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How did the AUSTERITY MEASURES stimulate isolation of immigrant communities and racism among the mainstream?

, by Konstantin Manyakin

It is important to mention that EU policies have encouraged austerity measures that affected the welfare policies of nation states including Belgium and France, and that this appears to be harmful for people belonging to non-EU communities who depend on state support. Such a situation was provoked by the global recession and the eurozone crisis that began in Ireland and other Southern European nation states including Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Most EU member states were left with no other choice but to reduce spending on social programs in order to balance federal budgets and avoid any serious form of bankruptcies in the future.

“Anti Austerity Protest in the UK”

authors

  • author of “Multiculturalism in Western Europe: From Implementation to Failure”

These policies were implemented since the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union better known as the European Fiscal Compact [1], which was signed and ratified by most European states, except for the United Kingdom and Czech Republic, on March 2012. It took effect on January 1, 2013 and in Belgium on April 1, 2014. This policy is based on toughening social support and increasing spending cuts for national budgets. Strict requirements include that a government deficit may not exceed 0.5% of the national GDP and government debt to gross domestic product must not exceed 60%, and must be annually reduced by one twentieth of the difference between 60% and the current level, if above. If the member state does not fulfill any of these measures, then the country would face the fine of up to 0.1% of the GDP that will be paid to the EU institutions and will also not get any financial support from other member states. To meet such requirements, EU member states have to reduce spending on many social programs, which includes welfare support.

This is especially tough for countries such as the French Republic and the Kingdom of Belgium, which faces serious problems with debt and budget deficit. For example, even in recent years, the French government is struggling to meet its budget deficit target. Since 2009, European officials gave three special extensions of deadlines for France to meet its target by 2017, as its end of 2014 level is 4% and projected to drop to 3.8% by the end of the 2015 year [2]. Nevertheless, its government to debt ratio is enormous and continues to increase, and is currently at 95%. The current left-wing French government must reduce spending and cannot afford to pay enough benefits or other forms of social support for the people living in ghettoized areas, especially when unemployment is relatively high among French citizens and the country is experiencing slow economic growth. The Kingdom of Belgium is progressing well with its current budget deficit which was at 3.2% at the end of 2014. Nevertheless, its 2008-2009 banking crisis caused serious changes to the debt-GDP-ratio which was at 106.5% at the end of the 2014 year. Therefore, authorities will continue to reduce the government spending on many social programs including welfare and will even impact much more on the most disadvantaged layer, including people belonging to foreign origin [3].

The European Fiscal Compact does not directly undermine the policies of ethnic recognition and tolerance, but its indirect effect may seriously diminish security and support for the poorer and the most disadvantaged layers of the European society [4]. Although those measures are not particularly directed at immigrants, some experts claim that the austerity policies are partly responsible for the social exclusion and increasing the poverty, especially for the most vulnerable members of society, among whom are considered to be people belonging to non-EU origin [5]. Furthermore, it is also responsible for the cultural exclusion as well, as many left-wing parties claim that these austerity policies were somehow responsible for the radicalization of the youth of immigrant descent. Even the least vulnerable citizens, among both EU and non-EU residents, must pay higher taxes to fulfill the European austerity program of balancing the budgets. This situation limits even the most successful non-EU civilians from providing better standards of living in the future.

Regardless of the fact that the United Kingdom did not ratify and join the European Fiscal Compact, the fiscally conservative government of David Cameron has adopted its own austerity measures. Since taking power in 2010, the British Prime Minister has undermined many principles of the New Labour policies, implemented by predecessors Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, by significantly reducing spending on welfare benefits and social housing. During this event, rioters were not only conducted by groups of mostly jobless and uneducated youth, but there was a high proportion of black and south Asian young people along with “whites who were experiencing the same deprived social and economic conditions” [6]. Among charged criminals, only 33% were white, 46% were black citizens, and 15% were of Asian descent [7]. Aside from this, these austerity policies that brought about a higher unemployment level for nation states were consequently partially responsible for the growing popularity of the ultra-conservative and far-right parties, such as Front National headed by Marine Le Pen in France and Nigel Farage’s United Kingdom Independence party. Their supporters are filled with mainstream protesters who hold anti-immigrant and even racist views regarding foreigners and their descendants, blaming them for stealing jobs and taking away the taxpayers’ money for welfare and housing needs. Therefore, this factor led to the emergence of an anti-immigrant debate on the political levels of both the EU and its nation-states. Indeed, during elections of May 2014, in Britain and France, Front National and parties succeeded in winning majority seats in the European Parliament, and in winning a significant number of votes in the French municipal and regional elections, and the UK general election in May 2015. Such popularity led to leaders Nigel Farage and Marine Le Pen becoming more mainstream, and openly criticizing multiculturalist policies of integrating ethnic and religious minorities within mainstream societies. They demand that jobs be created for native British and French citizens by removing foreign workers from the labour market [8] [9].

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REFERENCES (NOTE: This article was adapted from the MA Thesis – Multiculturalism in Western Europe: From Implementation to Failure - by Konstantin Manyakin)

Footnotes

[1Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union. Available at http://www.european-council.europa.eu/media/579087/treaty.pdf

[2Trading Economics (2015) ’Belgium Government Debt to GDP’ http://www.tradingeconomics.com/belgium/government-debt-to-gdp

[3Trading Economics (2015) ’France Government Debt to GDP’. http://www.tradingeconomics.com/france/government-debt-to-gdp

[4Malkin, B. (2013) ’’Millions more’ Europeans at risk of poverty if austerity drags on’. The Telegraph, 12 September. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/eu/10303621/Millions-more-Europeans-at-risk-of-poverty-if-austerity-drags-on.html

[5EU Observer (2015) ’Socialists blame austerity for radicalizing Europe’s youth’. 21 April. Available at: https://euobserver.com/tickers/128400

[6Panayi, P. (2000) An Ethnic History of Europe since 1945: Nations, States and Minorities. Harlow: Longman. (page 154)

[7BBC (2011) ’English Rioters ’poorer, younger, less educated’. 24 October. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-15426720

[8Eychenne, A. (2012) ’Racisme anti-blanc: Copé sur les terres du Front national’. L’Express, 26 September. Available at: http://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/politique/racisme-anti-blanc-jean-francois-cope-sur-les-terres-du-front-national_1166331.html#Gzik8JjeLGtDHRFu.99

[9The Guardian (2014) ’British workers filling majority of low-skilled job openings’. 19 February. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/feb/19/british-workers-low-skilled-jobs