Jochen Becker

World in the City
Form/To Europe

The »European city« served as an ideological figure in Berlin after reunification, which tried to form a contrast in city planning against entrepreneurial urban development. Against the supposed excessive growth of the »American city«1 or also »Tokyo«, a »critical reconstruction« should connect existing city structures to the past. A decade later “new Berlin” has left an exhausted battlefield as the desire for debate went flat at the same time as the actual building work.2 Yet renewal of the discussion around the European city is worthwhile, as in this way current questions of immigration and neo-imperialism can be negotiated. The brutal implementation of European standards in the previous colonial cities hits back at Europe. The way of reading the imperially asserted European city as built colonialism and the re- working of the colonial cities through social, legal and city planning standards throws new light on current everyday life in the city, on the social reality of immigrants in Europe and the migrant bridges between the “south” and the “north”. Advanced development in Brussels and London serve as a model in this.

EUropean City, City of the World

»In the European capital Brussels, Mohammed has become the most common name given to newborn boys. In places two to six last year were Alexandre, Ayoub, Thomas, Bilal and Mehdi, as the paper 'Le Soir' reported on Friday according to sources from the Belgian statistics office. Apparently, this was because the total number of first names were increasing, and more foreigners lived in the multi-ethnic metropolis than in the rest of the country. There Thomas was at number one. Newborn girls in Brussels in 2001 were most commonly called Laura, followed by Sarah, Imane, Rania, Yousra and Marie.« (in: FAZ from 28.11.2002) As the European capital, Brussels exemplifies a new relationship between world and city. It is the prototype for the European city, and simultaneously supports the global South. Distinctly African, Moroccan or Turkish areas3 make their mark on the city landscape and, at markets and on shopping streets, reflect the city’s economic life of diverse immigrant generations. Particularly Brussels’ many layered colonial history, diverse government functions and conflicting everyday life of marginalised inhabitants let the city experience a laboratory of a new understanding of European city reality.

Brussels, Capital of Europe

Under the Belgian regency of the European commission in 2001, commission chief Romano Prodi and the Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt invited a »group of intellectuals« to discuss the needs and the function of the EU capital. At the EU summit in Nice in December 2000 the decision was made to concentrate on the Belgian city (with millions of inhabitants) as the permanent home of the Council of Europe, with a future 24 member states after almost forty years provision. In the meantime (as in Bonn, which was temporarily regarded as the German capital), a mass of office buildings, institutional architecture, and branches had been built in Luxemburg and Strasburg as well as the member states. And as everything seemed to be temporary, no one cared about contingency. Elena Saraceno, colleague of the think-tank ›Group of Policy Advisers‹ at the European Commission, worked as co-ordinator of the work group ›Brussels Capital of Europe‹ who met in May and September and published the concluding report of this »brainstorming meeting« in October 2001. As »capital light«, Brussels was not supposed to compete with the capitals of the larger states, but as »server« (Umberto Eco) keep a transnational network together. Europe seems to be administered decentrally– currency in Frankfurt/Main, the courts in Luxembourg, parliament in Strasbourg – yet the functions will be further concentrated in Brussels. And as central seat of transnational NATO, the military union for European security and defence politics (ESVP)4 (decided in 1999 and only influenced by Europe) will settle in Brussels. An attached 60,000 strong intervention troop should be ready for use by 2003. The work group were far sooner in agreement on what the capital of Europe would not be. It should not develop into a copy of a national country, Europe’s development should not be nation building. A master plan for the EU capital – on completely new foundations – was seen as unlikely. It was more likely that the former muddling through would continue. As the diversity of Europe would be a split quality, decentrally organised power. This mosaically fissured »regional Europe« – the collage of the guest speaker Rem Koolhaas shows various representations of the tower of babel- still need political representation, which would have to manifest itself in communications, symbols and buildings.

Excursion 1: Societies//Profits

In the edition of Wired edited by Rem Koolhaas ›KoolWorld‹ Mark Leonhard, Tony Blair’s advisor and leader of the London think–tank Foreign Policy Centre, writes about the new Euro-space.5 He analyses a European government technique »societies and profits«, (which seems superior to American imperialism), which through use of camouflage, diversity and syndicalism seems to have a far larger potential than the roman-imperial model of the USA. »Through creating general standards, implemented through national institutes, Europe can take over the world without becoming a target for hostility. Whilst every US company, embassy and military base represents a terrorist target, Europe’s invisibility allows it to spread its influence without provocation. In general: Even if there were people who would furiously fly aeroplanes into European buildings, there is no world trade centre as a target.« The decentralised network structure of the EU is in this way less susceptible to a collapse, even if more and more countries are streaming into the largest market in the world. »The former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger once complained that Europe has no central telephone number…this is because Europe has many centres of power. Even the split between old and new, and the accidentally played good cop/bad cop routine through Great Britain and France can be read as strength of the European Union.« Leonhard describes norm pressure and value temptations as the strongest technique of government, which other nations would only grant access if they were completely rebuilt. »Europe encourages political and economic reforms through offering the possibility of integration in the European Union.« Whilst the US military aides overrun Columbia in a ›War on Drugs‹ and get rid of their own market for alternative products instead of cocaine, Turkey is reconsidering its death sentence and persecution of Kurdish minorities, in order to be accepted into the EU: »The United States may have changed the regime in Afghanistan, but Europe has changed the whole of Polish society, from its economic and property policy to the treatment of minorities, and what is served at the tables of the nation.« Whilst the European military policy ›out of area‹ operates neo imperialistically6, the undertow of the EU is only apparently soft in its nature: »Once sucked into its circle, countries are changed forever. Europe is a state of mind which cannot be held by traditional boundaries.«

