Wary Europeans watch as France's riots spread
Europeans have watched with trepidation as rioting that began in the suburbs of Paris has spread into nearly 300 cities and towns across...
The Associated Press
ROME — Europeans have watched with trepidation as rioting that began in the suburbs of Paris has spread into nearly 300 cities and towns across France — resulting in its first death — and wondered if the ghettoes in their own big cities will face similar violence from immigrant populations.
They are getting their answer.
Cars were set ablaze outside Brussels' main train station and in a working-class district of Berlin, although officials in Belgium and Germany on Monday sought to play down the risk of the kind of violence that France has experienced since Oct. 27.
There was rioting last month in the central English city of Birmingham, sparked by tensions between members of the Afro-Caribbean and South Asian communities over the alleged rape of a 14-year-old black girl by an Asian man.
Abdelkarim Carrasco, a leader of Spain's estimated 1 million-member Muslim community, said the French experience poses a key test for Europe.
"Either Europe develops and supports the idea of a mixed culture, or Europe has no future," he said. "Europe has to learn from what the United States has done. It is a country that has taken in people from all over the world."
Meanwhile, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin announced Monday that the nation will impose curfews under a state-of-emergency law and call up police reservists to stop rioting that has spread out of Paris' suburbs to cities and towns across the country. Villepin called a return to order "our No. 1 responsibility."
The tough new measures came as France's worst civil unrest in decades entered a 12th night, with rioters in the southern city of Toulouse setting fire to a bus after sundown after ordering passengers off, and elsewhere pelting police with gasoline bombs and rocks and torching a nursery school.
Outside the capital in Sevran, a junior-high school was set ablaze, while in another Paris suburb, Vitry-sur-Seine, youths threw gasoline bombs at a hospital, police said. No one was injured. Earlier, a 61-year-old retired auto worker died of wounds from an attack last week, the first death in the violence.
The French situation has been particularly explosive because of the grim public-housing projects packed with immigrants in the suburbs of Paris. Many of these people, French citizens from Arab or African countries, complain of discrimination and a lack of good jobs.
In contrast, even though some of Berlin's neighborhoods are predominantly Turkish, another large immigrant community, they are not in high-rises and Germans still live in the neighborhood. Immigrants in Rome are spread around the city, with many living near the train station in the center of the city; many take jobs Italians no longer want.
Nevertheless, officials across the continent who have been grappling with an often uncontrolled flow of poor, mainly Muslim immigrants acknowledge that poor integration and poverty posed threats.
"There are terrible living conditions and unhappiness, [even] where everybody is Italian," said Romano Prodi, the center-left's candidate to oppose Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi in elections next spring. In a newspaper interview, Prodi said poverty, unemployment and urban decay could spark violence in Italy.
Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini, a Berlusconi ally, shot back that Prodi's remarks caused unnecessary alarm.
In Germany, Wolfgang Schaeuble, a conservative tapped as Chancellor-designate Angela Merkel's interior minister, told the Bild daily newspaper that the conditions in France were different from those in Germany.
"We don't have these gigantic high-rise projects that they have on the edges of French cities," he said. Schaeuble cautioned, however, that "we have to improve integration, particularly of young people. That means above all that they must master the German language."
An immigration law that took effect in January aims to integrate newcomers to Germany, making German-language and civics courses obligatory for them.
Others, however, saw the rioting in Paris as evidence that European immigration policies don't work.
Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of Austria's rightist, xenophobic Freedom Party, called on Austrian leaders to stop immigration and implement integration measures that would prevent "French conditions" from emerging in his country.
Russian Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov said Russia could see similar rioting, "but on an even greater scale and with even more dramatic consequences."
"When the makeup of the population changes so fundamentally during a short period of time, its new members cannot adapt overnight. Many of those who became French citizens or who recently sought asylum envy the native population and want to solve everything quickly by resorting to violence," he said, according to Interfax.
Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan said France had ignored his calls for more tolerance, arguing that France's ban on head scarves in public schools triggered the riots.
"We've always told our friends in Europe that they should not lead to a clash of civilizations in order to prevent such incidents," the daily Hurriyet quoted Erdogan as saying.
"We should work for an alliance between civilizations. There is a great duty which falls on the Christian and Muslim world. Europe should have evaluated this," Erdogan said. "We said it. But France did not take it into account. It did not listen to us."
France responded Monday with the curfews and bolstered police ranks.
Asked on TF1 television whether the army should be brought in, the French prime minister said, "We are not at that point."
But "at each step, we will take the necessary measures to re-establish order very quickly throughout France," Villepin said. "That is our prime duty: ensuring everyone's protection."
The recourse to curfews followed the worst overnight violence so far.
The violence started Oct. 27 among youths in a northeastern Paris suburb angry over the accidental deaths of two teenagers but has grown into a nationwide insurrection.
In terms of material destruction, the unrest is France's worst since World War II — and never has rioting struck so many different French cities simultaneously, said security expert Sebastian Roche, a director of research at the state-funded National Center for Scientific Research.
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