Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Can the French riots spread?

That's what other European nations must be asking themselves (not that France has ever been good at exporting revolution). Here are predictions from Germany and Switzerland.

Switzerland says the French contagion won't cross the border:
[...] Observers say the outbreak of violence in France has much to do with socio-economic factors that do not exist in Swiss neighbourhoods. [...]

"There is no risk that we will see this kind of violence here," said Klaus Mannhart, spokesman for the Basel police, who reckons these events are specific to France. [...]

Sandro Cattacin, a sociologist at Geneva University, agrees. "In Switzerland, the risk is low," he told swissinfo. "We don't have any ghettos and we have a long tradition of integrating foreigners."
Germany feels secure, for the moment at least:

The conditions in France are different from the ones we have here - we don't have giant apartment blocks," said Germany's foreign affairs adviser Wolfgang Schäuble.
But papers see trouble on the horizon:

The Financial Times Deutschland opines that action must be taken in Germany before it is too late. [...] Long term unemployment, welfare cuts and a low income sector is tied up with problem areas and the problem of integrating poorly educated immigrants. "Immigrants' chances of integration and social climbing are dependent on the situation on the job market," writes the paper, adding that unemployment among foreigners is twice as high as it is for Germans. The next government has to push through job market reforms and a growth-friendly policy in order to create job prospects for those with little or no qualifications. Otherwise it is left to well-meaning integration plans that achieve nothing.

The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung points out that while it is right to
differentiate between the no-go areas of the French ghettos and areas of social marginalization in Germany, there is a similar ignorance on the part of the politicians and society about the growing social powder keg at their doorstep. In France official policy aimed at increasing educational and employment opportunities has just been "a tranquilizer that has had no effect." It warns German politicians not to be too sure that the French problems are not coming their way.

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung [...] tackles the issue of Germany's
education system and its failure to eliminate growing economic inequality. [...] Society in Germany has been transformed since the 1950s and 1960s from broad affluence to a new class system, in which the underclass is made up of
immigrants and their children. Each year thousands of school kids leave the vocational high schools with no qualifications and they are usually kids living
in cities from broken families, often from an immigrant background. These schools have become "minority schools, underclass schools, schools for the losers of the education system" and the new social question needs a new answer, calling "the school as a place for correcting fate." This is then connected with criminality, particularly that of unemployed youth, social marginalization cannot be ended by the police. The best policy for combatting crime is a good social policy, comments the paper.
The best policy is to create jobs for these folks. Giving them some hope of a better future, either for themselves or their children is the answer.

One way to predict if the rioting will spread in a meaningful way is to look at levels of youth unemployment--especially among immigrants or their children-- levels of discrimination, and the total numbers of those who may riot. Alienated unemployed youth are those most likely to rampage, and it certainly takes quite a few of them to reach a critical mass. Under those circumstances, pretty much only Germany and France are at risk for nationwide riots. Other European countries remain susceptible to smaller, localized riots (e.g. Birmingham earlier this year).

I think it clear that this is not an Islamic-driven uprising (although a religious component is no doubt present). Rather it is due to France's failed assimilation policies, high levels of discrimination and racism, and failed social model.

That said, it does seem as if Muslim youth are more likely to riot. Should other countries suffer rioting, it will be interesting to see who participates.

Extremist Islamic groups will doubtless benefit from the rioting. But France has excellent domestic intelligence services, so presumably they will be able to infiltrate and neutralize the groups.