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European Union: Integration, National, and European Identities

Summary and Keywords

The European Union (EU) is an economic, political, and social conglomeration of 28 member nations. These member nations work together via a system of supranational institutional and intergovernmental-negotiated treaties and decisions by member states. While the EU has been able to continue its development in various stages since the 1950s respectively, a key issue continually facing the EU has always been integration at different levels. Integration of new member states, integration of individuals and cultures within member states, and most recently integration of immigrants (newcomers of different designations) into the EU.

While the EU has strict guidelines regarding the integration of new member states into the EU, no policies/procedures are in place regarding the integration of individuals into the EU. Issues of national sovereignty are critical to EU member states when discussing how to integrate newcomers. Most recently during the heightened wave of refugees entering the EU through its southern and eastern borders, the issue of how to integrate newcomers into the EU has come to the forefront of national and EU policymakers. Key questions facing the EU and its member states include: What are the national integration policies, and how do they differ? What is the future for the EU in response to increased legal, illegal, and irregular migration?

Keywords: European Union, immigration, integration, cultural adaptation, citizenship, intergroup communication

European Union: Integration and Migration Patterns

A total of 28 nations make up the European Union. In June 2016, the United Kingdom (U.K.) voted to leave the European Union. In March of 2017 the United Kingdom officially took steps to leave the EU. However, this process will take a few years for the United Kingdom to leave the EU. Thus, in this entry the EU will consist of 28 nations. The original foundation of the EU was created in 1957 as the European Economic Community, and further codified with the Treaty of Rome in 1958 with the original six nations (Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany). In 1990, East Germany joined the EU as East and West Germany became a unified Germany. The European Economic Community was later officially named the European Union with the Maastricht Treaty in 1993. Through subsequent enlargements in 1973 (Denmark, Ireland, and the United Kingdom), 1981 (Greece), 1986 (Portugal and Spain), 1995 (Austria, Finland, and Sweden), 2004 (Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia), 2007 (Bulgaria and Romania), and 2013 (Croatia) the EU reached its current 28 member states. With each enlargement, issues of economic policy, political unity, foreign policy, European identity, military security, and social/cultural affairs have been at the heart of the ever-evolving EU project.

Along with economic, political, military, and social/cultural matters, a key aspect of the EU project has been immigration and the movement of people within and into the EU. A core principle of the original EU project among the original members was the free movement of peoples between the nations and across borders. This principle led to the 1985 Schengen Agreement, originally signed by Belgium, France, West Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. This agreement established the Schengen Area, which states borders between nations are virtually non-existent and people can travel freely between nations in the Area. The Schengen Area has been expanded over the years to include all EU nations (except the United Kingdom and Ireland) and some non-EU nations (Iceland, Norway, Monaco, Andorra, and Switzerland). The reason I am discussing the Schengen at this point is because it is integral to understanding the EU and EU integration. Since the development of the Schengen Area, it has served as both a beacon of EU unity and growth, and as a symbol of the EU’s failure to control its borders and security as some nations have suspended the Schengen in the wake of the 2013–2016 migration/refugee crisis (Traynor, 2016). The influence of the migration/refugee crisis on EU policies and member state policies toward migration, and on intergroup relations between immigrants and non-immigrants in the EU, cannot and should not be underestimated. Therefore, considering the EU in the midst of an ever-growing refugee/migrant crisis, this entry explores integration and migration patterns within the EU. Specifically, this entry has the following purposes: to provide a historical overview of EU migration and migration policies, explain intergroup relations between migrants and non-migrants in the EU, and discuss the future of migration and integration in the EU.

The History of European Union Migration

To better understand intergroup dynamics between immigrants and non-immigrants in the EU it is essential to first look back at a history of migration into and within the EU. In an entry of this length it is impossible to provide a comprehensive review of EU migration. Thus, what follows is a summary of some key events in a few of the EU member states. As the Schengen Area is a key point of contention in the current debate over migrants and refugees, the following review will also focus on migration since the development of the Schengen Area.

