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October 2014, Volume 21, Number 4

France, Germany

France. Migrants in summer 2014 again gathered in the port city of Calais in order to slip aboard trucks bound for the UK, including 1,500 from Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia. French and British police are to cooperate to step up enforcement against smugglers while protecting victims of human trafficking.

The French economy continues to lag. Unemployment has been above 10 percent since President Fran‡ois Hollande took office in 2012. Hollande wants to spur economic growth by reducing deficits, increasing competition and stimulating innovation. Some members of his government disagree, forcing a reshuffling of ministers in August 2014.

The major issue is whether to cut spending and raise taxes to reduce the government's deficit or to spend and hope that stimulus spurs growth. Germany wants the 18 members of the Euro zone to adhere to strict budget discipline, but countries such as France and Italy that are growing slowly or shrinking want to increase government spending and deficits.

The debate within Hollande's Socialist party about whether to stick to austerity or defy Germany and increase spending was won by the spenders in September 2014 when the Hollande government "rejected austerity" with a budget deficit of 4.3 percent, above the EU's three percent upper limit. France's government debt is expected to top E2 trillion, or 95 percent of GDP, well above the EU's limit of 60 percent. Public spending is 56 percent of GDP in France.

The French budget complicated efforts of Pierre Moscovici, who was Hollande's finance minister, to become EU commissioner for fiscal and monetary policy. Members of the European Parliament asked Moscovici how he would enforce Stability and Growth Pact deficit and debt targets, a maximum three and 60 percent, if France consistently violates them. The European Parliament must accept or reject the entire 27-commissioner slate.

With the Eurozone on the verge of its third recession in five years, there was speculation in Fall 2014 that France, Italy and other southern European countries would relax their austerity budgets to spur economic growth.

Germany. Germany had about 7.7 million foreign residents at the beginning of 2014. The New York Times on July 19, 2014 reported on Germany's efforts to recruit skilled foreigners, profiling a Mexican engineering student. German leaders have embraced a "welcome culture" that aims to make foreigners feel welcome, especially if they learn German.

Since 2005, Germany has made it relatively easy for foreigners who graduate from German universities to stay and work in Germany if a German employer offers them a job. In the past several years, 35 percent of immigrants had a bachelor's or higher degree, compared with 20 percent of Germans.

Programs to subsidize intra-EU migration from poorer southern European countries have been oversubscribed, as Spaniards and Greeks sign up for travel and other assistance to move to Germany and work in service jobs. High immigration (a net 400,000 foreigners moved to Germany in 2013) combined with the fact that 30 percent of the 700,000 births each year in Germany involve at least one immigrant parent, mean that up to half of all new Germans have an "immigrant background."

Since January 1, 2014, Bulgarians and Romanians have had freedom of movement rights throughout the EU. In early 2014, the 430,000 Bulgarians and Romanians were five percent of foreigners in Germany, prompting fears that there will be a rise in what is called "welfare tourism," when nationals of other EU countries claim to be self-employed at low wages and request benefits.

Germany considered a bill in August 2014 that would give intra-EU migrants six-month temporary residency permits, and longer permits to EU nationals likely to find jobs in Germany.

Some 116,000 foreigners applied for asylum in Germany in the first eight months of 2014; 127,000 applied in 2013. Many of the detained asylum seekers are cared for by European Homecare GmbH, which in turn hired SKI Wach- und Sicherheitsgesellschaft to provide security. Guards at Burbach in North Rhine-Westphalia were accused of abusing asylum applicants in September 2014.

Switzerland. Swiss voters on November 30, 2014 will decide whether immigration will be capped at 0.2 percent of the eight million residents, or about 16,000 a year. In 2013, net immigration was almost 83,000.

The environmentalist group "Ecopop" is supporting the "Stop overpopulation - safeguard our natural resources initiative," a follow-up to a February 2014 vote to limit migration from the EU-28 countries.