July 2007 Volume 14 Number 3
France, Germany, Switzerland
Nicolas Sarkozy became the first president of France born after World War II, winning 53 percent of the vote on May 6, 2007. Sarkozy promised to be tough with alienated, second-generation immigrant youth, many of whom live in high-rise apartments in suburban areas. Anti-immigrant candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen, who finished second in 2002 voting with almost 17 percent of the vote, received only 10 percent in April 2007 elections.
Sarkozy created a ministry of Immigration, Integration, National Identity and Co-Development. Its head, Brice Hortefeux, in May 2007 said that he would consider expanding a program that pays up to E6,000 for a family with two children to leave France (3,000 families left in 2005-06). A bill to be debated in September 2007 would require immigrants coming to France to join family members settled there to pass tests of French and French values.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, visiting Mali in June 2007, said that France would not accept waves of illegal African migrants: "I understand the reason for this illegal immigration... Returns must be expected. ... France cannot accept all the world's poor."
France issued 185,000 residence permits in 2005, but only seven percent were to foreigners arriving in France because employers requested them by name. Sarkozy said that he wants half of French immigrants to be coming for economic/employment reasons.
EU commissioner Franco Frattini has endorsed a campaign to encourage illegal migrants to leave and enter the EU legally, and said that return bonuses would be appropriate to induce returns. The EU has a E676 million return fund for the 2008-13 period.
France faces significant economic challenges, with the fastest-growing public debt in Europe, high unemployment, entrenched protectionism, a bloated public sector and concerns about both immigration and the failure to integrate ethnic Arab and African populations. The unemployment rate for foreign-born men in 2006 was 14 percent, compared to eight percent for native-born men; about 17 percent of foreign-born women were jobless, compared to 10 percent of native-born women.
France has set new quotas for the number of illegal immigrants authorities should arrest and deport each month. Brice Hortefeux, who heads the newly created Ministry of Immigration, Integration, National Identity and Co-Development, has a goal of 25,000 expulsions by the end of 2007, compared to 24,000 in 2006. He also hopes to have 125,000 arrests for illegal entry or illegal residence by the end of the year.
Germany. In April 2007, the government announced that foreigners who have been legally "tolerated" in Germany at least eight years (six years for families) and can speak German can apply for temporary German resident permits. There are about 171,000 tolerated foreigners in Germany.
The German government is considering a point system to select immigrants on the basis of age, education and other criteria. More Germans emigrated in 2006 than returned, which was the second net loss in a row, exacerbating the existing population decline. It has become especially difficult to fill positions in engineering, medicine, nursing and farming.
Ethnic Germans from Russia and the ex-USSR tend to fare worse on the German labor market than foreigners, and Germans who have not finished secondary school fare worst of all. In June 2004, the unemployment rates for those who had not finished secondary school were 14 percent for ethnic Germans, 13 percent for foreigners, and 17 percent for Germans. Among those who had finished secondary school, the rates were 11, eight and nine percent. Among those who finished college, the rates were 10, five and four percent.
Germany has no national minimum wage. Instead, the wages reached in collective bargaining between employer associations and unions are extended to all workers in a sector, effectively creating minimum wages. There are national minimum wages for construction workers and janitors, and an agreement reached in June 2007 will extend government-set minimum wages to up to 12 additional sectors, covering up to 4.5 million workers.
Plans to build one of Germany's largest mosques within eyesight of Cologne's Gothic cathedral have led to a debate about the integration of the 2.7 million Turks in the country. There are about 120,000 Muslims in Cologne, which has a million residents, and they have been trying since 2001 to obtain a building permit for the mosque, which would be the largest of the 30 in the city. Pro Cologne, which holds five of the 90 seats in the city council, has been organizing rallies against the planned mosque.
Switzerland. Switzerland in June 2007 announced that it would open its labor market to nationals of the EU-15 countries, but would not allow nationals of the so-called A-8 countries that joined the EU on May 1, 2004 free access to its labor market until 2011. Many multinationals have established European headquarters in Switzerland to take advantage of low corporate tax rates.
There are about 1.5 million foreigners in Switzerland, making them 20 percent of the 7.5 million residents.
Matthew Schofield, "Europe wrestling with immigration issues," McClatchy Newspapers, June 5, 2007. "German govt may relax immigration rules on EU pressure, staff shortage," Forbes, June 5, 2007. Elaine Ganley, "France Sets Quotas for Immigrant Arrests," Associated Press, June 4, 2007. Frank Jordans, "Swiss East Rules on European Immigrants," Associated Press, June 1, 2007.