Migration within the EU for EU citizens and residents holding residency was drastically changed by the Schengen Agreement. Based on the Agreement, any EU citizen or resident has the right to travel freely and work in any other EU nation. The lack of restricted borders between the EU nations due to the Schengen has led to easy travel between the nations and easier migration between the nations. For example, from the 1990s to the early 2000s a significant number of immigrants to Western Europe came from Eastern Europe and former Soviet bloc nations (the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia). With the enlargement of the EU it became easier for such individuals to migrate from Eastern Europe legally into Western European nations such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Spain, and Portugal (Koikkalainen, 2011). With the Schengen, it is easier for migrants who enter the EU to move from one nation to the other physically (via any means of transport), as borders are removed. In 2016 many refugees entering Greece physically moved from Greece to Germany on foot, as border crossings did not exist between the nations. Some temporary fences/borders have been constructed since, particularly in Hungary.

In response to growing unemployment, economic inequalities, war, political struggles, strife, and struggles in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East in particular, immigration to the EU has increased significantly from the 1970s onwards. Each EU nation has experienced different influxes of migration, all depending on their geopolitical, historical, and economic ties with migrant “sending” nations. To provide a snapshot of the history of EU migration, what follows is a comparative overview of migration to and within four EU member states who each have unique political, economic, social, and historical experiences with migration: France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Sweden.


France has a growing immigrant population. While it is not easy to track the heritage of French citizens, due to among many things the 1905 secularism law, 2008 figures estimate the French immigrant population to be at 13 million (20% of the population) (National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, 2013). Secularism is the formal separation of church and state. In 1905 the French Chamber of Deputies passed the French law on the separation of churches and state. The concept of secularism or laïcité, has become a bedrock of the French state or republic. This law officially enacted a separation of church and state in France. Under the law the French Republic does not recognize, support, or subsidize any religion. The law also says all people shall be free to express their religion. The key effect of the law is that the state does not officially recognize any religion. However, laïcité has been criticized as a shield for anti-religious, and/or anti-Islamic expression laws passed in the 2000s.

The largest groups of immigrants include (in order of number): Europeans, North Africans or Maghreb, Sub-Saharan Africans, and Turks. Asian, particularly from East Asia, immigrants are slowly growing in number in France. France historically has always had a large number of North and Sub-Saharan African immigrants due to its colonial interests in Africa, particularly Algeria, Tunisia, and Senegal. From 1954 to 1962 France and Algeria fought a war over Algerian independence. The conflict officially ended with Algerian independence in 1962, but political and social/racial tensions have remained in France over the conflict to this day (Silverstein, 2004). In Tunisia a less violent independence movement occurred between 1952–1956, and in Senegal between 1956–1960. In 2015–2016 France was gripped with a series of terrorist attacks in Paris and Nice. In each attack first and second generation immigrants from North Africa were linked to the attacks. In the aftermath of such attacks France’s policies toward limiting religious expression, such as banning religious symbols in public schools and buildings in 2004 and banning hijabs and burqas in 2010, and growing unemployment and discrimination toward Muslim communities have all been suggested as causes for growing Muslim immigrant frustration and isolation in France (Bowen, 2007; Clark, 2016; Croucher, 2008; Winkler, 2016). A more detailed discussion of intergroup dynamics between Muslim immigrants (first and subsequent generations) and non-Muslims in France will be provided later in this entry.

The United Kingdom

The United Kingdom, as one of the most prolific colonial powers, is one of the most culturally diverse EU nations. The cultural diversity in the United Kingdom is largely attributed to the relationship between the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth nations. Current U.K. migration policies and perceptions toward migrants are largely shaped by the history of immigration policies in the United Kingdom. Before 1962, Commonwealth citizens could enter the United Kingdom freely. However, after 1962 such people were required to have work vouchers, which decreased immigration from predominantly black nations. Then in 1965, U.K. migration law tightened further regarding the Commonwealth in the wake of rising unemployment, rising immigration, and anti-migrant riots in various U.K. cities (Karapin, 1999). In the 1970s, migration had slowed to the United Kingdom from the Commonwealth but increased from African nations such as Uganda. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, stricter entry controls were put into place, which led to less migration from non-white majority nations. Moreover, with the fall of the Soviet Union, a new movement of people, many asylum seekers, began to enter the United Kingdom looking for a better life.

