Greece: citizenship for children of immigrants?

In between trying to deal with one of Europe’s worst economic crises and a crippling series of strikes, the Papandreou government in Greece has introduced a new immigration law. It would allow the children of immigrants to apply for Greek citizenship, provided that

(1) their parents have lived legally in Greece for at least 10 years, and
(2) the child has completed at least three years of schooling in Greece.

By one estimate, over 250,000 children and young adults would qualify for citizenship. As many as 100,000 of those may be of voting age.

This is a huge, huge deal. In order to understand why, you have to understand the odd position of immigrants in Greek society. Continue reading

Spain’s postnational local election?

Richard Corbett MEP directs us to this BBC report on Spain’s rash of political parties dominated by immigrants from other European countries, especially Germany and Britain. In one municipality, San Fulgencio, there are some three such parties, including one run by a former policeman that declares its opposition to immigration.

This immediately raises an interesting question of language. As Corbett points out, the BBC reporter refers throughout to “ex-pats”, who are apparently something quite different to “immigrants”. I am an expatriate, you are a local, he is an immigrant, they are bogus asylum seekers taking our jobs? I suppose it’s not surprising that these large, usually politically silent, communities should export their political preferences with them – one can well imagine people who fit into UKIP, the BNP, or the Tory hard right fitting into what Edward Hugh calls Spanish separatism.

Certainly, we can discern a progression through perhaps three phases. To begin with, these places were tourist resorts (hence the infrastructure problems that motivate much of this political activity, the lead times being long). Then they began to be retirement communities, with the demographic shift and the run-up of the property market. Now, interestingly, not only are the retirees living longer, but the expat (or immigrant!) population is getting younger, in a symbiotic process with the appearance of an expat economy.

Tourists are politically irrelevant, at least in the context of an open society. Retirement communities may have been thought to be so. If people have families and businesses, though, they can’t help but have interests that are affected by local politics. Corbett raises an interesting point when he postulates a British Polish Party. After all, they would be starting at stage three already, although the fact a lot of them intend to leave would be a countervailing force.

I wonder how many more extranational political parties the EU will see?

Italy’s Supply Constraint

The OECD estimates the current potential capacity growth rate of the Italian economy at 1.25% a year. Actually I suspect even this very low number is over-optimistic. Growth since 2002 has been as follows: 2003 – 0.1%: 2004 – 0.9%: 2005 – 0.1%. To be sure forecast growth for this year is somewhat higher, at 1.4%, and optimists are expecting this to be more or less repeated next year. But I suspect this outcome is unlikely simply because the global economy now seems to be slowing (and in particular the ever important US economy),so the strongly advantageous situation of 2006 is unlikely to be repeated, while next year the Italian government has promised to introduce an important package of spending reductions which are bound to negatively affect growth, at least in the short term..

But why is potential growth capacity in Italy so low?
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Xenophobia and human nature

There has been some cricket chirping on AFOE the past few days, so allow me to make a little bit of noise here and chase them away.

Amnesty International has a new report out, called Russian Federation – Violent racism out of control. I shall quote part of the report below the fold and ask some questions to our readers.
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Who is my neighbour?

Who was the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany? Diagramme his family tree (paternal and maternal) back to the 14th century.

Germans have been shocked lately to discover that a lot of their schools suck.

The schools in question are typically Hauptschulen, the lowest in the tripartite German division of secondary schools (the others are the Realschulen and the Gymnasien.) Traditionally, the Hauptschule was designed to ensure a basic education while providing vocational training and facilitating its pupils’ entry into an apprenticeship. Not all that long ago, people in other countries looked upon Germany’s programme of vocational education with considerable envy.

Things fall apart, alas, and the centre cannot hold. These days many German firms can select their apprentices from out of the ‘higher-class’ Realschulen, and many inner-city Hauptschulen have become mere dumping-grounds. Worse, they are all (or are all perceived at this moment by the populace to be) festering hotbeds of nigh-American levels of intra-schoolchild violence, though there might be rather fewer firearms in the schoolrooms.

But what has really grabbed the Germans by the collar about this issue is that it is not really about schools. Rather, it is about the very serious question of what it means to be a German. Or, as all too many Germans see it, it is about the strangers among us.

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Hot Labour Anyone?

This post has one sovereign virtue: apart from in the current sentence it will not refer, either directly or indirectly, to the Catalan Statute. The topic it does deal with however is probably equally vital for the future of Spain. The issue is Spain’s housing boom, and the role of immigration in fuelling it. Two facts above all others stand out: Spain is currently ‘enjoying’ the longest and deepest housing boom (in the current round) among all the world’s developed economies (see this useful article from the Economist, or this one from Business Week), and Spain is also enjoying sustained rates of immigration which – at around 2% of the population per annum, may well be the most intense ever experienced in a developed economy. For purposes of comparison I could point out that Spain’s net migration rate of 17.6 per thousand in 2003 contrasts sharply with that recorded for the old European Union 15 for the same year – 5.4 per thousand – and is even well above the level recorded by Germany in the early 1990s – a maximum of 9.6 per thousand in 1992 – or by France in the early 1970s. So there is a housing boom, and there is immigration, the question is, what is the connection?
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Spain’s Immigration

As Spanish commenter Pepe would probably say, ‘hot labour’ is moving into Spain at a nifty clip: 2% of the total population per annum. In 2004 the number increased by 700,000. Last year, although we don’t have the numbers yet there was probably the same number or more. Here is a story from El Pais which was linked-to in the IHT based on this press release (in Spanish). Note that these numbers are for 1 January 2005, we still have to add 2006.

