This Week: Flashpoint France
Does the violence spell the end for France’s social model?
The shape of things to come? Reports from the Netherlands, Germany and Slovakia.
What’s the European public’s reaction to the riots?
In the tough Parisian suburb of Clichy sous Bois, Zied and Bouna thought they needed a place to hide from Police. In the dark, they chose a power transformer and were tragically electrocuted. The deaths of the two teenagers on the 27th of October sparked riots on their high rise estate, riots which rapidly spread around Paris and then right across France. The uproar is the worst the country has seen since 1968. One man is dead, the damage to property is counted in hundreds of millions of euros and night time curfews have been slapped into place. But what’s the real cause of the explosion of social unrest?
European Media round-up
News papers worldwide have devoted large column inches to the riots, and many TV stations sent crews to the suburbs of France, the story was their headline for more than a week, and burning cars were shown round the clock, including on the American infotainment channel, Fox news. Their star presenter Bill O’ Reilly, said there was a Muslim insurrection in France, he added that French president Jacques Chirac was getting his money back for “undermining the US war on terror”. What is the European media saying?
Integration policy: Netherlands
Many of the rioters arrested in France are children and grandchildren of North African immigrants, many of whom feel alienated from the country’s mainstream society. A third of France’s estimated six million Muslims, live in the outskirts of the country’s largest cities. How tenuous is mainstream western society’s relationship with domestic Muslim communities?
Integration policy: Germany
In Germany, officials from the major political parties have stressed the need to better integrate immigrants into society. They’re downplaying the risk of the country seeing riots like those in France, although cars were set ablaze in Berlin and Cologne in possible copycat crimes. But as far as integration goes, the rights of Turkish women are something that’s being heavily discussed in Germany, in particular in connection with “forced marriage” and “honour killings”. Three women were murdered in Germany earlier this year for supposedly breaking Turkish patriarchal tradition.
Slovakia’s concrete utopia?
At the beginning of the twentieth century, town planners, socialist politicians, and businessmen joined forces to experiment with the concept of garden suburbs. They were seen as an answer to overcrowded inner city slums. The idea was to create a pleasant environment made up of a wide variety of parks and gardens, romantic and poetic curvy streets, cul de sacs, with housing for the rich and poor. But this architectural philosophy was overturned by the functionalist and rationalist movements led by French architect Le Corbusier. The poetry and the urban “mise en scène” was replaced by a juxtaposition of tower blocks: a new utopia offering hygiene and panorama for everyone. Today there is consensus that these large estates were ill planned and isolated because of poor transport infrastructures. However, this does not apply to the suburbs of the former eastern block.