Recently a large influx in Polish, Romanian, and Bulgarian immigrants in particular have entered the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom has witnessed an unprecedented EU-to-the-United-Kingdom migration. Poles are now the second largest immigrant group in the United Kingdom, representing 9.1% of the foreign population in the United Kingdom in 2015, just behind Indian-born migrants at 9.3% (Migration Observatory, 2016). Poles may make up a large percentage of the foreign-born population in the United Kingdom, but they also face anti-immigrant rhetoric, discrimination, and unemployment (Day & Bingham, 2015). Poles were particularly targeted as a scapegoat during the lead up to the Brexit vote in 2016. While Poles have been growing in number in the United Kingdom, Romanians and Bulgarians have also been growing, doubling in numbers between 2014 and 2015 to more than 50,000 in 2015 (Daily Mail Reporter, 2015). Many in the United Kingdom attribute the influx of immigrants to higher-paid jobs in the United Kingdom (as opposed to Poland, Bulgaria, and Romania for example), which immigrants have access to as a result of the Schengen.

However, as seen during the lead up and vote over Brexit in 2016, the choice of whether to follow EU migration policies or national policies is a question of nationalism. This kind of nationalism was demonstrated in the rhetoric leading up to the 2016 Brexit in which many Brexiters (supporters of the Brexit) argued it was in the United Kingdom’s best interest to have control over migration policies and to not let Brussels (the EU) have control over U.K. decisions (Moynihan et al., 2015).


Germany has experienced long-term migration from various immigrant groups since the end of World War II (WWII). At the end of WWII, numerous guest workers from Turkey were brought into Germany to rebuild West Germany. Tens of thousands of Turkish workers (mostly men) were brought to West Germany to rebuild the nation. Over time they stayed and brought their families with them or married into German families. Thus, there is a strong Turkish presence in Germany, which explains its large Turkish population. The worker recruitment programs ended in 1973. Along with Turkish immigrants, Germany’s rather open immigration policies (especially until the 1970s and 1980s) extended to asylum seekers. Until the 1980s, Germany was one of the most open immigration nations in Europe. In 1980, after a wave of asylum seekers and applications from Afghanistan, Vietnam, East Africa, and Turkey in the late 1970s, restrictive measures were passed on asylum seekers and migrants (Kanstroom, 1993). Even with such restrictions, Germany has been generous with granting asylum to refugees, which has increased its immigrant population.

Yet, even with increased restrictions, Germany has remained one of the most popular destinations in the world for immigrants. As of 2012 (Federal Statistical Office of Germany, 2012), 16.3 million people in Germany had an immigrant background, or about 20% of the population. Of this 16.3 million, 1.5 million (the largest single group) had Turkish heritage, followed by Polish (750,000), Italian (600,000), Romanian (450,000), Syrian (366,000), and then Greek (340,000). The refugee population has also significantly increased in Germany over the past few years during the refugee crisis. In particular, in the wake of the 2013–2016 refugee crisis in the EU, Germany took in the largest amount of refugees. While many Germans heralded this as a monumental humanitarian act, some have criticized it. In 2016, the anti-refugee party, the Alternative für Deutschland, campaigned against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s more open refugee policy and defeated her party, the Christian Democratic Union, in some state elections (Oltermann, 2016). Intergroup relations in Germany will also be discussed further in this entry, particularly in the wake of growing tensions in Germany over rising prejudice and violence throughout the country.


Before WWII, immigration to Sweden was predominantly from other Nordic nations. However, after WWII, immigration to Sweden increased dramatically from other Nordic nations, Baltic States, and post-war Germany (Bengtsson, Lundh, & Scott, 2005). During the 1950s–1960s, the Swedish government recruited thousands of migrant workers to build and expand Swedish infrastructure. Such workers were brought to Sweden through a series of agreements under the Nordic Council (1952–1955), which was established to promote cooperation (economic, political, and migration) among the five Nordic nations: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. The Council was expanded during 1970–1991 to include Äland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

In the past 40 years, Sweden has also experienced a steady increase in immigration. As of 2011, the foreign-born population made up about 14% (1.3 million) of the total population of 9.6 million. The five largest immigrant groups were: Finns (156,000), Iraqis (132,000), Syrians (100,000), Poles (86,000), and Iranians (70,000) (Statistiska Centralbyrån, 2015). The large Finnish presence is logical, considering: the geographic proximity, the fact that Finland was a colony of the Swedish Empire until 1809, and Swedish is one of the three official languages of Finland. The abundance of Iraqis, Syrians, and Iranians is attributed to the relatively open refugee policy of Sweden dating back to the 1970s. For the past 40 years, Sweden has maintained a fairly liberal refugee and asylum seeking policy, which has permitted many refugees and asylum seekers to seek refuge and be granted citizenship in Sweden. Even during the 2013–2016 EU refugee crisis, Sweden has maintained these liberal policies, while other EU nations have turned to more protectionist policies. It is these differences between EU nations, particularly during the 2013–2016 EU refugee crisis that I discuss next. While the EU has clear migration policies, each member-state still has their own policies, and these policies can, and often do override those of the EU.