The number of immigrants in Spain rose last year to the equivalent of 8.5 percent of the total population as of January 1, 2005, according to figures released on Tuesday by the National Statistics Institute (INE). Of the total 44.1 million people registered as residents, 3.7 million were non-Spanish. The total population rose 2.1 percent from the year-earlier figure, while the number of immigrants rose 23 percent from the figures released on January 1, 2004.

The regions that registered the largest rise in population were Catalonia, Andalusia, Madrid and Valencia, largely due to immigration. Only in the North African enclave of Melilla did the population decrease, the INE said.

The largest immigrant group hails from Ecuador with 475,698 residents, followed by Morocco with 420,556, Colombia with 248,894, Romania with 207,960 and Britain with 174,810.

For towns with more than 10,000 inhabitants, Rojales in Alicante boasts the largest percentage of foreign-born residents. Of the total population of 13,807, 65.3 percent are immigrants, the INE said. Rojales, about 35 kilometers from Alicante, is a popular spot for British citizens to buy vacation and retirement homes.

In November, the Center for Sociological Research (CIS) released a survey showing that three out of every five Spaniards responded that there are too many immigrants in Spain. Immigration also was shown to be the second-most important problem for Spaniards (40 percent) after unemployment (54.1 percent) and ahead of terrorism (25.3 percent).

Nevertheless, the same survey showed that nearly 61 percent of Spaniards feel immigrants should have the right to vote in local elections, while 53.4 percent would extend that right to national elections.

African Migrants ‘Dumped’ In The Desert

The scandal of recent days surrounding the ‘policing’ of the EU’s southern frontier in Ceuta and Melilla continues. Yesterday Spanish TV was full of images and reports from a group of 500 or so Africans who were bused and dumped in the desert hundreds of kilometres from reasonable sources of food ands water. The EU observer also reports on a “technical mission” of EU officials who flew to Melilla and Ceuta over the weekend “to investigate illegal immigration patterns” and evaluate the gravity of last week’s clashes, which left a minimum of 10 migrants dead.

A commission spokesman the same day reiterated that pressure is being put on Morocco to re-admit Sub-Saharan immigrants.

But Brussels’ comment came just as Medecins sans Frontieres announced that over 500 mostly Sub-Saharan immigrants had been found “in bad shape” in the desert area of Auoina-Souatar near the Morocco-Algerian border, with the NGO claiming that they had been abandoned there by the Moroccan authorities.

Volunteers of another international NGO, SOS Racisme, said 24 immigrants, out of which many had previously applied for asylum in Spain, had died of thirst in similar circumstances.

On top of this, Javier Sancho of Medecins sans Frontieres told EUobserver that several of the immigrants had “injuries of the kind that are inflicted by sticks or hits, or by the rubber batons used by Spanish border police”.

A modest proposal for CAP reform

I’ve been in Canada for the last month, getting in my last family visit before settling in to the serious business of either going back to school or collecting unemployment checks. My family is large – Great-Grandpa had 25 children, and Grandpa had 9 – so it takes a while if you go to see my family. Ours is a large, disorganised, occasionally frightening clan who, depending on pure whim, identifies itself as either German-Canadian, Dutch-Canadian, Russian-Canadian or Ukrainian-Canadian. Our tribal language is an obscure dialect of Low Saxon (Platt for the actual Germans out there) spoken primarily in Paraguay, Mexico, Central America and Saskatchewan, and whose most famous speaker is, arguably, Homer Simpson. It’s a long story, don’t ask. It not being much of a literary language, we all just say our ancestors spoke German – the liturgical language of my clan’s particular sect.

In contrast to Europe and the US, Canadians are a lot less disturbed about asking people about their ethnic identities or expressing some loyalty to them. I guess the main reason is that Canada has never really pretended to be a nation built atop an identity, but rather a place where an identity of sorts has slowly built up from the existence of a nation. There is no Canadian myth of the melting pot, and as our soon-to-be new Governor General has demonstrated, no serious demand for nativism in public office. Michaëlle Jean, who is slated to be the powerless and unelected Canadian head-of-state when the Queen is out of the country – e.g., practically always – when she is sworn in on the 27th, is no doubt the most attractive candidate we’ve ever had for the office. And, like her predecessor, she is a former CBC/SRC reporter and talking head.

Ms Jean and I share an endemically Canadian charateristic: We both can and do identify ourselves shamelessly as several different kinds of hyphenated Canadians. She is French Canadian, but that’s hardly strange. She is also Franco-Canadian – Ms Jean has dual citizenship with France, making her the first EU citizen to be Governor General of Canada and the first French citizen to be acting head of state of Canada since 1763. But more unprecedentedly, she is Haitian-Canadian and – as logically follows – African-Canadian.

Yes, Ms Jean is black, and furthermore in an interracial marriage. Well, that’s Canada for you. America puts black folk in squalid emergency shelters, we put ours in Rideau Hall.
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Human Capital And Trade Deficits

Michael Mandel had an interesting take on the US trade deficit in Business Week earlier this month (btw: he also has a weblog).

His opinion is that the US trade deficit isn’t as big a deal as people often think. One of the reasons: that the ongoing import of human capital into the US (which of course isn’t measured in the trading accounts ledger) more than compensates for the deficit:

But get with the 21st century, folks. The trade in goods and services represents only one part of America’s connection with the rest of the world. What’s equally important — and what the trade numbers miss completely — is the incredible flow of people into the country. Each year, the U.S. receives about 700,000 legal immigrants, as well as a host of temporary skilled workers and undocumented immigrants.

Now I wouldn’t go down the same road as Mandel with the deficit question per se, but he obviously raises an interesting point here – and one, of course, that immediately strikes a chord with me.
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