A continuous stream of immigration difficult to control and an immigrant community that European countries are having difficulty, in part, to integrate, spark off today numerous questions about the security risks, trafficking of all kinds, terrorist networks which may tempt some of them.
Many studies have underlined that terrorism is recruiting not only in countries of origin of many immigrants in Europe, but also within immigrant communities themselves. Some are young people who have received a good technical education, others live existential difficulties (academic and professional failure) due to the inability of states to integrate them into society in the wider sens.
Despite these difficulties and formidable challenges faced by countries like France and the United Kingdom, we have chosen a theme of hope. Indeed, diversity is today one of the fundamental characteristics of the French, English, Dutch, German – and more and more Spanish – societies. France is a land of immigration since the mid-nineteenth century, the United Kingdom since the end of the same century, other European countries in recent decades. In Spain, the phenomenon dates not more than a decade.
France and the UK know from experience that these ethnic diversities are not inevitably source of differences. They probably require to take up common challenges, to move forward, to make of this diversity an asset. Since recent years, some voices raise in Europe, and sometimes in the Maghreb, to emphasize the magnitude of the challenges with which the European countries are confronted.
We considere that immigration and ethnic diversity are both inevitable and positive in any modern society. In the short term, they constitute a challenge to the cohesion of our country. But in the long term, a society that welcomes immigrants renews its cohesion by deconstructing the lines of ethnic differences and by providing a wider sense of its identity.
Education, popular culture and employment offer powerful symbols of integration and the issue of these two days will focus on new entrepreneurs of North African origin, but also Indian and Pakistan, who in France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and in Spain, more recently, carry the hope of this new identity.
These entrepreneurs are of diverse political color and often kept links with the countries of origin of their parents, return there, create more and more companies, invest money and themselves, and go, to do this, to China, India, the USA and Canada. They are bearers of hope and renewal for Europe and the countries where their parents came, from the other shore of the Mediterranean.
These entrepreneurs should be viewed in a context where some figures should be reminded. A flow, estimated between 5 and 10 billion, passes by from Europe to the three Maghreb countries each year. By way of comparison, the amount of direct investment from Europe, and realised since 2000 in the same countries, is of $4.5 billion, international aids (loans) that a country like Morocco receives each year amount to 320 million euros from Europe (MEDA and EIB), $189 million from the World Bank and the IFC, and $164 million from the ADB. 5 to 10 billion mentioned above are not only the transfer of migrant workers, they constitute also a capital seeking for long-term investment, which don't find instruments adapted to their needs.
The funds transferred to Morocco, which are steadily increasing, represent over 50% of the country's exports and are higher than those generated by the tourism and the export of phosphates.
If we considere that the Maghreb exports nearly 7 billion euros in savings each year, we understand better the conclusion of the report from which these figures are taken and which concludes that Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco are establishing middle classes outside their borders. Numerous entrepreneurs, binational or not, want to keep one foot on each side of the mare nostrum and, at the same time, explore China, India, the USA, Canada and the Gulf countries which have a significant supplementary savings.
However, the Maghreb countries are a little behind. The functioning of their production system is often dissuasive for investment and risk-taking institutions. The freedom of circulation of capital, goods and people is restricted; the consumption of financial products low. Compared to a set of Asian countries – of which the immigrants in the West have played an important role in the development of the economy since a generation and with whom they were matched up until the mid-1970s – these countries dropped out.
This seminar will focus on the following issues:
– Can these entrepreneurs contribute to the development of the importantrelationships, in many respects, that exist between Europe and the Maghreb? In the development of creative private enterprises of wealth, not only in Europe but also in the Maghreb? Can they help to insert the Maghreb into the globalization? Can they make their contribution to the integration of young immigrants or the sons/daughters of immigrants in a modern economic fabric?
– Can they help to erase these infernal couples which connect immigrants and Islam, Islam and crises of the Middle East, Islam and terrorism, Islam and social exclusion, not to speak of Islam and Islamic values which are inevitably put in opposition with Western values and, why not, Christian values?
This seminar is modest but will try to ask important questions for the future of the Maghreb and Europe by pointing the spotlight on a category which, through the history of civilizations, has always carried the dialogue and the peace.
Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406) wrote in The Muqaddimah that “it was through trade with foreign countries that the satisfaction of the people's needs, the profits of the merchants and the wealth of the countries, grew”.
The Chancellor of Florence, who was his contemporary, Colucci Salutati di Piero (1331–1406), pointed out, however, that “the pilgrimage is a holy action, the justice is it even more and the holiest thing of all, for us, is the trade”.
What to add after six centuries to such comments except that those who attend this seminary will doubtless have in heart to rediscover the philosophy of the 13th century.
Francis Ghilès, Director of the Seminar and Fatima Lahnait, Co-Director of the Seminar