Integration of immigrants and US fears of militant Islamism in the EU

Published as Institute of European Affairs Justice & Home Affairs Update, April 2006 [To see the original JHA UPDATE for April 2006, browse to]

Welcome to the first JHA update of 2006. This service from the Institute of European Affairs will regularly update you about developments in Justice & Home Affairs (JHA). JHA is the fastest developing policy area in the EU and now includes immigration, trafficking, counter terrorism, fraud, fundamental rights, citizenship, increasingly close police-, security- and judicial cooperation, and action in non-EU countries. This update focuses on the integration of immigrants in the EU and illustrates how JHA issues play an increasingly large and direct role in the lives of EU citizens and in the EU’s relations with other nations.


Immigration & integration remain key issues for the EU and its member states. According to Eurostat, almost 1.7 million immigrants settled in the EU in 2005. The integration of established immigrant communities and new immigrants is of particular importance for EU leaders. Following widespread rioting throughout France in late 2005, bomb attacks in London in July 2005, the assassination of Theo Van Gogh in the Netherlands in November 2004, and the bomb attack in Madrid in March 2004, European leaders are seized of the need not just to enhance their counter-terrorism cooperation, but to integrate minority, immigrant communities within their own populations. With this in mind, the EU Commission’s forthcoming “non-emotive lexicon for discussing radicalisation” (June 2006), which will suggest the term “terrorists who abusively invoke Islam” instead of the term “Islamic terrorism”.

On 23 March 2006, the interior ministers of the six largest EU member states (“G6”: Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain) met at Heiligendamm, Germany, and agreed for the need for a mandatory EU contract of integration under which immigrants wishing to live in the EU would be reciprocally accorded the rights of citizenship but obliged to accept the values of the Union and learn the local language. According to UK Home Secretary Charles Clarke, breaches of the contract could result in deportation. The “G6” proposal is similar to a suggestion, which EU JHA Commissioner, Frattini, made in September 2005 of an oath of allegiance to the values of the EU. Furthermore, the “Common Basic Principles for the integration of Third Country Nationals” (CBPs) outlined by the Commission in November 2004 include the principle that “Integration implies respect for the basic values of the European Union by every resident”[see note1]. However, it remains to be seen how the other 19 member state governments react to the “G6” proposal.

A number of national and state governments have also proposed or implemented new approaches to integration since the beginning of 2006:

Germany: Two states have developed tests for prospective citizens. Muslims living in Baden-Württemberg who apply for citizenship must, since 1 January 2006, submit to a test which gauges their attitudes towards aspects of liberal German society such as homosexuality and sexual equality. Another state, Hessen, drafted a test of applicants’ attitudes towards sexual equality and their general knowledge of Germany including history, election system, civics and electoral system. The test awaits approval by the German parliament in June 2006. In early April 2006, amid controversy arising from incidents of violence by Turkish and Arab students at the Ruetli school in Berlin, Germany’s conservatives called on Chancellor, Angela Merkel, to hold a national integration summit and develop a national integration plan overhauling the school system, introducing requirements to learn German, and proposing sanctions in case of refusal to take integration courses.

France: Internal Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, submitted a draft immigration bill in February 2006, which includes a “contract of welcome and integration” stipulating that immigrants must learn French, look for a job, and respect human rights. Giving an example of the scope of the proposed legislation, Sarkozy warned that, “in the case of a woman kept hostage in her home without learning French, the whole family will be obliged to leave”.

The Netherlands: In March, the Netherlands became the first country to introduce a mandatory test to gauge prospective immigrants’ ability to tolerate, and integrate into, its society. Muslim leaders in the Netherlands have criticised the inclusion of video clips of various aspects of liberal life in the Netherlands and the expense of the test, which must be borne by applicants.


While transatlantic counter terrorism cooperation remains strong, American observers are increasingly concerned about Islamist militancy within Europe. In March 2006, John Podesta, former Chief of Staff to President Clinton, and President of the Centre for American Progress, told the IEA EU-US Group that some experts fear Muslim discontent in Europe more than they fear the ‘blow-back’ from the Iraqi campaign. US concerns directly relate to the successes and failures of European integration policies.

Despite its initial focus on Afghanistan, and early attention to other theatres such as the Horn of Africa, Philippines, and eventually Iraq, American attention has begun to focus on Europe as an area of concern in the ‘war on terror’. Reporting to a House subcommittee on EU-US counter-terror cooperation in September 2004, one State Department official noted that while “the capabilities of our Western European partners are excellent. European intelligence and … generally do an effective job of monitoring extremists”, nonetheless, “terrorist activity and the presence of terrorist support networks in Europe remains a source of concern. … As we all know, much of the planning for 9-11 took place in Europe, and terrorist support networks continue to exist on the continent. … We are concerned that some European states have at times demonstrated an inability to prosecute successfully or hold many of the terrorists brought before their courts”. A House subcommittee hearing on ‘Islamic extremism in Europe’ in April 2005 heard that “the greatest threat[s] from al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups come from Europe today. … We have seen, with the Madrid attacks and also the recent terrorist plots uncovered in London, that there is a serious group of sleeper cells in Europe. … We have the unfortunate confluence of rising Muslim immigration into Europe, a certain amount of European racism and a certain amount of Muslim alienation”.

The July-August 2005 edition of Foreign Affairs quoted a Nixon Centre study of 373 mujahadeen in Western Europe and North America, which found that “fully a quarter of the jihadists it listed were western European nationals – eligible to travel visa-free to the United States”.

Earlier this month, a US Assistant Secretary of State told a Senate hearing on Islamist extremism in Europe that “most countries in Europe have not pursued a conscious integration policy”, and that failure to integrate Muslim minorities in Europe provides an “audience” for extremist messages and poses a security risk for the US. As Iraq and Afghanistan slide off the agenda in coming years, one can anticipate US attention focusing more upon the integration of Muslims in the EU.

NOTE 1: The Common Basic Principles are detailed in “A Common Agenda for Integration: framework for the integration of third- country nationals in the European Union” (PDF version).