Intergroup Relations between Immigrants and Non-Immigrants in the EU

A primary goal of the EU project was unity among European states. In the aftermath of WWII it was critical that such divisions and devastation not occur again, which was one of the primary reasons for forming the EU. Thus, international cooperation/relations and diplomacy were primary reasons for founding the EU. Since then additional reasons have emerged, one being intergroup relations and cohesion. The need for communities and groups to better communicate with one another, particularly to improve overall EU solidarity, is of a greater imperative as the EU and its member states experienced rapid diversification in the form of demographic change brought on by genocide (the Balkans), the fall of the Soviet Union, unemployment, political turmoil, and mass immigration in the 2000s. Fear, discrimination, prejudice, and violence have increased in many EU communities as they see the numbers of immigrants, particularly Muslim immigrants, increasing rapidly in size. In this section, intergroup dynamics/relations among migrants and non-migrants in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom will be discussed to demonstrate the following aspects of the EU: how these communities’ communicative interactions influence these nations, and what the long-term implications of these interactions and demographic changes may be on these groups, communities, nations, and the EU.


France has historically been a nation of large-scale migration for North African and Sub-Saharan African Muslims and Christians, due to France’s colonial history in Algeria, Tunisia, and French West Africa (Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, French Guinea, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Benin, and Niger). Algeria in particular has historically been the largest sending nation of migrants to France because before 1962 Algerians automatically had French citizenship, as Algeria was a department, or département of France. Départements are administrative divisions or local governments. After Algeria gained its independence from France in 1962 following a lengthy and bloody civil war, Algerians no longer had such automatic citizenship rights. Tunisia gained its independence from France in 1956 and West Africa in 1958. Unlike Algeria, Tunisians and West Africans did not have automatic citizenship, as both were not départements of France. It is important to point out the distinction between these groups, because non-immigrants historically approach intergroup communication/relations with immigrants based on immigrant home-nations.

Historically, relations and interaction between Muslims and the dominant secular-Catholic French population have been strained (Croucher, 2008; Silverstein, 2004). Croucher (2008) and Croucher and Cronn-Mills (2011) found that secular Catholics in France consider French Muslims (immigrants and those born in France) to be less than equal in status to French Catholics. The designation that Muslim immigrants are not equal to the dominant French culture can be seen in terms such as pieds noirs, which means “black feet.” This term is used to refer to African immigrants (Muslims and Jews), and came into common use after the Algerian War. The term is extremely negative and has derogatory connotations. Dine (1994) asserted the frequent use of this term serves as a form of alienation, discrimination, and division in French society, which leads to the perceived pieds noirs and others failing to be able to relate to one another.

This separation between predominantly Muslim immigrants from Africa and secular Catholics is largely guided by the belief that Muslims are not as equal in the eyes of the law because they do not respect laïcité. In analyses of discrimination and prejudice, research has demonstrated that many French Catholics justify discrimination toward Muslims in France simply because they are Muslims and that Islam is the antithesis to laïcité (Croucher, 2008, 2013). The argument that Islam is the antithesis to laïcité has been the grounds for various anti-religious expression laws in France, often supported by far right political parties such as the National Front. Such rhetoric and laws have further limited intergroup communication between Muslims and Catholics. While the French government and supporters of such anti-religious expression laws passed in 2004 and 2010 argue these laws protect free expression, Muslims see the laws as directed toward Islam (Croucher, 2008). In response, many Muslims and Catholics have expressed a breakdown in communication between individuals from the different religious communities (Croucher & Cronn-Mills, 2011). Such communication breakdowns are exacerbated by right wing rhetoric, which is extremely anti-Muslim. For example, the National Front regularly accuses immigrants (Muslims in particular) of taking French jobs, making France unsafe, and of damaging French culture. In 2016–2017 this rhetoric became front and center as the National Front candidate Marine Le Pen gained political momentum and reached the final round of presidential voting. Her largely anti-immigrant and France first campaign showed a stark divide between eventual winner Emmanual Macron’s softer stances on immigrants and social issues. Ultimately, there are fundamental differences and a societal divide between the secular-Catholic and the Muslim (immigrant and non-immigrant) communities in France. It is essential to look beyond religion to try to move toward political, economic, and sociocultural common ground.

