Christian Joppke
Civic Integration Policies Reviewed:
National Models v. Policy Convergence
Since the late 1990s, “civic integration” has become the dominant immigrant integration
policy in Western Europe. Even Switzerland, with its Fördern und Fordern, has partaken in
the trend. There has been a debate whether the new policy is convergent across states or
whether it merely prolongs, under different name, established “national models” of
integration. I offer two arguments in favor of policy convergence. First, extant policy
variation runs counter to “national model” expectations. Secondly, the few national-model
type variations that you may still find are with respect to the form not substance of policy.
Since the late 1990s, “civic integration” policies for immigrants have been adopted by most
Western European states. The novelty of the policy seems to be at least twofold. First,
integration is no longer left to the free play of society`s institutions, such as labor market or
education, but is attempted to be brought under conscious, concerted state control. In this
respect, civic integration is tantamount to the rise of state-led integration as such, replacing a
previous rein of laissez-faire, complemented by mainly local interventions. Secondly, civic
integration combines measures that further the integration of immigrants with their selection
and control, so that integration and immigration policy are no longer separate domains.
There have been several lines of debate surrounding the new policy. One has been
normative, asking whether the policy is “liberal” or “illiberal”, and whether, despite its name,
civic integration marks a return from “integration” to “assimilation” (see Orgad, forthcoming;
in part also Goodman 2014; an overview of the various positions is the collection of
comments by xxx [anonymized], discussing citizenship tests as one instance of civic
integration). A second debate has been over the question whether civic integration is a
departure from previous multiculturalism policies, whose “retreat” has thus been processed in
a civic integration idiom; or whether civic integration and multiculturalism policies may
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coexist, the former merely having been “layered over” persistent multiculturalism policies
(see Banting 2011; Banting and Kymlicka 2013; Kymlicka 2012). A third debate has been
over the question of continuity or discontinuity of policy, if not the very usefulness of the
notion of distinct national styles or “models” of integration, and how civic integration fits into
this. For one line of authors, civic integration flags the “end of national models” (if there ever
were any) and rise of policy convergence (xxx: anonymized). A number of critics have
objected that national models of integration continue to exist, even under the new cover of
civic integration (especially Goodman 2012, 2014). It is this third debate that this paper taps
into, tackling the question of national models v. policy convergence, and seeking to render
plausible the “policy convergence” position.
In the first part (I), I provide a brief overview of civic integration, why it emerged at
this point in time, and locating it within European immigration history. In the second part (II),
I offer two arguments in favor of policy convergence: first, extant policy variations, which of
course cannot be denied, tend to run counter to national-model expectations; second, the few
national-model type variations that still can be found are more with respect to the form than
the substance of policy.
(I) What is Civic Integration?
Since the late 1990s, civic integration has become the dominant approach to immigrant
integration across Europe. The term itself is an approximate English translation of the Dutch
noun inburgering, whose literal translation would be “naturalization”, “habituation”, or
“acclimatization”. Inburgering became a legal term in the first of all European civic
integration laws, the Dutch 1998 Newcomer Integration Law (Wet Inburgering Nieuwkomers,
in short WIN). WIN obliged new immigrants to the Netherlands to take an integration course,
which consists of Dutch language and civics lessons. On English-language Dutch and
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Flemish-Belgian government websites, inburgering has hence been referred to as “civic
integration”. Other European states that quickly adopted the “Dutch model” (Michalowski
2004) have other words for the same policy—such as Integrationskurse in Germany,
Integrationsvereinbarung in Austria, Contrat d`acceuil et d`intégration (CAI) in France; also
the Swiss integration policy under the motto Fördern und Fordern is a variant of civic
integration (see Eule 2015). Their different names still cover a similar idea and content: the
state-enforced formal obligation for immigrants to acquire the language of the host-society
and to familiarize themselves with its political institutions, history, and culture (“civics”). Not
meeting this obligation may forfeit one`s legal residence status or even first entry, as in the
case of “integration from abroad” (more on which below).
