What happens next in poor Europe?

Posted November 4, 2010 on 2:13 am | In the category Europe | by Mackenzie Brothers

For the last couple of decades the best-selling author in the world has been a Swede who divides his time between southern Sweden and eastern Angola and writes stories of crimes that once seemed to exaggerate the violence that came with an increasing sense of continental dysfunction since the fall of the Soviet Union. The plots of Henning Mankell’s novels seemed to be exaggerated in their depiction of hatred and brutality beneath the surface of apparently stable societies, but recent events have made these plots seem more and more prophetic. Random acts of violence, which often centre on racial and religious clashes in what once were understood to be homogeneous societies, become more and more common and ever more threatening.
Mankell’s iconic police inspector, Kurt Wallander, seemed for a long time in the 1990s to be particularly unlucky in facing randomly vicious crimes, particularly as he was working out of one of the more apparently idyllic areas of a country that always shows up near the top of lists of successful societies. In the latest such rankings, Sweden was of course one of the Scandinavian countries topping the list, followed by Australia, New Zealand and Canada, and nevertheless Sweden is beginning to send out warning signs that even the most supposedly tolerant countries are drifting into areas of threatening intolerance. Almost inevitably these have something to do with problems between natives and immigrants. Somebody is randomly shooting people with dark skins in and around Malmö, Sweden’s third largest city and the home basis of the extreme right-wing party that won 20 seats in parliament in the recent election. As a result police have warned dark-skinned people to be careful after dark in Malmö. Similarly Chancellor Merkel’s extraordinary statement last month that German attempts at immigration have been a terrible failure made headlines everywhere. It is significant that the problems are seen to be most dramatic and threatening in countries where the unitiated would least expect them: The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France, Hungary – all prosperous or relatively prosperous countries with histories of enlightened behaviour, aside from the odd war here and there. If this trend cannot be reversed, it may well spell the end of any dream of an even somewhat united Europe.

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