The United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, intergroup differences are not based as clearly on religious differences as in France. Moreover, such differences are also not based as much on the issue of refugee/asylum seeker rights. Instead, intergroup differences and debates over integration, nationalism, and the EU revolve largely around the economic implications of migration. In particular, in the lead up to the Brexit vote of 2016, the economic implications of migrations were front and center and a key issue of debate and difference. This debate pitted non-immigrants against one another, and non-immigrants against immigrants in the United Kingdom.

The immigrant landscape of the United Kingdom has been slowly changing over the past 30 years (Hooghe & Marks, 2008). As previously mentioned, Polish immigrants now represent the second largest immigrant group in the United Kingdom (9.1%), just behind Indian immigrants (9.3%) of the total U.K. population (Migration Observatory, 2016). Intergroup relations between this large migrant group and the non-immigrant U.K. population have become increasingly strained as unemployment has become a growing concern (Day & Bingham, 2015). Numerous politicians who supported Brexit claimed British immigration policies were being controlled by the EU, which led to a flood of Polish, Indian, African, and other migrants taking British jobs from British people. For example, Nigel Farage, the former leader of the U.K. Independence Party (who resigned immediately after the Brexit vote) was vocal in the push for Brexit and that Britain must have control of its borders and economic policies, often blaming immigrants for the economic and social woes of the British people. It would appear this kind of rhetoric was effective, as exit polls showed that in many U.K. cities, particularly outside of London and Scotland (and many other urban areas), many people considered the economy and migration to be two key reasons to support Brexit.

Discrimination toward Polish immigrants has been a consistent problem in the United Kingdom. For years, Polish immigrants have been scapegoats and been blamed for rising unemployment. While some politicians have used Polish immigrants as scapegoats and criticized this group for its very presence in the United Kingdom, other groups (the Labour Party) have pointed out how this immigrant group has created jobs, filled much needed positions in the U.K. job market, and has an exceptionally high work ethic (Rainey, 2013). Yet, discrimination and hate crimes against Polish immigrants have remained a fact of life in the United Kingdom. In 2013, for example, more than 500 people were arrested in the United Kingdom for hate crimes against Polish immigrants (Taylor, 2016). After the Brexit vote graffiti saying “Go home” was sprayed on the Polish Social and Cultural Association building in West London, while cards saying “Leave the EU/No more Polish vermin” were distributed in Cambridgeshire (Taylor, 2016).

Overall, the negative sentiment toward Polish immigrants has been growing and continues to grow. The negative stereotype of the “Polish plumber,” who will undercut the competition to get any job, is growing as the United Kingdom tries to find its way through the Brexit (Taylor, 2016). In such a setting, it is extremely difficult for groups to have productive intergroup dialogue, as this growing minority is too often viewed as undercutting the competition, taking others’ jobs unfairly, being in the nation illegally or unethically, as vermin, or as pests, et cetera. Moreover, with the future of EU migrants in the United Kingdom in question, as the United Kingdom will no longer be in the EU in the future after the Brexit vote, Polish migrants are in an even more precarious situation. Many wonder what their migrant status will be in the future, a future that includes the United Kingdom not being a part of the EU.


In Germany, unlike France, intergroup differences are not as clearly based on religious differences. Instead, intergroup differences over the past few years (particularly in the wake of the EU refugee crisis of 2013–2016) have emerged between German citizens and refugees/asylum seekers. In 2015 alone, Germany registered more than 1.1 million asylum seekers, with Syrian refugees making up more than 40% of that number and the remaining group being made up of seekers from Afghanistan, Albania, Serbia, Kosovo, and the Balkan states for example (Agence-France Presse, 2016). German Chancellor Angela Merkel has opted for a relatively open-door policy toward refugees/asylum seekers. The German Chancellor, unlike many other EU member-state leaders at the start of the refugee crisis, saw this crisis as a humanitarian crisis. In her opinion, Germany should be a passionate nation. Thus, she opened its borders to refugees and asylum seekers, while many other nations closed borders and in some cases closed the Schengen Area (Feldenkirchen & Pfister, 2016). While Merkel herself and many members of her party and government have been supportive of this open-door policy, not all Germans have responded in the same way. Not only has Alternative für Deutschland actively campaigned against Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and her policies, but increasingly Germans are expressing opposition to Merkel’s policies, and intergroup tensions between refugees/asylum seekers and German citizens is growing.