The invention and meteoric proliferation of civic integration at this point in time
reflects an important moment of change in Europe`s immigration history. Up to then
immigration had been considered a finite episode of European post-WWII history, channeled
in terms of “guestworker” or “postcolonial” immigration, or both (see xxx: anonymized). As
different as they were in terms of origins and institutional processing, these immigrations
were not to be repeated but to be brought to a close, humanely yet firmly (“firm but fair” was
appositely the motto of British immigration policy). Of course, after the closing-down of
“new-seed” guestworker and postcolonial immigration in the late 1960s to early 1970s, there
had immediately been other, unforeseen types of inflow, most importantly asylum-seeking
and family migration, and also, though much more limited than in the United States, illegal
immigration. But still in the early 1990s the dominant mindset among European political
elites was that the goal of state policy should be to bring all immigration to a halt,
immigration zéro in the hopeful words of a hard-lining French interior minister at the time,
Charles Pasqua.
Integration in the context of notional zero immigration was a combination of nonpolicy and reflex-like continuation of old ways of dealing with cultural difference, within a
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mindset of dealing in a humane and service-oriented way with frictions and adjustment
problems of migrant streams that were considered historically unique and non-continuous. At
the same time, there was a tight legal and ideational separation between the policy domains of
immigration and integration, to the limited degree that the latter was a state-level concern at
all (at local level, where immigrants settled, integration always was a concern). Overall, one
cannot earnestly talk of an explicit integration policy in most European states before the
arrival of civic integration. These were settled nation states, if not ideologically post-nation
states, that had unlearned the great integration exercise, when “peasants” were turned into
“Frenchmen” in the late 19th century, to use Eugene Weber`s evocative metaphor (1976). By
the same token, when integration reappeared on the state radar at late 20th century`s end, it
had to take on radically different, namely: less nationalistic and more liberal features than
those known from classic nation-building.
The reappearance of integration occurred in the course of the 1990s, when European
states` attitudes to immigration changed completely. Representative for many, the German
government abandoned the long-held mantra that Germany was “not a country of
immigration”. Also in France, the call for zero immigration could no longer be heard. If one
looks for a game-changing event, it is the breakdown of Communism and the rise of
globalization. The world was no longer two but one, with unprecedented people mobility as
potential (and often actualized) consequence. Most of this mobility was still unwanted by
states, which responded forcefully to live up to their residual function of caging people—the
martial notion of “Fortress Europe” dates from this very moment. But, importantly, it dawned
on policymakers that global markets and technologies could not be run and developed without
globally mobile personnel. In the late 1990s, in Germany, a cosmopolitan, reform-minded
SPD and Green Party coalition government introduced the so-called “Green Card” scheme to
recruit high-skilled migrants for the IT sector. Quickly there was no European state left
without a policy to recruit high-skilled immigrants, which at EU level materialized in the so4
called “Blue Card” scheme. In addition, in 2000, the Population Division of the United
Nations Organization published its famous report outlining the dramatic degree and
consequences of demographic shrinkage in Europe (for an overview, see xxx). In the context
of chronic right-wing populist mobilization across Europe the demographic rationale for
immigration has still to enter politicians` vocabulary. But it was the last nail in the coffin of
zero immigration as mainstream political project.
The new reality of recurrent, rather than one-shot immigration, which is a historical
novelty in Europe, catapulted integration from a low- or local-level concern to a central state
concern. Across Europe, integration became tantamount to “civic integration”. Confirmed by
many case and comparative studies (e.g., Permoser 2014; Goodman and Wright,
forthcoming), there is an indelible symbolic dimension to civic integration, which is as much,
if not primarily, directed at immigration-averse mass publics as at immigrants themselves.
The often harsh and disciplinary rhetoric of civic integration wishes to assure natives that
“their” government is in charge and that local habitats and traditional milieus are not going to
be washed away by ongoing, no longer stoppable immigration, often from faraway places and
cultures. Recent empirical work on the evolution of migration policies in a large swathe of
(mostly rich) countries further supports the view (first expounded by Freeman 1995) that,
contrary to the ongoing strength of anti-immigration rhetoric, policies have actually become
less restrictive over time (de Haas, Natter and Vezzoli 2014).
There is a second subtext to the rise of civic integration, which is that multiculturalism
has failed to bring about the integration of immigrants, instead shoving the latter into anomic
and deprived “parallel societies”. The “civic” in civic integration signals integration into
society`s mainstream institutions, especially the labor market. The Dutch case epitomizes this
thrust. Civic integration substituted the previous “ethnic minorities policy”, which had been
adopted in the early 1980s to provide “equality of opportunity” for disadvantaged immigrant
minorities, but weirdly by supporting a separate infrastructure and identities for the latter.
