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October 2012 Volume 19 Number 4

France, Germany


France. Roma from Eastern Europe travel to Western European countries each summer to fill casual jobs, beg and, in some cases, steal. France's previous conservative government expelled Roma in 2010, drawing complaints from the EU and French socialists, some of whom compared expelling the Roma to Nazi deportations during WWII. The current socialist government offered E300 ($370) and free airfare home to Roma willing to return voluntarily, and expulsion for those who overstayed.

There are an estimated 15,000 Roma in France. Under EU freedom of movement rules, Roma and other nationals of Bulgaria and Romania are allowed to travel to any other EU country for up to three months. The French government said that it was expelling Roma in France more than three months, and also said that it would consider lifting restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian workers so that they can work in France. Bulgarians and Romanians will obtain freedom of movement rights January 1, 2014, seven years after Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU.

Opinion polls suggest that 80 percent of French residents support dismantling the Roma camps.

The auto industry employs about 10 percent of French workers, including 100,000 at auto maker PSA Peugeot. However, Peugeot is losing money due to overcapacity, and wants to close a plant near Paris and eliminate 8,000 jobs, prompting a rebuke from newly elected President Francois Hollande, who has raised taxes on corporations and the minimum wage. Air France and Alcatel-Lucent have also announced job cuts, highlighting the challenge of encouraging businesses to create jobs while raising taxes and labor costs.

Germany. Germany is worried about too few skilled workers. The Labor Ministry has a web site to attract skilled foreigners to Germany that lays out a five-step procedure to find a German job and move to Germany (www.make-it-in-germany.com). Opinion polls in 2012 find that 60 percent of Germans believe that more highly skilled foreigners should be admitted.

More highly skilled foreigners are moving to Germany, which is helping to reduce prejudices against foreigners, although Roma and Muslims continue to be associated with more problems than opportunities. In July 2012, Germany's constitutional court ordered the government to raise benefits for asylum seekers so that they are in line with unemployment insurance benefits, prompting an influx of Roma asylum seekers from Macedonia and Serbia. Almost all have their applications for asylum rejected. Germany asked the EU to re-introduce visa requirements for Serbia and Macedonia.

Bulgarians and Romanians can move to other EU countries without visas, but cannot work unless they obtain work permits. Over 5,000 moved to Duisburg between 2007 and 2012, and many work illegally for as little as E3 an hour. Beginning January 1, 2014, Bulgarians and Romanians will have freedom of movement rights, meaning that they will be able to search for jobs in Germany and other EU nations on an equal basis with local workers.

Some say that Thilo Sarrazin's 2009 book, Deutschland schafft sich ab (Germany Does Away with Itself) decrying the failure of Muslims to integrate explains the rising share of Germans in polls who are less optimistic about the capacity of Muslims to integrate into German society.

Bavaria, the richest of Germany's 16 states, transfers tax monies to the federal government to assist poorer states (Hamburg, Hessen, and Baden-Wrttemberg also make such transfers). The so-called laptops and lederhosen state that combines cutting-edge technology with tradition is ruled by the Christian Social Union, the sister party of the ruling Christian Democratic Union. The CSU has pursued a tough line on foreigners who commit crimes and is skeptical of transferring more assistance to Greece and other southern European nations.

Switzerland. The Swiss population approached eight million for the first time in 2012, largely because of EU nationals moving to the Zurich and Geneva regions to work. There were 1.8 million foreigners. Two-thirds of those who arrived between 2002 and 2012 were EU nationals, and over half had university degrees. Some Swiss complain of rising housing prices and congestion as a result of the influx of EU nationals.
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