The Swedish Elections: The End of the European Role Model?

By Charlotte Culine

Freshly arrived in Uppsala, my mind filled with the idealized Swedish role model, it is with great surprise that I learn that Sweden is now facing the rise of populism and Euroscepticism. Rumours has been the situation in Sweden was slowly decaying but I had not realized the extent this phenomenon had taken in this country often considered as the peace haven of Europe, until I arrived and witnessed the tensions surrounding the legislative elections. After France and the Front National, the UK and UKIP, Austria and the Freedom party of Austria, Italy and the Five Star Movement, it is now Sweden’s turn to deal with Jimmie Åkesson and the Sweden Democrats party. Indeed, the Swedish elections that occurred on the September 9 has for the first time seen the everlasting left-wing Social Democrats party’s monopoly on the government endangered by nationalism and anti-immigration ideologies.
The country has gradually seen the rise of populism ever since the beginning of the 2000’s, following the first arrivals of asylum seekers coming from Iraq. From then, the number of asylum seekers has constantly increased up until 2015 when it reached its peak with 162,877 asylum seekers[i] entering the kingdom, before the government changed the immigration procedure, making it tougher. Sweden, almost unharmed by the 2008 economic crisis, remained prosper and did not seem to be the most fertile environment for such a breakthrough from the nationalist factions.

To have a better understanding of the current political landscape and the point of view of a Swede on this situation, I had an interview with our teacher Lars Löfquist, doctor in Theology, director of studies in Uppsala for the Euroculture programme as well as two other programmes concerning Humanitarian Action. Starting from this, I was able to draw some observations that could explain how Sweden got to this point, what is the current situation and what is to expect in the coming weeks. Continue reading “The Swedish Elections: The End of the European Role Model?”

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What is Globalization? Global Europe explained

 

Daniele Carminati

The effects of globalization are felt all around the world. The increasingly interconnected global economic system is the most obvious manifestation of the worldwide compression of time and space. However, the consequences of globalization are not limited to the economy. Globalization has had an effect on political systems, religions, and societies in practically every corner of the world. What is globalization exactly? Often globalization and Westernization are used interchangeably, but this proves to be a rather one-sided perspective. Although all around us, globalization can be a tricky concept to pin down.

The Geneva Centre for Security Policy defines globalization as “a process that encompasses the causes, course, and consequences of transnational and transcultural integration of human and non-human activities”. The European Commission, on the other hand, sees globalization as “the combination of technological progress, lower transport costs and policy liberalization in the European Union and elsewhere” that “has led to increasing trade and financial flows between countries”.

Despite the different definitions, globalization is undoubtedly a global phenomenon, which means Europe is a part of it. But what are the implications of a globalizing world on Europe? Continue reading “What is Globalization? Global Europe explained”

The Americorner: Conservative Europeans fear influx of Pastafarian migrants and the threat they pose to Europe’s Christian Values

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The Flying Spaghetti Monster is not as camera shy as most gods. Photo by Ontologix

Ryan Minett 

Conservative Europeans have come together like never before against this new threat to their homeland. “My newly prioritised Christian values of Europe are under attack like never before from a new threat,” comments local activist Gustav Penner. This new threat comes from the newest wave of primarily Pastafarian migrants that are flooding in through Europe’s southern border. “We don’t know why they are here; we don’t know what they want; we just know that they must be contained before we are knee deep in Carbonara Sauce and Parmesan Cheese!” continues Herr Penner. Italy seems to be the main destination for these migrants followed closely by the Netherlands, where Pastafarianism  is now recognised as a religion. Local Dutch activist Will Geerty says he is worried by boom in Pastafarians he has witnessed in his lifetime. “Recently these Pastafarians opened a Vapiano in our neighbourhood and now all types of strange folk inhabit our once pure city.”

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A Pastafarian refugee protests for his right to dress as he pleases in France. Photo by G.dallorto

We caught up with one of the migrants to see what he thought about the claims against those of his religion. “Honestly, it’s all a bunch of bolognese. We are here because we have nowhere else to go. This is not some planned invasion to destroy Europe’s newly rediscovered Christian values.” But there is cause for worry. Recent polls show that while church attendance across Europe is falling rapidly, spaghetti consumption is at an all-time high.