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State-supported separatism was no invention of the age of multiculturalism but fed upon the
Dutch tradition of “pillarization” to mend the deep religious and ideological friction that had
hampered Dutch nation-building through the ages. But it was now held responsible for the
“multicultural tragedy” (as the Dutch sociologist and Labour Party activist Paul Scheffer
called it) of high unemployment, school failure, and residential segregation among immigrant
ethnics, particularly Turks and Moroccans.
But even in countries that had never known multiculturalism policies, there has been a
rhetorical retreat from a demonized multiculturalism and turn to civic integration instead (see
xxx: anonymized). A juxtaposition of multiculturalism and civic integration helps calibrate
the latter. In countries that never had it as official state policy, most typically Germany,
“multiculturalism” is another word for laissez-faire and drift, that is, for the state keeping out
of the process of integration. This abstinence is now found wanting. If there is state
intervention, it should be centrist and not reinforcing separateness—hence “civic integration”.
Moreover, “multiculturalism” is associated with the burden of adjustment being more on the
receiving society than on the immigrants. This is reversed in civic integration, where the
burden of adjustment is imposed almost exclusively on the immigrants. The Dutch case,
again, shows this shift more clearly than other cases. Immigrants are not just expected to
become economically self-sufficient (and thus no burden on the welfare state), but they are
quite literally required to pay in full for the cost of civic integration courses and tests--the fees
are accordingly much higher in the Netherlands than in any other country. “Privatized
integration”, one might even argue, signals a “total retreat” of the state from supporting
integration at all (Michalowski 2009: 275). This is also shown in the fact that, apart from a
short film and small booklet, the Dutch state provides no infrastructure in terms of integration
courses or course materials.
States now often use the notion of a “contract” with the immigrant, as the French
contrat d`acceuil or the Austrian Integrationsvereinbarung. In this contract, admission to the
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host state and society is exchanged against concrete and objectively verifiable integration
efforts (and, in the Dutch case, results) on part of the immigrant, short of which a residence
permit is denied. In this “contract”, there is no parallel obligation, not to mention adjustment
effort, exacted on the host state. Civic integration, at least in its extreme version practiced in
the Netherlands, thus disproves the official definition of “integration”, given out in the
European Council`s influential “Common Basic Principles of Immigrant Integration in the
E.U.” (2004), and reiterated in so many official state declarations. According to it,
“integration” is a “two-way” process of “mutual accommodation”, in which not only
immigrants but also the receiving society has to change (see xxx: anonymized). In reality,
civic integration is “one-way” only, the immigrant but not society being expected to change.
Thirdly, the obligatory, even punitive nature of civic integration in Europe is
intrinsically connected to the demographic profile of immigration in Europe: the latter is
overwhelmingly low-skilled family migration, with a high proportion originating from
Muslim countries. This linkage is especially visible in the most drastic variant of civic
integration, which is “integration from abroad”. Invented, again, in the Netherlands, in 2006,
it asks for elementary host society language and civic knowledge as precondition for being
granted a temporary visa for first entry. The linkage between obligatory integration and lowskilled immigration from culturally distant regions of the world is also confirmed by certain
national-origin exemptions granted in some countries, especially Germany and the
Netherlands. The Netherlands, for instance, exempts not only citizens of other EU and
European Economic Area countries (which is required by European Union law), but also
citizens of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, and other
rich OECD countries. These exemptions are justified as favoring countries “comparable to
European countries in cultural, socioeconomic and societal respect”, and whose nationals “in
general possess a certain insight into the societal relations we have in the Netherlands and into
Dutch norms and values” (quoted in Bonjour 2011: 53).
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Fourthly, the demographic nature of the immigration to be processed by civic
integration points to the policy`s perhaps most distinct feature, which is to link immigrant
integration with immigration control and immigrant selection. Low-skilled immigration, after
all, is structurally marked by the supply greatly exceeding the demand for it (see Bhagwati
2004: ch.14). The control feature is again most clearly expressed in the policy`s “integration
from abroad” variant, where the failure to pass the exam is mostly tantamount to denied entry.
