Challenges of Immigration for Smaller Countries of Europe

Iseult Honohan, University College Dublin

This interdisciplinary seminar series examines the distinctive challenges of, and responses to, immigration in the smaller countries of Europe from a comparative and normative perspective. The project brings together partners from seven NORFACE countries (Ireland, Portugal, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom and Germany) for four two-day seminars. These will be held in Dublin (December 7-8, 2006), Braga (spring 2007), Maastricht (autumn 2007) and Aarhus (spring 2008).

In developing the comparative study of immigration, the seminars will draw on a range of invited experts both on immigration in these countries and on the themes around which the seminars focus, namely: immigration and social cohesion, programmes promoting civic integration, the impact of immigration on citizenship attribution, and religion, public culture and the new immigration.

The partners are Dr. Iseult Honohan (Politics and International Relations, University College Dublin) – principal organiser; Professor Dora Kostakopoulou (Law, University of Manchester); Professor Christian Joppke (Sociology, International University, Bremen); Dr. Maarten Vink (Political Science, Maastricht University); Mr. Jurgen Carling (International Peace Research Institute, Oslo); Dr. Isabel Estrada (International Relations and Public Administration, University of Minho); Professor Per Mouritsen (Political Science and Journalism, University of Aarhus).

First seminar 7-8 December 2006 in Dublin
Organised by UCD School of Politics and International Relations, the first seminar in the NORFACE series on the ‘The Challenges of Immigration for the Smaller Countries of Europe’ brought together members of the network with guest speakers to consider the broad theme of immigration and social cohesion. Two papers critically analysed the evolution of attitudes and policies in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, where the idea of a retreat from multiculturalism have become influential. It also addresses arguments about the nature of social cohesion, the relationship between immigration and social cohesion, and the determinants of attitudes towards immigrants. The second strand of the seminar initiated the comparative dimension of the series with papers presenting recent research on Irish immigration from economic, social, and cultural perspectives. The seminar closed with a roundtable which discussed issues of concern to representatives of immigrant organisations.

Second seminar, Braga, 15th – 16th June 2007
Organised by Isabel Estrada, Political Science and International Relations, University of Minho, the second seminar addressed issues of civic integration and recent developments in programmes to promote civic integration.

In the first part of the seminar, recent research on civic integration in Portugal was presented. Papers addressed new developments in nationality law, civic associations, and education and immigrant political rights, assessing their impact on immigrant integration. The second part of the seminar moved to the wider comparative arena, with two papers that outlined and critically evaluated the nature, development and effectiveness of recent civic integration strategies in Western Europe.

Third seminar, Maastricht, 8th – 9th November 2007
This seminar was organised by Marten Vink, Department of Political Science, University of Maastricht.

It addressed the following questions: how do immigration and emigration affect the way in which states regulate the acquisition and loss of citizenship? Can immigrants retain their citizenship of origin when they obtain the citizenship of their new state of residence? Why do some states have no problem with the phenomenon of multiple citizenships, whereas in others this leads to strong societal opposition? Can you still be considered a citizen if you have lived your whole life abroad? What are the international regulations? What are the trends across Europe? How important are these debates anyway?

Fourth seminar, Aarhus, 24-25 April 2008
This seminar was organized by Per Mouritsen, Department of Political Science, Aarhus University.

The recent return of religion to social and political significance in Europe has been widely remarked upon. Societies that have viewed themselves as secular and tolerant have been confronted with new issues of freedom of expression and political calls to respect religious practice and belief. Also, new immigration has meant that societies where religious homogeneity – and cultural homogeneity more generally – was previously taken for granted have been faced with increasing diversity. This seminar considered a number of issues of religion, public space and public culture that arise in the context of immigration, with special reference to the ways in which these arise in the context of new immigration in the smaller countries of Europe: What role may religious arguments and discourse may play in political life? What is the relationship between religion and various theoretical conceptions of public reason? How do the religious practices of immigrants fit into existing patterns of religious belief and practice, and to what extent there are significant differences in this among countries? To what extent can we identify distinctive models of responding to religious difference (e.g. secularist, pluralist, confessional) in the smaller countries of Europe? What can be learned by looking at the normative and political disputes over various Muslim religious practices – disputes which exhibit similarities as well as diversities across the political cultures of Europe? Finally, how does, and how should, religion relate to the public culture of countries?