On New Year’s Eve, 2015, a series of sexual assaults took place in Cologne. The assaults were perpetrated on German women by refugees/asylum seekers. In the aftermath of the attacks hundreds of charges were filed, and numerous refugees/asylum seekers were attacked by German gangs. All in all, the intergroup situation between Germans and refugees/asylum seekers in Germany is becoming increasingly tense as more and more Germans call on Merkel’s government to close its open-door policy. Moreover, the euphoric mood in Germany has been replaced for many Germans with dissent for refugees/asylum seekers. Discrimination, prejudice, and violence are on the rise as Germans oppose Merkel’s immigration policies and the presence of refugees/asylum seekers. Many Germans perceive refugees/asylum seekers as not only a physical danger, particularly after Cologne, but also as taking away economic and physical resources from “real” German citizens. Ultimately, growing German resentment toward refugees/asylum seekers poses a significant dilemma for intergroup communication in Germany. Stephan and Stephan (1993, 1996) in their integrated threat theory, which predicts prejudice, argued that when a dominant group perceives a minority as taking away their physical, political, and/or economic resources that this is a real threat. This is the case in Germany, as German citizens perceive refugees/asylum seekers as not only a physical threat but also a political and economic danger. In such a situation, intergroup communication is not likely to be productive, if at all possible. As the EU refugee crisis continues to unfold it is difficult to know what the future holds for intergroup relations between German citizens and refugees/asylum seekers.

What is the Future of Europe and the European Union?

After World War II, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill stated that one of the best ways to heal the wounds in Europe was to create a European Family. Over the past 70 years, the notion of a European identity or family has been a focus of EU leaders, and has meant many different things throughout the history of the EU. In the post-WWII years, European unity emerged as Europeans tried to find a place in a Cold War-centered, sociopolitical, economic world. Pre-2004, before the EU expanded and integrated 11 new member states from Eastern Europe, the idea of being European was more utopian, and quickly became more tenuous (Ceka & Sojka, 2016).

So, considering the intergroup dynamics taking place in the EU in response to its rapidly changing demographics and the Brexit, a critical question is, what is the future of Europe and the European Union? The answer to this question is of course not simple. However, national groups and intergroup solidarity can provide some clues into some potential futures. On the national level, five groups have emerged within the EU that lead the debate over the future of the EU. These groups reveal new divisions and ideologies within countries and between states in the EU. Moreover, in many cases the communication between these groups is continually limited, as the groups find it harder to see eye to eye: integrationists, pragmatists, expansionists, sceptics, and populists. The first two groups, the integrationists and the pragmatists, have been able to and will more than likely be able to continue communicating with one another in the future. The integrationists, led by the German and Belgian governments, have repeatedly called for more EU control over federal budgets, migration regulations, and even a common European army. The pragmatists, also led by the German government along with the Dutch, take a more pragmatic view on the purpose and future of the EU. Angela Merkel, for example, has stated on many occasions that the EU should be streamlined and should cut bureaucracy to create more jobs within the member states. The Dutch Prime Minister has also acknowledged that debates over European versus national identities, and European rules over national rules are counterproductive. Instead, the focus should be on Europe when necessary, and the nation when necessary.

The expansionists make up the middle of the spectrum of the five groups. This group is largely made up of Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and the Socialists in France. This group, largely made up of nations that have experienced the most economic hardships since 2008, advocate for less restrictive EU regulations on banking and general economic regulations. They argue that the EU in Brussels is too restrictive, but these governments are willing to compromise in the name of economic growth.