By contrast, the control element is more virtual than real in the denial of permanent residence
for failing the post-entry civic integration hurdle (which is the classic variant of civic
integration), because this hardly ever leads to deportation but simply the maintenance of
temporary, though naturally more precarious residence status. Finally, the control and
selection element is more fictitious still in the case of denied citizenship acquisition. This is
the third step in the civic integration continuum, which ranges from pre-entry to post-entry
(“civic integration” proper) and citizenship. The citizenship-acquisition stage of civic
integration is the one with the least teeth, because denied citizenship applicants simply
continue to be legal permanent residents.
With respect to integration from abroad, the Dutch government nonchalantly called it
“selection mechanism”, and it allegedly rewarded not education and socioeconomic
background but individual “motivation and severance” (quoted in Bonjour 2011: 57). While
denying that a reduction of family immigration is the purpose, the Dutch government still
counts this reduction as welcome “side effect”, originally expecting it to be in the 25 percent
range (ibid. 58).
(II) End of National Models?
The four elements of recurrent immigration, (rhetorical) retreat from multiculturalism,
targeting of unwanted family migration, and obligatory-cum-punitive character, the latter
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tying civic integration to the previously separate immigration control function, can be found,
in more or less developed form, in all instances of civic integration. They are elements of
policy convergencei, “beyond national models” (xxx: anonymized). This notion still came to
be instantly questioned (e.g. Jacobs and Rea 2007; Goodman 2012; Mouritsen 2013; Bonjour
2011; Borevi 2013). But it was never meant to deny “significant variation” across states (xxx:
anonymized). Rather, the claim is that these variations:

Either run counter to the usual (British) “multiculturalism” vs. (French)
“assimilationism” vs. (Austrian/German/Swiss) “segregationism” triplet that is the
mainstay of “national model” reasoning (for typical examples, see Castles 1995, also
Koopmans et al. 2005);

Or affect at best the style and discursive presentation (or form) but not the substance
of the policy.
In the following, I discuss both aspects in turn, complemented by a look at the contents of
civic integration requirements, which are broadly “liberal”.
Model-Inconsistent Variation. When comparing civic integration policies across
European states, the first thing to notice is the bewildering variety and complexity of these
policies. They cover the pre-departure, post-entry, and citizenship acquisition phases with
often separate rules and rationales that, on top of it, are constantly changing (see the global
overviews by Perching 2012 and Strik et al. 2010, both already in need of being updated). To
detect patterns in this jungle is no easy matter. Let us still try to distill some of the more
interesting features. Confirming the policy convergence hypothesis, Perching speaks of a
“reframing of `integration`”, from a “rights-based frame” that had predominated until the
1990s, with “legal equality” as the benchmark of immigrant integration, to a “duty-based
concept” that defines the “individual migrant as the main actor of integration” (Perching
2012: 116). This seems to be the incontrovertible bottom line of civic integration, underneath
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its various national incarnations and changes over time. But apart from this bottom line, rarely
a country approximates the Dutch extreme case.
Consider only the example of “integration from abroad”. With respect to organization
and cost, in sharp contrast to the Netherlands, Germany offers integration courses abroad,
through its Goethe Institutes, and it provides ample learning materials; and the cost of the
procedure is about one third of the Dutch (Strik et al. 2010: 12). France is particularly lenient,
as a temporary visa is granted even if the applicant`s knowledge is deemed insufficient; an
applicant with insufficient knowledge is merely obliged to take a course after arrival, the
course- and test-taking being offered for free. Denmark, generally considered a hardliner
much like the Netherlands, originally planned to adopt the Dutch scheme point by point. But
cost-benefit considerations moved it to hold the test not abroad but in Denmark, and all
applicants are provided with a provisional 3-month visa. Furthermore, the Danish exam is not
done with a voice computer but through an officer orally examining the applicant. A negative
decision can be legally challenged, which is not the case in the Netherlands.
With respect to level and content of the test, Dutch integration from abroad at first
required only very basic Dutch language competence, at the A1- level on the Council of
Europe`s Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). When 90
percent of applicants were found to pass the test at this low level, the requirement was moved
up to the next higher A1 level. Germany from the start asked for A1 level language
competence. But it abstained from asking for civics knowledge at this early stage, reserving it
for the post-entry stage, within the Integrationskurse proper. France sets the language hurdle
particularly low, even below A1, while “Republican values” are tested in the earliest moment-but in the language preferred by the applicant!
