perception, are conceived as a culturally homogenous group of ‘foreigners’ and a binary opposition of all that is Danish. Domestic observers and social science researchers have noted lately that Denmark, with its Muslim population of barely 170,000, has become a staunchly anti-Muslim nation. After some of the most obnoxious xenophobic propaganda during the general elections in November 2001, Denmark attracted a great deal of international criticism.”

Asmaa Abdol-Hamid and other speakers told the meeting that Muslims are not a homogeneous group – they come from many countries and the religion they share is actually made up of several sets of belief and sects. 

Asmaa Abdol-Hamid, a social worker and politician, argued that immigrants – no matter what their background is – should be treated as individuals, as this would help the integration process, which is really something that occurs in people’s minds.

The tone of the public debate on integration is a burden on immigrants, who feel that it is more and more difficult to achieve ‘Danishness’ as the definition of Danish culture becomes increasingly narrow.

Analysts question whether EU will fully implement its Baltic Sea strategy

Friday, September 18th, 2009

By Michael de Laine, Copenhagen, 18th September 2009

EU leaders meeting in Stockholm have discussed the European Union’s Baltic Sea strategy. The Swedish EU Presidency confirmed that the EU heads of state and government are expected to adopt the strategy at the end of October. But analysts question whether the EU will fully implement its Baltic Sea strategy as words in the past have often not been followed by action.

The Swedish EU Presidency of the European Union confirmed today that the EU heads of state and government are expected to adopt the EU’s Baltic Sea strategy at the end of October.

The announcement came after representatives of the European Parliament, the European Commission, the European Investment Bank and European Union member states, together with Toomas Ilves, President of Estonia and Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt discussed the strategy at a meeting in Stockholm.

The strategy indicates that rapid action is needed to clean up the Baltic Sea.

“The environmental objective ranks as a high priority based on the urgency of addressing the ecological and environmental decline of the Baltic Sea in particular,” said the working group that prepared the action plan for the Baltic Sea strategy. “Whilst the development of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region also needs to address environmental concerns in land areas, the priority given to the marine environment reflects the 2007 European Council conclusions, highlighting that the strategy for the Baltic Sea region must address the urgent environmental challenges related to the Baltic Sea.

“Fulfilment of this objective will also secure the full economic potential of the goods and services provided by the marine ecosystem, thereby improving the well-being and health of people living in the region, and in line with the overall objectives of the Integrated Maritime Policy. The action plan introduces the notion of interdependence of countries in the Baltic Sea region in the field of environment, especially with regard to the pollution of the Baltic Sea.”

The idea behind the strategy for the Baltic Sea is to use the existing EU legislative programmes, to combine funding sources, and to get farming to become more efficient.

The strategy rests on four pillars (environmental sustainability, prosperity, accessibility and attractiveness, and safety and security) and 15 priority areas representing the main areas where the strategy can contribute to improvements (either through tackling the main challenges or through seizing the main opportunities); each priority areas will be the responsibility of one (sometimes several) EU member, which will involve all relevant stakeholders.

The ‘environmental sustainability’ pillar covers:

  • Reducing nutrient inputs to the sea to acceptable levels
  • Preserving natural zones and biodiversity, including fisheries
  • Reducing the use and impact of hazardous substances
  • Becoming a model region for clean shipping
  • Mitigating and adapting to climate change

The ‘prosperity’ pillar covers:

  • Removing barriers to the internal market in the Baltic Sea Region including improving cooperation in the customs and tax area
  • Exploiting the full potential of the region in research and innovation
  • Implementing the Small Business Act: to promote entrepreneurship, strengthen small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and increase the efficient use of human resources
  • Reinforcing the sustainability of agriculture, forestry and fisheries

The ‘accessibility and attractiveness’ pillar covers:

  • Improving the access to, and the efficiency and security of, the energy markets
  • Improving internal and external transport links
  • Maintaining and reinforcing the attractiveness of the Baltic Sea Region in particular through education, tourism and health

The ‘safety and security’ pillar covers:

  • Becoming a leading region in maritime safety and security
  • Reinforcing protection from major emergencies at sea and on land
  • Decreasing the volume of, and harm done by, cross-border crime

Described as a key instrument in promoting territorial cohesion with both land and maritime dimensions, the European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region is thus much broader than cleaning up the Baltic Sea.

In this way, the working group said, “the strategy aims at ensuring that policies at all levels (local, regional, national and at the level of the European Union both for the maritime and terrestrial policies) all contribute to a competitive, cohesive and sustainable development of the region.”

But the working group warned that the current economic crisis affects the actions and flagship projects presented in each section of the action plan.

“This implies a less-favourable climate for investment, affecting both public sectors and private business generally,” the working group said. “This makes it all the more essential that the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region allows the partners in the region to take a longer perspective, recognising that when this crisis has passed the regions that have best prepared will be those best equipped to take advantage of the new opportunities and innovations.”

