Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Guest Blogger - France's Katrina Moment

Here’s an email I received from my friend Piotr Skolimowski in Warsaw, who has a similar take on Europe, and especially France, as I do. I was hoping to hit this subject, but he beat me to it.

Dont you think that the riots we are seeing in France now are a kind of “Katrina moment” for Europe? I remember how smug public opinion on the Continent was following the events in New Orleans. Looting and social exclusion of the black community was held up as a proof that the U.S. social model failed. So how should we interpret current events in France? It appears that the welfare system in France isn't a cure for all ills as we’ve been led to believe.
I think this storing up problems for the future of Europe only makes things worse. Research shows that high unemployment rate has become a part and parcel of a generous welfare state as there is only so much that business can take in terms of high labor costs. So you have a system where “old” immigrants have been practically squeezed out of the labor market. But this system cannot sustain itself unless it takes up more immigrants as native population ages. It’s a vicious circle and France could be in a serious trouble few years off. So the government should get its act together and implement coherent reform plan. But I’m afraid it would end up as it always does in Europe with Brussels organizing some meaningless conference on immigration. Europe just doesn’t have will to act.

I’d say it better develop a will to act, and soon. Burning cars may just be the beginning.

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