Finally, there are interesting variations with respect to target group exemptions.
Germany and the Netherlands exempt family immigrants from rich OECD countries, but also
the highly skilled and work-contract holders. By contrast, France and Denmark do not grant
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any nationality-based exemptions, except those required by EU law. In the case of Denmark,
which otherwise was strongly inspired by the Dutch example, a blunt distinction between
“Western” and “non-Western” country applicants was not adopted due to lawyers` concerns
that this would be found unlawful under the European Convention of Human Rights. And the
UK exempts applicants from certain English-speaking countries, like Australia, Canada, USA,
and New Zealand. Delicately, however, other English-speaking countries, like India, Nigeria,
Pakistan, Ghana, and Malaysia, are not exempted (see Groenendijk 2011: 19).
In the so far most ambitious political science treatise on civic integration in Europe,
Sara Wallace Goodman (2014) seeks to explain these and other variations of civic integration
with the help of two factors: first, existing citizenship regimes and legacies and, secondly, the
political color of the government in chargeii. The idea is that traditionally liberal countries will
do light-touch civic integration (or none at all), which is more rights- and service- than dutyoriented and punitive (the prime example being Britain), unless there is right-wing political
mobilization for restriction (as recently happened in France and the Netherlands). On the
opposite end, traditionally restrictive countries will beef-up their exclusive citizenships with a
second layer of restrictive civic integration at the level of legal permanent residence
(examples being Denmark, Austria, or Germany). In all cases, “new requirements do not
signal departures from national approaches to citizenship, but rather fortify them” (Goodman
2012: 692). She also speaks of the “anchoring (of) citizenship in new content and rules”
(ibid.).
The problem with this analysis is to attribute too much grand strategy to what in
reality is more likely to be a combination of copy-cat, muddling-through, and sheer
inconsistency, which is often the result of political struggle and compromise (see the
instructive critique by Michalowski and van Oers 2012: 170). The distinction between “state
identity”, revolving around legal permanent residence, and “national identity”, reserved for
citizenship, is opaque, and there is little evidence that states are operating in these terms; the
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distinction, in fact, appears more imagined than real (Goodman 2014:ch.1). Most importantly,
many of the new civic integration measures patently contradict national legacies of citizenship
or of dealing with cultural difference, which are the hub of “national model” reasoning. Take
only France`s risibly low language expectations on newcomers, which are a constant from
pre-entry to naturalization. They run counter to France`s alleged obsessiveness with
“assimilation”, and appear to be more mundanely conditioned by low pressure on the
language front due to most newcomers` status as francophone. Or take Britain`s cultural
thickening of its identity projection in its most recently amended “Life in the UK” test (too
late to be considered in a book published in 2014), which is much less practical-minded than
its predecessor and now includes statements like “the UK is historically a Christian country”
(quoted in Orgad, forthcoming: ch.3). This latest change would not surprise in Germany, with
its penchant for a “Christian-Occidental” self-description, but it is not what you would expect
in always “liberal” Britain.
A particularly instructive case for deviation from national model expectations is
Austria. It figures in Goodman (2012; 2014) and in most other accounts as unrepentant
hardliner in matters of immigration and citizenship. Its 2003 Integrationsvereinbarung was
indeed pushed by the right-wing FPÖ (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, Liberal Party of
Austria), which railed against “failed integration” and “abuse” of the welfare state, and which
construed Muslim immigrants as a “threat” to Austrian culture. But the Austrian Integration
Fund (AIF), which was mandated with putting flesh on the scheme, smuggled into it an
amazingly liberal content. According to the AIF, the purpose of the obligatory integration
course, which is offered for free, is to allow the immigrant to “integrate into Austrian society
while at the same time maintaining his or her own identity” (quoted in Mouráo Permoser
2012: 191); the course curriculum is “pro-migrant and practice-oriented” (ibid.); and there is
an “absence of value-laden questions” and preponderance of “everyday themes” (ibid.), much
like in the once “liberal” UK test. Between 2003 and 2010, only three persons in Austria were
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“threatened” with deportation for failing the lax civic integration requirement (p.193). Mouráo
Permoser even dismisses the idea that “control” is the gist of Austrian civic integration.
