Across a number of European countries, new measures regarding immigration and integration are being discussed and in some cases implemented, under conditions of once again rising anti-immigrant sentiments.
In Germany, a recent poll has found that Germans see immigration as the EU’s most important current challenge. This result follows an increase in the level of immigration to Germany in 2014, with 667 000 moving to Germany (and only 427 000 leaving) in the first half of the year. At the same time, the German authorities are receiving rising numbers of asylum applications and are reportedly concerned about the surge in these figures, recently sending a group of 20 police officers to the Hungarian/Serbian border to help control the numbers heading in to the EU.
Meanwhile, in Austria, a law specifically targeting Islamic organizations has been introduced, with this “law on Islam” banning foreign funding for these groups. This law, which has been criticized for its restriction of religious freedoms, has been introduced despite the absence of any attacks from Islamic militants on Austrian soil and relatively good relations with the Muslim community. France, on the other hand, which suffered the Charlie Hebdo shooting on 7 January has reacted in a slightly different manner, calling for revision of the Schengen agreement. Such plans have so far been resisted, with EC President Jean-Claude Juncker saying the Commission did not currently see the need for such a revision. Other countries experiencing unrest in relation to their immigrant communities include Italy, whose “Northern League” has organized rallies against immigration, and the Czech Republic, where despite the relatively small Muslim community there have also been demonstrations against Muslim immigrants.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks in France, the responses have been varied, with some member states quicker to propose strict new security measures than others. The European Commission is due to present its proposal for a European Agenda on Security in April. ECAS has previously insisted, and will continue to insist, on the importance of ensuring that any new measures are compatible with fundamental EU rights including free movement rights.