On the other side of the political and economic spectrum are the sceptics and populists. The EU sceptics, who mainly consist of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia, assert the member states and not the EU institutions form the EU. Such nations want as little power as possible in the hands of the EU, and more control to be in the hands of each member state. In essence, they want a very weakly centralized EU. Finally, populists are rapidly growing throughout the EU. Populists favor an exit from the EU. The U.K. Independence Party in the United Kingdom, the National Front in France, Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland, Finland’s True Finns, and Italy’s Five Star Movement have all gained momentum in their respective nations. After the Brexit vote, many EU observers are now left wondering what state will be the next to attempt an exit. It is common during EU meetings in Brussels and in national Parliamentary meetings to have political clashes/disagreements between sceptics and populists with expansionists, integrationists, and pragmatists. On the national level, these political divisions limit communication on political, economic, and social issues in the EU member states and at the EU level (Wintour, 2016). Such group differences do not bode well for the future of a unified and growing EU.

Intergroup solidarity is also a key issue that should be explored when looking to the future of the EU project. Heitz (2016) asserted that during the refugee crisis, the EU has shown a void of solidarity. For example, largely Eastern nations rejected a proposal by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to bind members to a quota system for accepting refugees. Greece in 2011 was released from its Dublin Regulation obligations, and in 2015 Germany suspended its Dublin Regulation for Syrian refugees. The Dublin Regulation states that a person can apply for asylum in only one EU member state, and that member state is responsible for a decision on his/her case. Numerous nations temporarily suspended the Schengen from 2011–2016 and erected fences to prevent the free flow of peoples.

The EU is made up of 28 member nations, each made up of diverse communities. However, the refugee crisis has pushed many member nations to the brink of abandoning the EU, look to the Brexit as an example. As of August 2016, the number of migrants coming into the EU is not slowing down. Thus, it is essential for the member states and for the EU to address issues such as the effects of mass migration on national/EU security, migration policies, economics, and social/cultural change in the EU. While EU skepticism, xenophobia, racism, and nationalism are growing in many EU member states, those same member states also have more migrants coming every day. In Finland, one group called the Soldiers of Odin roam city streets to “defend” women (and Finns) from migrants. The group is also known to harass migrants. Such groups are growing in number throughout Europe, which can only lead to a breakdown in communication between immigrants/migrants and non-immigrants, and a failure in integration. As Heitz (2016) argued, “Thus far, EU member states have exhibited a declining desire to compromise non-economic autonomy for increased integration.” Therefore, the various factions/groups in the EU will need to come to some sort of consensus on how to respond to the critical issues facing the EU, for example the refugee crisis and the economic crisis. Such a consensus is possible through intergroup dialogue/communication among the member states’ internal communities and between the member states.

Further Reading

Allport, G. (1954). The nature of prejudice. Cambridge, MA: Addison-Wesley.Find this resource:

    Berend, I. T. (2016). The history of European integration: A new perspective. London: Routledge.Find this resource:

      Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E., Loescher, G., Long, K., & Sigona, N. (2016). The Oxford handbook of refugee and forced migration studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

        Gebrewold, B., & Bloom, T. (Eds.). (2016). Understanding migrant decisions: From Sub-Saharan Africa to the Mediterranean region. Abingdon, U.K.: Routledge.Find this resource:

          Gibney, M. J. (2004). The ethics and politics of asylum: Liberal democracy and the response to refugees. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.Find this resource:

            Kingsley, P. (2016). The new odyssey: The story of Europe’s refugee crisis. Norwich, U.K.: Guardian Faber.Find this resource:

              Laurence, J. & Vaisse, J. (2006). Integrating Islam: Political and religious challenges in contemporary France. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution.Find this resource:

                McLaren, L. (2006). Identity, interests and attitudes to European integration. Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave.Find this resource:

                  Nelson, B. F., & Stubb, A. (Eds.). (2014). The European Union: Readings on the theory and practice of European integration (4th ed.). Boulder, CO: Lynne Reinner Publishers.Find this resource:

                    Roos, C. (2013). The EU and immigration policies: Cracks in the walls of fortress Europe? Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave.Find this resource:

                      Stephan, W. G., & Stephan, C. W. (1996). Predicting prejudice. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 20, 409–426.Find this resource:


                        Agence-France Presse. (2016, January 6). Germany registers record 1.1 million asylum seekers in 2015. Al Jazeera. Retrieved from this resource:

                          Bengtsson, T., Lundh, T., & Scott, K. (2005). From boom to bust: The economic integration of immigrants in postwar Sweden. In K. F. Zimmerman (Ed.), European migration: What do we know? (pp. 15–58). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

                            Bowen, J. R. (2007). Why the French don’t like headscarves: Islam, the State, and public space. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Find this resource:

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