The European Commission, which considers the proposed actions to be important, suggests that EU members use the crisis as an opportunity to review their priorities.

“In particular, it is an opportunity to pay special attention to the quality of life of citizens which requires a sustainable environment,” the European Commission said. “In addition, the crisis may change the focus of enterprises who may consider it wise to seize the business opportunities of the future in the ‘green businesses’. Moreover, the actions proposed could form part of any national recovery packages as they are likely to create jobs during implementation (e.g. transport and energy infrastructures) and afterwards through an increased accessibility and attractiveness of the region thereby creating economic growth.”

“The Baltic Sea strategy largely has what it takes to become a success,” said Carsten Schymik of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in ‘Blueprint for a macro-region’, an analysis of the strategy. “Its policy priorities – environment, economy, infrastructure, security – are reasonably well chosen and largely in line with the issue agenda as it is perceived by regional stakeholders.

“However, it is questionable whether the EU strategy will be fully implemented. Neither insightful analysis of regional problems nor proposals for their solution have been in short supply in the past. Yet words have often not been followed by action.”

Schymik said the main obstacle does not seem to be a lack of financial resources, more a lack of political will.

“Although the Baltic Sea strategy fails to receive additional funding from the EU budget, the existing funds have the advantage of being available even under the changed circumstances of the global financial and economic crisis,” he said. “Rather, it is decisive to generate the political will to implement the strategy. This conclusion underscores the relevance of politics as a precondition for the strategy to become a successful model test.”

In his analysis of the EU’s Baltic Sea strategy, Schymik said, “The action plan needs further fine-tuning with regard to deadlines, funding sources and responsible lead partners. Its greatest weakness, though, is a lack of measurable objectives or benchmarks, which would facilitate the progress review of the strategy… So far, benchmarks are only to be found in the environmental pillar of the strategy, at least to the extent that this pillar is based on the Helsinki Commission’s action plan for the Baltic Sea.”

Schymik added that the success of the strategy requires a strong impetus for regional cooperation, a new dynamism that cannot be built upon the prospect of acquiring additional funding or creating new institutions. Nevertheless, the present strategy contains a promising element – the ‘Annual Forum’.

“The idea of an annual forum should be seen as an opportunity to address one of the problems frequently referred to by regional stakeholders, namely the confusing multiplicity of regional networks and organisations, many of them working towards similar goals,” Schymik said. “Such a forum will not necessarily reduce the number of institutional actors in the region, but it could be instrumental to make the regional discourse more structured and focused. It could become a rallying point for the entire Baltic Sea Region.”

He envisaged the annual forum growing into a major event involving a variety of networks and organisations active in the region such as the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS), the Baltic Sea States Subregional Co-operation (BSSSC), the Union of the Baltic Cities (UBC), the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference (BSPC), the Nordic Council (NC), the Baltic Assembly (BA), the Baltic Sea Trade Union Network (BASTUN), the Baltic Development Forum (BDF), and the NGO Forum.

In addition, Schymik said, Russia’s role in the context of the strategy remains unclear. In contrast to Norway, Russia did not participate in the consultation process, nor has it given an opinion about the Baltic Sea strategy.

“Russia’s involvement thus remains a matter of discussion and a challenge for the EU and its member states in the Baltic Sea region,” Schymik said. “It would be useful to examine the present state of affairs of EU-Russia relations in the region, based on the question to what extent Russia must, can or may participate in the strategy in order to make it a success. In light of such an analysis it could be considered offering Russia a comprehensive partnership in the framework of the Baltic Sea strategy.”

A survey conducted by the Baltic Sea Unit of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) noted that EU’s Baltic Sea strategy is designed to deliver a more prosperous, environmentally sound, accessible and safe region.

“Hopes for implementing the strategy and reaching its goals are generally high, but are they too high?” the agency asked.

“We believe not and we agree with one of our respondents who maintained that the hopes entailed in the strategy are modest hopes compared to the advances already made in recent decades,” say Thomas Johansson and Mikael Olsson of the Baltic Sea Unit.

But, they said, contacts across this new Mare Nostrum of the EU are not yet intensive enough. This is a worrisome situation, because contacts are the key to generating awareness and fencing off ignorance. In its turn, awareness is a prerequisite for intuitive regional thinking.

“However, at present we still do not know our neighbours well enough to make them a natural first choice when faced with a need or situation of some kind,” added Johansson and Olsson. “Clearly, if thinking and acting regionally is to become the rule rather than the exception, continued attention must be paid to the role of contacts and unprejudiced awareness of the opportunities available in the region.”

Connecting the Baltic Sea region to the surrounding world thus remains a high priority issue, also in the years to come, they said.

Click here to go to the Sida website.

Click here to go to the Helsinki Commission website.