But those opposed to Pastafarianism have recently claimed a victory in France with the controversial Colander Constraint. The colander is a well-known religious headdress of the Pastafarians. “We were of the understanding that Europe had evolved into a progressive continent where one had the freedom to practice whatever religion one choose,” proclaimed one Pastafarian now suffering under the ban. “But this legislation shall not stop us from following His Noodliness.” With planned protests of all pasta related goods, tensions will continue until these two sides can work out their differences. “His Noodly Appendage works in strange and mystical ways. Who are we to question the will of the Flying Spaghetti Monster?”

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Another adherent to Pastafariaism continues to threaten society. Photo by Joe Mabel

Click here for more by Ryan Minett.

Click here for more of The Americorner.

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When Asylum becomes Prison: Refugee Siblings confined to Britain’s Dungavel Detention Centre

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The entrance to Dungavel Dentention Centre, where the UK’s unsuccessful asylum seekers await deportation: Photo by Azerifactory

Emma Danks-Lambert

The Dublin Regulation is a law concerning European Union Member States and asylum seekers. It establishes the Member State that is responsible for the receiving and examination of an application for asylum, and for deciding whether the criteria for asylum have been met by the applicant. It is often explained in the news as the regulation that ensures asylum seekers must apply for asylum in the first EU country they entered. It has been heavily criticized by Hungary and Poland since 2015, with both countries making thinly veiled Eurosceptic remarks about taking power back from the European Union. The European Council on Refugees and Exiles often criticizes the Regulation due to the restrictiveness of the criteria for asylum, the lack of protection it offers asylum seekers and for its failure to take the interests of asylum seekers into account.

Benjamin and Ali Mahammadi are two young men who lived in Sunderland, in the North of England, past Newcastle, on the River Wear and by the sea. These two brothers were actively involved in their Church and Community, taking part in clean-up days, bible class translations, the local radio station and sport events at the University of Sunderland. Continue reading “When Asylum becomes Prison: Refugee Siblings confined to Britain’s Dungavel Detention Centre”

Five terrifying takeaways from the British Conservative Party Conference: Notes from a Lonely Island #3

Buckle in for more Brexit misery

Emily Burt

There were a few weeks where it looked as though the Brexit dust was settling. The markets had remained surprisingly robust, defying immediate post-referendum expectations, and aside from Labour party infighting, the political landscape was relatively calm. Then the Conservative party conference arrived, to crush our dreams. Here are five moments of fresh misery the government delivered to the UK electorate:

A Hard Brexit will begin March 2017, with the UK potentially exiting the European Union by 2019

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British Conservative Party Conference, Birmingham

Finally we have a date – Theresa May has announced that she will trigger Article 50 in the Spring of 2017, which means that once negotiations begin we could be looking at a UK exit from the European Union by March of 2019. Her announcement sent sterling into a freefall, plunging the pound to a 31-year low, signifying that the markets, along with a significant chunk of the British public, had been secretly hoping that Brexit did not actually mean Brexit. Continue reading “Five terrifying takeaways from the British Conservative Party Conference: Notes from a Lonely Island #3”

Immigrants, Visas and Silver Bullets: How will UK Migration work Post-Brexit?

 

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Johnson and May, although on opposite sides pf the referendum campaign, have both promised to reduce immigration post-Brexit

Eoghan Hughes

Months after it helped convince citizens to vote to leave the European Union (EU), migration remains at the heart of post-referendum politics in the UK. One promise of the Brexiteers was that a points system would be brought in to gauge the usefulness of various applicants for immigration. Another promise was that the freedom of movement of EU citizens into the UK would stop. However the newly minted but not so shiny Prime Minister Theresa May’s has made the decision to rule out introducing a points-based immigration system to the UK following the referendum result which has stirred media attention in Britain as the debate about the UK’s future immigration policy rages on.

May’s immigration blunder

May made the initial comments before her journey to Beijing to attend the 6 September G20 summit earlier this month, largely an exercise in trying to keep the UK relevant on the international stage and assure international partners that Britain would not become a disconnected island. The points-system referred to is modelled after the Australian immigration system which sees immigrants being given points for their various skills, qualifications and backgrounds, as well as behaviour, as the basis for their potential residency in the state.  May’s statement that there was not yet any proof such a system worked, emphasized that there was no “silver bullet” solution to reducing immigration to the UK. Upon her return, the British cabinet confirmed that the points system would not be part of their immigration policy. May promised, however, “some control” over immigration.

