Ireland ratifies the
Nice Treaty (2002) - Britain votes to leave the EU (2016) See
- Photo of Pim Fortuyn
(1948-2002) by Serge Ligtenberg of the Associated Press. Fortuyn, an
openly-gay sociologist, was the charismatic leader of the
"Livable Rotterdam" party and later, the "Pim
Fortuyn's List" party. As a social commentator, Fortuyn was
noted for labeling Islamic society as "backward," in part
a reference of its stance against homosexuality.
- Fortuyn's May 6 murder ended his run in
the 2002 Dutch general election on a populist platform of
anti-immigration and anti-crime, as done by Joerg Haider in Austria
and Jean-Marie Le Pen in France, figures from whom Fortuyn and his
supporters have disassociated.
Europe's doors are closing
Since the Hebrew exodus, immigrants
have always fled persecution and adversity in search of providence. Just
as always, new arrivals are met with suspicion or outright hostility by
the ones already there.
Perhaps it is political
Who are better to take the blame for a society's festering ills (i.e.,
crime and unemployment) than the least enfranchised in its midst?
Perhaps it is the fear that the identity of a successful nation – its
storied cultural heritage, enlightened civic policy and affluent
lifestyle – is not to be enhanced or shared, but fought over and taken
away. Perhaps it's simply the tribal instinct of not trusting
foreigners. Whatever it is, enough noise has been made about it of late
by the European political right to raise its profile as an outstanding
issue, if not a crisis.
is the fear that the identity of a successful nation – its storied
cultural heritage, enlightened civic policy and affluent lifestyle –
is not to be enhanced or shared, but fought over and taken away.
||In France, a once-lethargic
electorate quickly abandoned its indifference when
National Front presidential candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen, pressing for
the denial of citizenship and welfare benefits even to children born in
France to one immigrant parent, consistently won 18% of the nation's
vote during the first and second rounds of balloting. In
Austria, Italy, Denmark and Norway, rightist political parties with
anti-immigration platforms are already occupying seats of power.
There are millions of
non-natives throughout Europe at any given moment: permanent residents
of Turkish and North African descent on the Continent, South Asians in
Britain, plus itinerant professionals, laborers, students and tourists
from all over the globe. I myself am among them, twelve days or so each
year. I do not expect any turn for
the worse upon my next arrival, but then again, I am wary that I will
never outstay my welcome, when even my briefest presence will be set to
a jarring contrast against those who may be denied the wish to stay for
Charles Weng, 7 May 2002
Sweden, 17 September 2002: In
Sweden, the ruling Social Democrats have won the general election in
September, thereby preserving the prosperous nation's generous health
and education benefits. However, this apparent left-of-center mandate no
longer encompasses a liberal immigration policy. With the moderate
Liberal party also winning seats in the Parliament, the new government
is likely to enforce two following rules: (1) New immigrants will be
repatriated if they do not find legitimate work within three months of
arrival; and (2) Prospective citizens must pass a Swedish language
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of the Social Democratic Party with Foreign
Minister Joschka Fischer of the Green Party, signing the so-called
red-green coalition agreement. (AP photo)
Germany, 23 September 2002:
With only a margin of 9 seats in the Bundestag, Gerhard Schroeder's
Social Democrats narrowly won the general election, mirroring the
success in Sweden a week earlier. Its coalition with the Greens would
also nominally assure the preservation of the welfare state, despite the
shrinking tax revenues due to a 10% unemployment rate, and the impending
costs for infrastructure repair following the devastating floods in
Immigration was not a major issue as
predicted by the pundits earlier this year; it was overshadowed by the
floods and Schroeder's refusal to join the United States in an attack
against Iraq. However, to tackle with the problem of unemployment, both
the left and the right hinted labor reforms that may make Germany a
better place for foreign skilled workers.
The Netherlands, 16 October 2002:
The fledgling "Pim Fortuyn's List" party (LPF), left in
disarray after the murder of their founder, imploded in just
three months following their electoral success. As their two feuding cabinet
ministers resigned, they took the entire coalition government -- the majority Christian Democrats and the conservative VVF
-- with them, prompting a new election next January at the latest. Although
the LPF banner is surely doomed, the anti-immigration
platform that once handed them 26 out of 150 parliamentary seats is
still very much alive, readily adopted by the other parties.
It probably isn't a real concern,
but some do wonder how the interim government or the one that follows it
would honor the Dutch's prior commitments to the European Union,
especially regarding its eastward expansion by 2004 (see below).
ratifies the Nice Treaty
|Eire, 20 October 2002: The
2000 Nice Treaty, inviting ten European Union applicants (Estonia, Latvia,
Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Malta
and Cyprus, but not Turkey) to become full
members by 2004, must be ratified by all existing members. While the
parliaments of fourteen nations passed the measure, Ireland was constitutionally
obliged to leave it to a national referendum, which narrowly rejected it in June 2001.
|Indeed, it is
uniquely historic for a single nation's electorate to have such a direct
authority -- twice -- over so many other
countries on a specific yet wide-reaching issue. This time, the Irish
voters confirmed the year for an EU
expansion gala come 2004.
No matter how they voted, all people in Ireland are concerned that
their military neutrality -- in effect since independence from
Britain -- might be compromised by so many new voices in Brussels. This
has become a poignant issue in light of Britain's disposition to join the United States
in a possible invasion of Iraq, a move that is highly unpopular here.
The majority now believe their pro-Europe referendum would give them
more clout in an expanded union to preserve this vital interest.
because the EU has yet to be a military bloc à
la NATO, economics remains the the heart of the matter.
One contention against
EU expansion argues that the few jobs in Western Europe's already-tight
labor market would be lost to the Eastern Europeans, who would either
accept lower wages for their lower costs of living back home, or move
West to vie for the better pay and benefits there. The counter-argument
is that both the East and the West stand to prosper from a larger, freer
market of goods, services and ideas. Ireland, now a wealthy nation by
any standard, certainly benefited greatly from the business incentives
and lower trade barriers within the EU, enabling the economy of Emerald Isle to
undergo the dramatic transition from an agrarian exporter to a
nerve centre of high
technology and information services within three decades.
with the infusion of foreign workers in the tech sector, Irish society
is also becoming more diverse -- and less cohesive. Both sides of the
referendum do see the ever-increasing social pressures created by a greater integration of East and West, as
demonstrated for the past two decades by the reunification of Germany.
If the Europeans must compete ever harder amongst themselves for their
livelihood, imagine the predicament of non-natives coming to the
2016 update: 'Tis a Summer of Britain's Discontent (Britain votes to leave the EU)
2016 update: Rules, Brittania! (PM Theresa May forms the first post-Brexit government)
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