Skip to main content

A European Approach to Multicultural Citizenship Legal Political and Educational Challenges

Final Report Summary - EMILIE (A European Approach to Multicultural Citizenship Legal Political and Educational Challenges)

Today, after the previously widespread multicultural citizenship debates and multicultural policy developments of the 1990s, we are witnessing a change of direction. The upsurge of international terrorism since 2001 has led to the increasing securitization of migration and integration agendas. In this context of high security awareness, existing models and policies of immigrant integration and the accommodation of cultural, religious and ethnic diversity are being questioned. The governments of several 'old immigration hosts' like Britain, France, and Belgium are now tempted to adopt assimilationist approaches to counteract what they perceive as a (relative) failure of their former cultural diversity policies. 'Recent hosts' like Greece or Spain and 'old hosts' which did not accept their having become immigrant hosts (for example, Germany) find it even harder to adopt a multicultural approach even if political elites recognise the need to integrate immigrants. The situation is even more tense in new EU Member States like Poland which find themselves under double pressure-firstly, to address intra-EU emigration issues and, secondly, to introduce all EU-directed anti-immigration provisions while avoiding a politicization of the issue. Last but not least, the case of the Baltic countries (e.g. Latvia) where some of their former residents have been converted to 'immigrants' - in the wider legal and sociological sense of the term - after national independence in 1991, pose even more complex problems of accommodating and integrating diversity in their new socio-political context.

This project has had a twofold objective. At the empirical and policy level, we highlight some of the weaknesses, the ambivalence and the major challenges of immigrant integration policy in Europe today. At the theoretical level, we argue that the debate on integrating diversity, multiculturalism and citizenship has to be context-oriented, and we develop new theoretical insights related to the specific European context. In Europe, multiculturalism challenges relate mainly to the successful integration and participation of Muslim citizens and residents into European societies. We therefore concentrate our empirical and theoretical inquiries on immigrant minority claims, with a special focus on Muslim immigrants, the value issues entrenched in them and the related policy challenges and measures adopted to address them.

The project has an emphasis both at the national and the European level. We investigate in depth the national debates and approaches to accommodating diversity but we also question to what extent some debates, policy challenges and best practices have a European currency. We question to what extent there are common value conflicts to be found in the different European countries, or possibly common values that underpin feasible policy solutions. We question the secularised character of European societies and the perceived importance of religion as an element of cohesion or divergence in European societies. We also investigate the extent to which best practices can be transferred among countries in Europe.

It is clear from the political mood and practical proposals across Europe that ethno-religious separatism is regarded as the most undesirable outcome and for many assimilationism as a policy is regarded as impractical if not also unjust. Recent events, especially suspicion and anxiety about Muslims and whether they are 'integrating' means that the following four political orientations may be the main recommendations in (Western) Europe, with each taking socio-economic integration (anti-discrimination and countering of social disadvantage) and a certain amount of liberalism (individual rights) as a given.

While there is some convergence across the EU in terms of increased emphasis on anti-discrimination and equality of opportunity, on the one hand, and the rights and duties of citizenship, on the other hand, there is also a valorisation of national identities as a response to anxieties about failures of integration. Moreover, it is clear from the discussion of different European regions that national identities are not being completely universalised or liberalised; rather some degree of particularity is both pragmatically necessary but also justifiable within a variety of ideational and empirical political orientations, including 'national cohesion', 'republicanism' and 'multicultural citizenship'. That is to say that where we are currently witnessing various political projects of remaking and updating national identities they are not being de-particularised.

The evidence from the EMILIE is that very few EU Member States appear to be going beyond (i) and even in relation to (i) there are significant imbalances and deficits. And while there is a repeated concern to cultivate and inculcate certain kinds of values, and public morality, these vary enormously in different contexts. This is further influenced by weak and strong forms of sub-state nationalism and regionalism. As such, those states that bear strong political orientations toward 'national cohesion' promote a conception of citizenship that comprises novel syntheses of nationalism and liberalism.

An academic workshop on migration and diversity challenges in Europe was organised in Berlin at the Technical University on Thursday 24 September 2009. The workshop concentrated on the theoretical and conceptual dimensions related to cultural diversity; multiculturalism and the challenges it faces in today's rapidly changing European societies; the particular issues raised by religion in this context; and finally, the notion of multicultural citizenship.

Related documents