This seems a softer message following May’s 31 August pledge to her cabinet, that restricting immigration will be at the heart of any Brexit negotiations. So far there are less bullets, silver or otherwise, coming out of Westminster, and more vague promises. Continue reading “Immigrants, Visas and Silver Bullets: How will UK Migration work Post-Brexit?”

What is Terrorism? A brief history of Terror and the Rise of IS

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ETA, a Basque militant organisation pose for the camera

Eric Hartshorne

Nice, Paris, Brussels, Istanbul, Ankara, Baghdad, Lahore, Dakka and Orlando are just a few of the cities worldwide that have in 2016 been at the receiving end of violent extremist attacks. The list could be extended and made more dramatic, which would include several hideous attacks in Iraq and Turkey which have taken place in the last couple months. One feature that connects these attacks is terrorism, and to the now officially classified as terrorist, Islamic State in the Levant and Iraq (IS). In Europe, the EU and its member-states are on high alert, allocating large amounts of resources to combatting terrorism. Increased prison sentences, infringing surveillance and measures such as the removal of citizenship and the instigation of a state of emergency have been implemented across the continent. It is a situation Europe is trying to grapple with. However, in order to gain a deeper understanding of the current situation, we must take a step back and discuss what exactly is being combatted- what is terrorism? We must also ask how IS – the group currently seen as the most prominent terrorist organisation active in Europe and the Middle East– ended up where they are today.

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The Red Army Faction, a left-wing terrorist organisation operating in 1970s Germany.

When discussing terrorism there are two main points which are crucial to its understanding. That is, that terrorism itself is a method, and that its ideological foundation may differ over time. Bruce Hoffman of Georgetown University is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading terrorist researchers and his definition of terrorism relies heavily on the methods executed by a group or an organization. Hoffman’s definition of terrorism is as a method of which the main practice is the deliberate use of non-democratic means to obtain political power. The most common type of non-democratic means is the use of violence to spread an ideological message, whereas in democracies the state maintains a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. By attacking vulnerable groups, such as civilians, the aim of such attacks is to spread fear amongst its victims and the political leadership of a country by causing uncertainty and unrest. The second point is terrorism’s capacity to change over time. David Rapoport’s terrorist wave theory highlights the violent method’s evolving character, dividing modern terrorism into four specific eras. Each era has unique  characteristics.

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IRA gunmen in west Belfast

The first era developed as a response to the Russian Czar’s inability to instigate political and economic reforms leading to internal dissent and the rise of anti-government movements. The second wave, which lasted from the 1920’s to the early 1960’s had its ideological foundation in national self-determination, and included such groups as the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Basque independence organisation, ETA. The third wave was social revolutionary in goal and included various socialist extremist organisations in Europe, such as the Red Army Faction in Germany. Within this third wave (1960’s to 1979) the methodological base of modern day terrorism was laid by the adoption by terrorist organisations of techniques such as sustained bombing campaigns. Today’s era, also known as the fourth or religious wave is characterised by its adaptable usage of different techniques and the ease of transmission of propaganda. This enables groups in this contemporary wave to remain active and more effective compared to the groups in previous waves.

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MILF Members on parade

A quick historical overview of Al Qaeda’s development reveals some of these traits. As a response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan a global mujahedeen movement grew out of the Afghani resistance movement. Following the Soviet’s withdrawal in 1989, one of the movement’s key members would gain further influence, Osama Bin Laden. Fast forward fifteen years and the Iraqi war is at a worst, and as a response to the US led invasion, Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda establishes an Iraqi branch through a local insurgence group. This new Al Qaeda branch came under the leadership of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and was to be known as Al Qaeda in Iraq. AQI would continue to develop during the American led occupation and with the rise of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the group’s new leader after Zarqawi was killed in an American airstrike in 2008, the Islamic State was born. There is obviously much more to IS’s development than just Al Qaeda’s decentralization, such as the Shiite majority government’s treatment of the country’s Sunni Muslim’s, but what their development highlights is how groups within the religious wave are able to evolve past there parent organizations to adapt to new situations while maintaining the momentum of the ideological base.

