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Islam and Islamic Studies in Scandinavia  

Susanne Olsson and Simon Sorgenfrei

Islam in the Scandinavian countries—Denmark, Norway, and Sweden—has a long history. There are evidences of contacts between Scandinavia and the Muslim world at least since the Middle Ages. The presence of Muslims in Scandinavia is however of a later date and more established from the 1950s, when immigrants arrived, mainly due to the needs in the labor markets; they successively established congregations and mosques, as they realized that they were to stay in their new countries. Following this period, Muslim migrants have arrived due to geopolitical factors, such as war, which have increased the number of Muslims and their presence and visibility in public space and public debate, which in turn has affected the media image of Islam and Muslims and influenced research. The research on Islam and Muslims has a long history in Scandinavia as well. With the increase of Muslim inhabitants in Scandinavian countries, scholarly interests have also related more to the present and to the study of their own Muslim populations, as well as case studies related to Islamophobia, media images, Muslims in the school systems and labor market, and specific incidents, such as the cartoon crisis and its aftermath.

Article

Muslim Integration and French Society  

Rachel D. Brown

The subject of Muslim integration has been the focus of much policy development, media engagement, and everyday conversation in France. Because of the strong rhetoric about national identity—a national identity based on Republican ideals of universalism, equality, and French secularism (laïcité)—the question often becomes, “Can Muslims, as Muslims, integrate into French society and ‘be’ French?” In other contexts (e.g., the United States), religion may act as an aid in immigrants’ integration. In Europe, and France specifically, religion is viewed as an absolute hindrance to integration. Because of this, and thanks to a specific migration history of Muslims to France, the colonial grounding for the development of French nationality and secularism, and the French assimilationist model of integration, Muslims are often viewed as, at best, not able to integrate and, at worst, not willing to integrate into French society. The socioeconomic inequality between Muslim and non-Muslim French (as represented by life in the banlieues [suburbs]), the continued labeling of second- and third-generation North African Muslim youth as “immigrants,” the occurrence of terrorist attacks and radicalization on European soil, and the use of religious symbols (whether the head scarf or religious food practices) as symbols of intentional difference all add to the perception that Muslims are, and should be, the subject of integration efforts in France. While the discourse is often that Muslims have failed to integrate into French society through an acceptance and enactment of French values and policies, new research is suggesting that the “failed” integration of Muslims reveals a deeper failure of French Republican universalism, equality, and secularism.

Article

Solidarity and European Union Politics  

Andreas Grimmel

Solidarity is one of most contentious and contested concepts in European Union (EU) politics. At the same time, it was, and remains, a central value of European integration that has been more and more institutionalized over time. The numerous codifications in the EU treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, along with the increasingly frequent references to the value in political declarations and decisions, prove the value’s growing significance. Yet, there also exists a fundamental divide between rhetorical commitments to solidarity and the practice of the EU and its member states. The most recent crises of the EU have shown the instrumentality and strategic use of the concept in order to promote particular political positions rather than work toward a more common understanding of European solidarity. This makes the application of solidarity in the EU a question not just of arriving at definitional clarity, but also of developing practices that reflect solidarity in concrete cases. Such practices are inextricably linked with three grounds for action: voluntariness, selflessness, and identification. Despite, or precisely because of, these difficulties in defining, concertizing, and implementing solidarity as a European value, there is a rising interest in solidarity in various fields of studies, such as political science, sociology, philosophy, law, and history, making it an interdisciplinary and multidimensional subject matter.

Article

Cohesion Policy and European Union Politics  

Simona Piattoni and Laura Polverari

Cohesion policy is one of the longest-standing features of the European construction; its roots have been traced as far back as the Treaty of Rome. Over time, it has become one of the most politically salient and sizable policies of the European Union, absorbing approximately one-third of the EU budget. Given its principles and “shared management” approach, it mobilizes many different actors at multiple territorial scales, and by promoting “territorial cooperation” it has encouraged public authorities to work together, thus overcoming national borders. Furthermore, cohesion policy is commonly considered the most significant expression of solidarity between member states and the most tangible way in which EU citizens “experience” the European Union. While retaining its overarching mission of supporting lagging regions and encouraging the harmonious development of the Union, cohesion policy has steadily evolved and adapted in response to new internal and external challenges, such as those generated by subsequent rounds of enlargement, globalization, and shifting political preferences regarding what the EU should be about. Just as the policy has evolved over time in terms of its shape and priorities, so have the theoretical understandings of economic development that underpin its logic, the nature of intergovernmental relations, and the geographical and administrative space(s) within which the EU polity operates. For example, whereas overcoming the physical barriers to economic development were the initial targets in the 1960s and 1970s, and redesigning manufacturing clusters were those of the 1980s and 1990s, fostering advanced knowledge and technological progress became the focus of cohesion policy in the new century. At the same time, cohesion policy also inspired or even became a testing ground for new theories, such as multilevel governance, Europeanization, or smart specialization. Given its redistributive nature, debates have proliferated around its impact, added value, and administrative cost, as well as the institutional characteristics that it requires to function. These deliberations have, in turn, informed the policy in its periodic transformations. Political factors have also played a key role in shaping the evolution of the policy. Each reform has been closely linked to the debates on the European budget, where the net positions of member states have tended to dominate the agenda. An outcome of this process has been the progressive alignment with wider strategic goals beyond cohesion and convergence and the strengthening of linkages with the European Semester. However, some argue that policymakers have failed to properly consider the perverse effects of austerity on regional disparities. These unresolved tensions are particularly significant in a context denoted by a rise of populist and nativist movements, increasing social discontent, and strengthening Euroskepticism. As highlighted by research on its communication, cohesion policy may well be the answer for winning back the hearts and minds of European citizens. Whether and how this may be achieved will likely be the focus of research in the years ahead.