Waiting for Obama: Three of Europe’s Rising Stars

Waiting for Obama: Three of Europe’s Rising Stars

A great deal of the fascination Barack Obama elicits in Europe is rooted in the acknowledgment that Europe lags behind the U.S. in the integration and political representation of its ethnic and religious minorities.

Although a fifth of Germany's residents are of foreign descent, for instance, less than 10 of the Bundestag's 600-plus seats are occupied by ethnic minorities; the house of representatives of Vienna, Austria -- where 25 percent of the city's 2 million citizens originate from abroad -- has only three.

There are many causes of this lamentable state. Unlike America, which identifies as an immigrant country, national identity in Europe has often resulted in a wariness towards immigrant culture, with some countries (notably Austria) historically defining themselves as bulwarks against the spread of Islam. Also, the numbers, composition, nature and backgrounds of Europe's immigrant communities differ significantly from America's. And an emphasis, after the horrors of the Holocaust, on the ethnic equivalent of a "color-blind society" has meant that the European approach to tolerance too often amounts to indifference, ignorance, and forbearance -- encouraging the development of ethnic ghettos and the formation of parallel societies.

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