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Osama Bin Laden

IS in itself represents an interesting case study when discussing terrorism, returning us to the first theme of terrorism as a method. When the group proclaimed its Caliphate in 2014 much of the western world’s response focused on denouncing the group as a terrorist organisation, while IS developed its own propaganda aimed at emphasizing the group’s aim of establishing an Islamic nation. IS did so by emphasizing the everyday aspects of life within the Islamic State through its different media outlets such as its online magazine Dabiq, which is translated into seven languages and well worth a read for those interested in IS rhetoric. In the early days of the Islamic State, the group would embrace modern methods of terror such as suicide bombings and kidnappings. However, rather than directing such attacks towards citizens, such methods where used for military means. An example of such a tactic is how IS would pack armour-plated trucks with explosives that would then be driven into a military checkpoint and detonated. This combination of military and terrorist tactics was a crucial element in the rapid expansion of the group across Iraq and Syria, at a time when the militaries of these countries were divided and weakened by war. However, since IS has suffered military setbacks at the hand of coalition forces and the Iraqi army, it is possible to identify a change in tactics. The planned attacks in Paris, Brussels, Turkey and across Iraq followed by the continuous onslaught of lone-wolf attacks such as those in San Bernardino and Orlando highlight this change in tactics. Today IS is, by Hoffman’s definition, deploying the full arsenal of terrorism, targeting civilians in order to spread fear.

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A man carrying the flag of the militant terrorist organisation IS

Today’s religious wave of terrorism has long surpassed the life expectancy of Rapoport’s previous eras, challenging previous research and methods in combatting terrorism. However, today new innovative measures are being examined to combat this wave of terrorism from a non-militarized perspective, in the hopes of treating the problem at its source. At Uppsala University an international and interdisciplinary team led by Professor Isak Svensson of the Department of Peace and Conflict aims at exploring contemporary peaceful means for resolving conflicts with at least one self-proclaimed jihadist actor. Although not directly applicable to the attacks in Europe over the past years, the research project aims at revealing the potential or limitations of peaceful means in resolving local conflicts such as those in Nigeria with the Islamic militant group, Boko Haram, Afghanistan with the Taliban and in Syria and Iraq with IS. What connects these groups is their self-proclaimed ideological bases within the religious wave of terrorism. These groups, along with the likes of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the Philippines all hold geographical territories under their control and claim to be committed to an Islamic jihadist ideology, however to date it is only IS who has conducted, and claimed connection to, attacks in Europe. The response resonating from western states has to date been tough. However, more and more states are adopting the “softer” approaches to counter-terrorism, pushing the envelop for new ways to prevent individuals from radicalizing, rather than solely focusing on preventing or responding to attacks. In the end, the phenomenon known as terrorism is unlikely to disappear in any foreseeable future. It is easy to forget in today’s jihadist dominated terrorism discourse that left- and right-wing extremist groups have made their presence felt in the not to distant past and may do so again. In Sweden alone, over thirty planned housing facilities for asylum seekers have been burnt by a group of sympathisers of the far right agenda.

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Refugee centre in Norway set aflame by right-wing extremists

Although the near future may seem bleak there are several initiatives pointing in the right direction. In Århus, Denmark, the local counter-radicalization model – a co-operation between the municipality, regional police force and local mosque – has set the precedent for the soft method approach, valuing integration and participation over punishment and exclusion. In Sweden, a national coordinator to defend democracy against violent extremism is pushing for preventative measures such as developing the critical analytical skills of youths regarding the internet and within the new strategy (July 2016) the government encourages local initiatives of cooperation between the religious communities, municipalities, authorities and police. In complete opposition to such initiatives, the current debate regarding the so called burkini is doing nothing but adding flame to fire which is the ISIS propaganda and recruitment machine. Nevertheless, with the amount of foreign fighters traveling from Europe to join IS falling, along with the groups geographical area, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The question is not if the fourth wave of terrorism will end but when.

Click here for more by Eric Hartshorne.

The Euroculturer Recommends:

For more on the burkini ban, read Julia Mason’s fascinating discussion of the topic here.

For more on right-wing extremism in Europe, read Sabine Volk’s dissection of European identity groups here.

“They just have a different culture!” Disguised racism in right-wing rhetoric of the 21st century

 

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PEGIDA march in Dresden

 Sabine Volk

In spring 2016, the German nationalist movement Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (Pegida) founded a coalition together with nationalist and xenophobic movements and parties from other European countries. Their alliance, the so-called Fortress Europe (read also “Patriotic Europeans United in Fortress Europe”), poses a theoretical paradox: how is it possible that nationalist groups work together at a European level?