Instead, she sees it as “symbolic politics” that “helps in keeping the myth of sovereignty
alive” (p.197).
Policy Form v. Substance. The mentioned variations in the operation and rationale of
civic integration suggest not exaggerating the degree of convergence on the restrictive Dutch
model. But they seem to be more problematic still for national-model reasoning. This is not to
say that distinct national cultures and institutions do not matter. But, as I shall argue in the
following, they matter more for the form than the substance of policy. A good example is the
“integration from abroad” policy recently introduced in the Netherlands and in France, among
other countries. The two countries are quintessential representatives of “national models”,
pluralist and multiculturalist in the Netherlands, and universalistic and assimilationist in
France. However, this cultural imprint shows less in the substance than in the form of the
policy--after all, both countries do have “integration from abroad”, which is the tying of the
admission of family migrants to their prior acquisition of language and civics competence.
The parliamentary debates surrounding the introduction of integration from abroad
show that French and Dutch lawmakers addressed an identical problematic of home-countryoriented marriage choices by second- and third-generation Turkish and North African-origin
ethnics, which stood to be contained, in strikingly different terms (see Bonjour 2011). French
lawmakers, beholden to the French tradition of color-blindness and denial of ethnic group
categorizing, only referred to the “quantity” but not the ethnic “quality” of the requisite family
migration—its size was said to be twice as large as the student inflows and a hopping six
times of the labor migrant inflows, not a small matter under any account. By contrast, Dutch
lawmakers showed no hesitation to openly debate group characteristics, which were deemed
“adverse to a good integration into Dutch society” (ibid. 54). There was also no hiding of the
rationale of the new restriction, which was to counteract the fact that more than half of
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second-generation Turks and Moroccans in the Netherlands married somebody from their
parents` country of origin.
In France, the same (or similar) ethnic groups were targeted in its integration from
abroad, but they could not be explicitly named. That they were still meant slipped in only
indirectly. Originally, the plan was to exempt the spouses of French citizens from the
integration from abroad requirement, because of a “presumption of integration”. But Interior
Minister Hortefeux, less etiquette-strung than his “Republican” peers, retorted that the typical
case to be regulated was not a French expatriate returning with a new wife from Australia or
Canada, but that over two thirds of the spouses of French citizens asking for a visa came from
Africa--and civic integration for this group “indeed seems necessary to us”, argued the
minister (quoted in Bonjour 2011: 56). An exemption for the acquired spouses of returning
expats was eventually made, but not for the spouses of French citizens who had never left
France (and who were mostly in the ethnic “problem” category).
As Saskia Bonjour (2011: 56) concludes, the “form” of the debate but not “its
underlying purport and outcome” was shaped by “national models”, sensitively defined as
“country specific discursive and institutional structures”) (p. 62). Who would deny the
existence and explanatory import of such “structures”? Without them, no comparative politics
or sociology! As Bonjour`s incontrovertible definition of “national models” further suggests,
not only “discourse” but also “institutions” matter, and this in an even stronger way. As she
points out, the right to family life enjoys constitutional status under French, but not under
Dutch law. Accordingly, fearful of intervention by the Conseil Constitutionnel (France`s
constitutional court reviewing new legislation), French lawmakers emphasized that
integration from abroad could not be meant to limit family reunification, and the prescribed
courses were free of charge with no test to be taken at the end. Compare this with the Dutch
government`s not even offering courses, and with its legal requirement of a test, at the hefty
fee of 350 Euro each (which could easily double or triple if more than one attempt had to be
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waged). That integration from abroad evidently is more of a “service” in France and more of a
“selection mechanism” in the Netherlands is also conditioned by the fact that the only
constitutional constraint for Dutch lawmakers is Article 8 of the European Convention of
Human Rights, which may protect “private and family life”, but, crucially, does not grant a
right to family reunification (see Bonjour 2011: 58). Note again that this variation due to
differential legal structures runs counter to the national-model expectation of “assimilation” in
France (which is surely not aided by strong family rights), and is at best loosely and
contingently connected to whatever might be the Dutch approach to integration.
