Immigration/Social Policy

The refugee crisis as a divisive issue for EU and national leaders: Germany’s leadership role, lessons for Canada?

Sept 11, 2015 - by Oliver Schmidtke, Director of the Centre for Global Studies at the University of Victoria

While European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has just announced that Europe’s response to the refugee crisis will be "swift, determined and comprehensive", the EU member states are far from agreeing on a common approach. Even the proposal to distribute close to 160.000 refugees across the continent with binding quotas is anything but agreed upon. In particular Central Eastern European countries have been clear about their refusal of taking in any refugees as part of a pan-European distribution scheme. 

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Europe’s failure to confront the refugee crisis: towards a nationalist backlash

August 18th 2015 - by Dr. Oliver Schmidtke, Director of the Centre for Global Studies, University of Victoria

Europe is currently facing the world’s biggest refugee crisis since 1945. According to the United Nations in 2015 alone more than 225,000 refugees have arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean Sea. Over 2,100 migrants are presumed to have died during the treacherous journey. The latest incident happened just about two weeks ago when over 200 refugees perished when their overcrowded boat capsized. Another point of destination for those refugees is Hungary. From January to the end of May 50,000 migrants were detected trying to cross from Serbia into Hungary - an 880% increase compared with the same period a year ago. And the situation is getting more and more desperate for many migrants who hope to flee by land through the Balkans before Hungary will have completed the barbed-wire fence in November that is meant to deter migrants over the 175-kilometre border between Hungary and Serbia. The situation is similarly dramatic in Greece: The UN refugee agency's division for Europe stated recently that 124,000 refugees and migrants have landed in Greece coming from Turkey since the beginning of the year, - arriving in a country that, with its deep economic crisis, feels overwhelmed even to provide the most basic of supplies and shelter. Some of the daily media images are unsettling: refugees in their flimsy boats frantically seeking to reach the shores of Greek islands like Kos or Lesvos where privileged sunbathing tourists enjoy their vacation. 

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The right-wing Danish People's Party shatters Denmark's political establishment

June 19, 2015 - by Trygve Ugland, Bishop's University, and Oliver Schmidtke, University of Victoria

The elections in Denmark ended with what many observers had feared: the right-wing, anti-immigrant Danish People's Party has become the second-largest party in parliament (with 21.1 % of the overall vote). With over one fifth of the votes, the Danish People's Party will play a critical role in determining the next government in Denmark. At the moment, it is uncertain whether the right-wing party will support the former opposition leader Lars Rasmussen and his liberals to form a new government. All that is clear is that Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt has stepped down and put an end to the one term social-democratic rule in Denmark.

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Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/PA

The 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall - Fading memory or renewed geopolitical reality?

November 11, 2014 - by Oliver Schmidtke, University of Victoria


"Today Germany is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. For good reasons the commemoration of the events of November 1989 is a joyous one. On the whole the unification process has been a success: in spite of many fears in the international community at the time Germany has shied away from developing any hegemonic aspirations and has remained a loyal European, Western partner. Domestically the transformation of former Communist East Germany took much longer than expected;

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Visa - the secret weapon of EU sanctions against Russia?

June 12 2014 - by Dr. Ruben Zaiotti, European Union Centre of Excellence, Dalhousie University

"It would be a bit of an understatement to say that relations between Russia and European governments have recently turned rather frosty. Indeed, we now typically hear references to a new 'Cold War', with Ukraine acting as battleground in this revamped East-West rivalry. Despite the militaristic undertones that characterise their relationship, the growing tensions between the two sides have not led to open conflict. Both, after all, would have a lot to lose from this confrontation. This state of affairs, however, does not mean that another type of war, one not involving tanks and missiles, is being waged. It is a war over mobility of people, fought through an unlikely weapon of mass disruption, namely visas.

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