Historical analysis shows that transnational collaboration between right groups is not a new phenomenon. First, one might think of the (attempts of) collaboration by the fascist parties from various European countries in the first half of the 20th century. Nowadays, a visible manifestation of right-wing collaboration consists in coalition-building in the European Parliament (EP). Fortress Europe is thus yet another example of how even nationalists can unite at supranational level. What ideology binds the contemporary right-wing groups together? Continue reading ““They just have a different culture!” Disguised racism in right-wing rhetoric of the 21st century”

Patriotic Europeans United in Fortress Europe

Sabine Volk

On February 6, 2016, people demonstrated all over Europe. In cities as diverse as Dresden, Prague, Warsaw, Bratislava, Krakow, Copenhagen, Dublin, Graz, Tartu, Amsterdam, Birmingham, Montpellier, and Bordeaux, up to 9,000 people held banners in the air declaring ‘Nein zur Einwanderung – Stoppt die Merkelisierung,’ or ‘Non au grand remplacement, Non au changement de peuple, Nous sommes le peuple.’ On April 9, 300 people participated in a blockade of a part of the Czech-German border. On May 16, 2,500 people gathered in Dresden with a similar message. All three events were organized by a recent political movement, the so-called Fortress Europe. The movement’s spokesperson advocated the demos on her webpage with the following words:

“[It’s] about identity, appreciation and mutual forgiveness for everything that ever separated us, the European peoples. This event shall be the starting point for real cohesion, for a European sense of community and a strong, European esprit de corps – to fight together as united Europeans for the preservation of our continent.”

Reading this statement, a student of Euroculture gets alerted. Fortress Europe apparently seeks to strengthen a collective European identity; a concept that is usually considered a possible solution to the current challenges in the process of European integration. Yet, Fortress Europe is an openly xenophobic and EU-skeptic movement. EU-skeptics that aim at the creation of European identity? It’s definitely time to have a closer look at Fortress Europe. Continue reading “Patriotic Europeans United in Fortress Europe”

Scrubbing off the Rust: What Europe can learn from the American Rustbelt

Adam Rozalowski

Photo credit: Adam Rozalowski

It was hard to gauge just how close we were to Pittsburgh. The number on the freeway signs kept getting smaller and smaller, “Pittsburgh 25 – 15 – 10,” but there were no skyscrapers in sight. Was this one of those sprawling American metropolises where you still had to drive for miles to get to the city centre, or were the Appalachian Mountains shielding the city from our view? Pittsburgh, 6 miles, we had to be close. Anticipation spurred a feeling of excitement as we neared the city, and relief set in that after a 5 hour journey we were almost at our destination. While driving through a dimly lit tunnel, we had no idea that we were about to get one of the best views you can get of any city.

The Fort Pitt tunnel is like having your friend cover her eyes before you reveal a gift that you were hiding from her. This was definitely the intention of my Pittsburgh connection, Matt Perna, whom I’ve shared an apartment with on another continent. “This is the only way to get into the city from the south side” he said. It is not, but now I realize his intention.

Pittsburgh is a city that sprawls upward from its core, climbing the surrounding mountains, intersected into 3 parts by the confluence of the Ohio River, the Monongahela River, and the Allegheny River. As we crossed the bridge close to where the 3 rivers meet, known in Pittsburgh as the golden triangle, the skyscrapers informed us of the city’s storied past. The cranes in the distance, however, informed us of a different narrative.

We keep driving, my head on a swivel. “Hey, keep your eyes on the road!” My co-pilot reminds me while snapping pictures. The massive smokestacks of the Heinz Ketchup factory billow smoke to the left of the bridge while the skyscrapers impose themselves over the Pittsburgh skyline on the right; the bridge and the road that follows, cuts the city in half.

Heinz Ketchup Factory
Heinz Ketchup Factory

Pittsburgh seems much bigger than the 305,000 inhabitants that Wikipedia informs me live there; a testament to its former glory as the steel capital of the United States, when the city was home to just under 700,000 at its height in the 1950s. While newer cities like San Francisco tower over Pittsburgh in height (and influence), it was Pittsburgh steel that made these cities possible.

Pittsburgh, like much of the American rustbelt, has historically been a centre for innovation. Cities such as Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit and Pittsburgh were the centres where many of the innovative manufacturing processes were invented (just think Henry Ford and the assembly line!). Traditionally these were places teeming with immigrants, coming here in search of opportunity. I can attest to this by drawing on my own family history; Uniontown, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh, was where my great uncle, Tadeusz Różałowski, came in search of opportunity, leaving behind a war torn Europe in 1917.