Liberal Convergence. If “national models” were the gist of civic integration, one also
would expect that its content and identity projections would be aligned with countries`
citizenship and nationhood traditions—say, being “civic” in France and “ethnocultural” in
Germany (to use Brubaker`s classic distinction [1992]). In such sense, Liav Orgad has
interpreted civic integration as “cultural defense of nations” (forthcoming; see also 2010), as
post-multiculturalist state support for besieged majority cultures that are no longer left to fend
for themselves. Others have argued that civic integration marks a return to “cultural
assimilation” (Entzinger 2005, discussing the case of the Netherlands). All this may well be
the intention of states---civic integration`s tacit focus on majority groups is the gist of seeing
it mainly as “symbolic politics”, and how could “assimilation” not be the desired endpoint of
immigrant integration (see Brubaker 2002)? But “intention” does not guarantee that states
have the legal-political means available for realizing it—liberal states “cannot mandate the
practice”, as Goodman put it simply (2012: 321).
Empirical analyses of the contents of civic integration courses and tests suggest that
they are mostly in a liberal, non-nationalistic register, inculcating and testing knowledge but
not attitudes, and addressing topics that are related to the values and institutions of liberal
democracy (xxx: anonymized; Michalowski 2011). Even Orgad, who is critical of “liberal
democracies defin(ing) the essence of their citizenship…in cultural terms”, concedes that the
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Leitkultur in Germany, to take only the standard bearer of his “cultural defense of nations”,
“reveals…a relatively thin version of Germanness” (forthcoming: 132). In a valuable
comparison of citizenship tests in the United States, Austria, Germany, Britain, and the
Netherlands, Michalowski (2011) found that three of the four European countries prescribed a
format and contents that were “liberal” in a Rawlsian sense, that is, covering only topics that
dealt with “the political system, democracy and rights” and asking questions pertaining to
“what is right” (in a legal sense) instead of “what is good” (in a moral sense). This is an
astonishing finding for Austria and Germany, the ethno-nationalistic hardliners in
conventional “national model” reasoning.
Michalowski (2011) found one exception to the liberal mainline: unsurprisingly, the
Netherlands. She deems one-fifth of the questions in the Dutch citizenship test “illiberal”
morality questions, that is, questions pertaining to “what is good”. These are things that are
socially but not legally prescribed, like “etiquette” and “lifestyle”. Accordingly, applicants for
Dutch citizenship are expected to know that the proper Dutch way is to “make appointments
for meetings, stand in line when waiting, bring along a small present if suitable, inform
neighbours when having a party, and keep the front yard tidy” (Michalowski 2011: 14). The
author called the latter “etiquette questions” that do “not appear in any of the other four
citizenship tests” (ibid.). However, one might well argue that such etiquette or lifestyle
questions are not irrelevant for navigating everyday life, much as in Britain it helps to know
how to behave in a pub or queue for a bus, which are (or once were) questions in its “Life in
the UK” test. It may appear strange that the Dutch ask about such things at the rather late
stage of applying for citizenship, when one might presume people to know (note that the “Life
in the UK” test mostly targets applicants for permanent residence, well ahead of citizenship
acquisition). But Michalowski`s categorization of the Dutch questions as illegitimate morality
questions ignores a pragmatic dimension to them. Furthermore, these lifestyle questions are
still cognitive. They refer to things that are “considered as good by `the` receiving society”
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(p.6), with no presumption that citizenship applicants themselves consider them as “good”.
After all, even the Dutch “`big state` trying to manage social norms beyond legal principles”
(p.19) does not have the means to assure that aspiring citizens adopt these norms in their own
behavior.