It did not take us long to find traces of these earlier migrations. On our very first night, with our couchsurfing host Corey, we ventured to Bloomfield Bridge Tavern. Corey is young professional in his early 30s, with a friendly demeanour and soft smile. He was lured to Pittsburgh by an opportunity to work for the Google sales department, which he gladly took. He shares his beautiful early 20th-century three bedroom flat with two large chocolate dobermans that almost knocked me over when I first entered his home, and on this particular night, with four eager guests. When we finally arrived at the bar, I found that half of the menu consisted of Polish food and beer. “I’ll have a żywiec” I said. I spotted what I thought to be the owner leaning on the bar, looking up at the TV news headlines. I was right, his name was Steve. The TV broadcaster beamed: “last flight for US Airways leaves Pittsburgh after 78 years.” “That company is a Pittsburgh-owned company” Steve replied. He was a large man with a greying goatee and combed back greying hair. He told me that he came to Pittsburgh as a child in the 1950s. The only thing he remembered how to say in Polish was a prayer he was forced to recite by his father before dinner every day for years, “I’ll never forget that prayer!” His mom’s home cooking is what gave him the idea for this restaurant, which turns into a watering hole in the late evenings. His aunt comes in and makes the pierogi fresh every day, “just like mom used to make them” he exclaimed with a gregarious expression.

The next day we decided to go to Market Street and visited a variety of foreign owned markets. Many of them were owned by participants of a later wave of migration, from Asia and South America. There were Chinese shops, Vietnamese Pho, Mexican tacos and my favourite – Korean street food. Having spent some time in Korea, I was immediately drawn to the Korean shop, selling delicious Korean pancakes called pae-jeon. This particular street was lined with shops for a couple of miles. Small food stalls out front in the sidewalk tempted passers-by like ourselves to step in. The smell of peppers and frying potatoes rose up with the heat from the flat-grill. A convincing “annyong haseo” from the woman behind the grill and a direct smile now forced us to stop and try some (as if I needed any more convincing). The owner and his wife ran the store and gave us tips on Korean restaurants to check out nearby where we could get really authentic Korean food.

Mural on Market Street
Mural on Market Street

Immigrants have been coming to America since its inception. According to Rebecca Mayhew, the relationship manager of the Columbus (Ohio) based Economic Community Development Institute, a non-profit offering small business loans to immigrants and other would-be entrepreneurs, rebuilding cities “can’t afford to bypass the economic injection these folks [immigrants] can bring” (Guth 2015). A WE (Welcoming Economies Global Network) report claims that from 2000-2010, the native population in Midwest metros grew by only 3.3%, while immigrants account for 27% of all Midwest metro area population growth. With 18 of the 25 fastest shrinking cities in the Rust Belt, cities like Pittsburgh are counting on immigration for growth (WE Global Network). It is people like Steve, the Korean couple on Market Street, and many others that have been responsible for a lot of the growth in Pittsburgh in the past, and this is exactly what mayors are trying to recreate in the near future.

city market on Market Street
City Market on Market Street

Mayors of cities like Cleveland and Pittsburgh are beginning to realize the benefits immigrants can bring. Public officials in these cities have been vocal about foreign-born entrepreneurs serving as a catalyst for business creation and rebuilding downtrodden neighbourhoods. Pittsburgh mayor, Bill Peduto, believes immigrants can be a major part of a repopulation strategy that calls for 20,000 new city residents by 2025, a plan that has job creation as one of its cornerstones (Guth 2015). Cleveland, for example, is planning to house refugees in rehabilitated homes to reinvigorate run-down communities. Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan, has already laid the groundwork. In January 2014 he called for an infusion of 50,000 immigrants as part of a program to revitalize Detroit, and signed an executive order creating the Michigan Office for New Americans, whose mission is to help grow Michigan’s economy by attracting global talent and promote the skills, energy, and entrepreneurial spirit of its immigrant communities (Laitin and Jahr 2015).

On a different note, Detroit has also founded the Global Detroit initiative, raising millions to fund retention efforts aimed at international students. At Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, there are a lot of them. Indeed, the University itself was founded by another immigrant, the Scotsman Andrew Carnegie who came to the United States in 1847.

While still on Market Street, a postcard with a view from the very bridge we came into town over caught my eye; the golden triangle, the skyline, hills with homes stretching in all directions, and then west of the downtown area, a cluster of modern buildings. My friend Matt, a Pittsburgh metro area native informed me that this is the Carnegie-Mellon campus. Seeing the campus had been on my to-do list from the beginning; it was there that we went next..

The campus was brimming with youth. Lu Lu’s Noodle Bar was full of students from what seemed like all over the world. Students like Maxim Likhachev, from Latvia, who moved to Pittsburgh, where he later became a research professor at Carnegie-Mellon. Likhachev launched a company called TravelWits, a platform that merges transportation alternatives to determine the most affordable route to a destination (Guth 2015). The outlook of his company is optimistic – mirroring the optimism of the region. The Pittsburgh area, a former hub of production, has been able to make the shift to innovation and now boasts a tech savvy vibe because of the creatives who graduated from universities like Carnegie-Mellon, or work for Disney or Google and have relocated here. While the older migrants, like my great-uncle Tadeusz, came for work in the burgeoning coal and manufacturing industries, today, people like our couchsurfing host Corey move to Pittsburgh to work for Google.

The Cathedral of Learning at Carnegie Mellon University
The Cathedral of Learning at University of Pittsburg

A city like Pittsburgh, full of old bones left behind by long-gone industries, is not a singular case. Cities like it can be found in nearly every European country. What is different however, is in the way in which Pittsburgh, and other Rust Belt cities view the immigrants that come knocking on their proverbial doors. While in Europe many immigrants are viewed as guest workers that will eventually go back to their countries of origin, many cities in the US want them not only to come but also to stay, to help repopulate their cities and infuse them with the vibrancy they once had. Pittsburgh and other post-industrial cities in the region have made welcoming immigrants a central part of their “comeback strategy.” With an influx of immigrants coming to Europe, and in light of Europe’s similar demographic woes, governments should consider seeking policies that are aimed at viewing immigrants as people that can contribute not only their labour, but also become part of the fabric of their cities.

When given the chance and respect they deserve, immigrant communities are more than capable of positively influencing neighbourhoods; especially with the right government policies in place. A good example of this is The CityStar Neighborhood Management Program in Berlin. This program has proven that socially inclusive policies help to revive downtrodden neighbourhoods. Recognized by the EU as a Regio Star award winner, it takes into account the needs and abilities of neighbourhood city councils, many of these councils being immigrant groups, which work together to complete revitalization projects (REGIO STARS 2013 Winner). This is surely a good start.

The economic benefits are even more apparent. Studies of the economic benefits of welcoming immigrants are plentiful in the US as well as in Europe. In a 2014 article published in The Guardian, Robert Chote, the chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility said letting more immigrants into the UK “does tend to produce a more beneficial picture for the public purse.” Chote told the Treasury select committee: “because they’re more likely to be working age, they’re more likely to be paying taxes and less likely to have relatively large sums of money spent on them for education, for long-term care, for healthcare, for pension expenditure” (Mason 2014). Although these types of statements are numerous, immigrant groups are often used as scapegoats by politicians.

Too often, immigrants are accused of taking jobs, not creating them. Many nationalist governments are claiming this; research, however, has proven otherwise.

In many ways, comparing the United States to Europe may not be as easy as comparing apples to apples. However, these developed regions do experience many of the same phenomena. Immigration has long been an integral part of the experience of America; Europe is catching up. Maybe it is time to draw on each other’s experiences, embrace the people that long to live in our communities, and help each other scrub off the rust of our once great cities.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of The Euroculturer.

Bibliography

Guth, Douglas J, October 13, and 2015. 2015. “Reshaping the Rust Belt through Immigrant Talent.” Soapbox. Accessed November 18. http://www.soapboxmedia.com/features/101315-rust-belt-reshaped-by-immigrants.aspx.

Laitin, David D., and Marc Jahr. 2015. “Let Syrians Settle Detroit.” The New York Times, May 14. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/15/opinion/let-syrians-settle-detroit.html.

Mason, Rowena, and political correspondent. 2014. “Immigration Benefits UK Economy, Say Treasury Independent Advisers.” The Guardian, January 14, sec. UK news. http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jan/14/immigration-beneficial-uk-economy-treasury-independent-advisers.

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