Finally, one must consider that the “Dutch norms and values” that do fare prominently
in Dutch civic integration, from the pre-entry to the citizenship acquisition phases, are liberal
in content. The Netherlands are no exception to the “paradox of universalism” in which all
contemporary liberal states are trapped, seeking to integrate newcomers into this particular
state society but being constitutionally constrained from enforcing any particularism (xxx:
anonymized). Duyvendak et al. (2009: 138) have pointed to the fact that the Netherlands are
endowed with a “progressive monoculture”, in which homosexuality, nudity, and equality of
the sexes are commonly accepted or required. In an interesting study of political party
positions on civic integration in the Netherlands, Saskia Bonjour (2013) found that there was
some disagreement between Dutch parties about whether the state or the immigrant should
pay for it, leftist parties showing a pro-immigrant, welfarist instinct in this respect (that most
of the time was defeated by the political right). However, she found mostly cross-party
agreement on the importance of inculcating “Dutch norms and values”, which she dubs—
somewhat alarmingly--an “authoritarian” stance. This consensus is nicely expressed by the
following statement by a Social Democratic MP: “Progressive views, individualization, the
expectation that you will do anything you can to strive for your own success, taking
responsibility for your environment. Whoever participates in that, can count on our sympathy,
regardless of their origins” (p. 847). “Progressive views” and “individualization” well
summarize the liberal-cum-neoliberal gist of civic integration in the Netherlands and
elsewhere. Who could find fault with it? More than anything nationally particular, civic
integration is the universal idiom of global and further globalizing societies.
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Conclusion:
Civic Integration as Diaspora Absorption
Civic integration policies evidently are not all of one cloth. But it is misleading to see them as
“fortification” or mere prolongation of nationally distinct ways of dealing with integration and
citizenship. Something new has happened in Europe, which is the broad political elite
acceptance of a new world of recurrent immigration. This has catapulted “integration” to the
forefront of the political agenda, and states converge on understanding the latter in terms of
“civic integration”. Following Paul Collier (2013), one could define as its function the
absorption of the immigrant diaspora that cannot but grow in this constellation. Among the
few “big things” that we know about the drivers of contemporary migration is that a diaspora
in host countries reduces the costs of further migration and is the main mechanism by which
past migration begets more migration (Collier 2013:38). So it needs to be controlled, or even
melted, precisely if a state wants to remain open to immigration. But why is the diaspora
dangerous? The larger the size of the diaspora and the more culturally distant it is from the
host society, the more “interaction within the group crowds out interaction with the
indigenous population” (p.87). The perverse effect, Collier argues plausibly, is that “the
culturally distant will be advantaged in migration decisions. Precisely because their diasporas
take longer to be absorbed than the culturally proximate, these large diasporas facilitate
further migration” (p.262). This is where multiculturalism, the enigmatic Other of civic
integration, kicks in, or rather the contemporary opposition to it. Multiculturalism is diaspora
reinforcement, and it “has a clear cost” (p.264), which is to reduce the absorption rate of the
diaspora and to feed migration that gets sucked into ever growing “parallel societies” (which
is just another word for diaspora). If countries want to stay open to immigration, they must
melt the diaspora through civic integration. Of course, the premise of this imperative is that
“nations” are not anachronisms but “important and legitimate moral units” (p.25), “virtually
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our only systems for providing public goods” like security and welfare (p.236). However,
nations, these essential sources of “mutual regard” (p.61), stand the risk of being undermined
or even supplanted by the “social models” imported by migrants, but which were obviously
not strong or viable enough to keep them at home. As Collier breaks with political etiquette,
“not all cultures are equal” (p.35), because the “fruits of successful nationhood” is what
“attracts migrants” in the first (p.25).
The policy message is obvious. If countries open themselves up to recurrent
immigration, as new-millennium Europe has done for economic and demographic reasons, the
state`s migration policy must look to “increase the absorption of diasporas”. Following Collier
(2013:265), states have two tools at their disposal to accomplish this: rigorous
antidiscrimination policies, on the one hand, and requiring indigenous language learning and
promoting the “symbols and ceremonies of citizenship”. These are incidentally the dual
prongs of the current “transformation of immigrant integration” in Western Europe that I had
identified a few years ago (xxx: anonymized). And the second, or rather first, prong of
diaspora absorption is the new policy commonly registered as “civic integration”.
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Endnotes
i
Here and in the following, the notion of “policy convergence” refers to a similarity of goals and instruments of
policy—in this case, the furthering of the integration of immigrants into mainstream institutions by means of
mandatory language and civic knowledge courses and tests, which also fulfils a latent immigration control
function.
ii
There has been a change of emphasis with respect to the second, political variable in various stages of her
work. An earlier article (Goodman 2012) identified the political variable as mobilization and contestation by the
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far right, the later book (Goodman 2014) identifies it as the orientation of the government in charge (left v.
right).
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Civic Integration of Immigrants in Western Europe