Quartier Leopold, Quartier Européen

According to the pictogram made for the EU ›Brussels Capitol Region‹ (OMA/ Rem Koolhaas, 2001) of the almost one million Belgian residents of Brussels, 80% are Wallons and 20% are registered as Flemish. 30% are foreigners, 52% of them come from the EU, of those, 23% from France, 21% from Italy, 16% from Spain, 18% from Greece, 6% from Great Britain, 5% from Germany, and 4% from Portugal. Unfortunately, the study does not indicate the other half of the residents of foreign nationality in such detail - for example immigrants from Poland, not considered as EU applicants. So the graphic of the ›Quartier Leopold‹ as a location for unconnected EU institutions mirrors its lobbyists and workers. Between the »Eurocrats« in the speculatively developed “Quartier Européen” and the residents, who are visitors and employees - compared with the zones at the feet of the office tower blocks in Frankfurt am Main- no city life is to be found. As soon as the employees are shuttled away when the offices close for the day, the area sealed off against its neighbours seems to be peopled by security and cleaning personnel and employees. Yet the city is just as much defined by immigration for example from Maghreb and French-speaking countries of Africa who seek to secure a living in the Brussels Stadtbegradigers and private business operating colonial power Leopold II - »Congo free state« was the personal property of the king. »We are here, because you’re destroying our countries!’ was the slogan of the Sans-Papier-movement in France and Belgium as well as of the »Caravan for the Rights of Refugees and Migrants«7, which was touring Germany during the last two elections.

Excursion 2: Colonial palace

»In the colonial palace animals, plants, ethnographic objects, groups of statues with scenes from African life, and the most important export products of the Congo were exhibited, all in an Art Nouveau presentation. The exhibition was very successful and created a lively scientific interest in the animals, plants and ethnographic objects from central Africa. The king accordingly decided to turn this exhibition on the Congo from 1898 into a permanent museum with scientific services. So the Congo Museum was created, which after 1908 became the Museum for the Belgian Congo.« (Publicity of the museum) From 1904 until 1910 Leopold II let the Frenchman Charles Girault build the Colonial palace in the ›Versailles‹ style straight through Zonienwald and the double Tervurener Allee, to picture a continent that he had never even visited. The approx. 400.000 ethnographic exhibits contrasted with the genocide of the colonial regime of possibly ten million people, which was not mentioned.8 Instead, in the rotunda of the Musée Royal de l’Afrique Centrale / Koninklijk Museum voor Midden-Afrika, gilded sculptures gleam with titles such as »Belgium brings civilization to Africa«. Guido Gryseels, recent head of the museum, was brought in after the scandal about the colonial palace, to re-work the programme and organisation of the museum.9 Now voices are raised to make the building itself into a museum piece as it is, after fifty years of neglect, as it is in itself an ›exponent of colonialism‹ On the other hand the director (who was previously development worker in Ethiopia, Rwanda and Burundi) is planning a large Congo exhibition in 2005. An international commission chaired by a Congolese scientist will create the exhibition on the Belgian colonial era. The museum will be completely reworked in 2010. Until then recent contemporary art and photography from Africa will be exhibited – and black Belgians are visiting the museum for the first time.

World in the City

Brussels is an extraordinarily cosmopolitan city.10 According to the study ›Multi-national, multi-cultural and multi-levelled Brussels: national and ethnic politics in the »Capital of Europe« by Adrian Favell and Marco Martiniello, Turkish and Moroccan partnerships are especially noticeable in their strongly defined transnationality. The large minority of the ›foreign‹ population is made up of a pan-European elite defined by the EU, of NATO personnel, multinational work elites as employees of transnational companies and their lobby arrangements, guest workers from Italy, Spain, Turkey, Morocco and colonial bridges to Zaire, Congo and other Francophone African countries. Added to this are asylum seekers and illegalised immigrants. 128 nationalities are probably represented in Brussels and surroundings. At the same time Belgium, and so Brussels, is multiply split and scattered. Local organisations are embedded in one of two areas (Wallon and Flanders) divided in terms of language, culture and society, a split which runs through to the smallest authority. The relationship of the Wallons to the Flemish in the capital city is about 4 to 1– yet since 1960 this was not checked further, in order not to upset a dearly bought balance. Geographically the city is in Flanders, yet is ruled by a French-speaking elite. Brussels is an independent area like the two language zones and so has its own representation to cross state organisations of the European Union. The nineteen areas of Brussels have their own structures, however (mayor, police, hospitals etc.). The preferred solution in Brussels is bilingualism on all institutional levels, so that the Flemish are normally slightly overrepresented. Through the EU English was offered as one of the rifts in the community, but also the third language to bridge the divided city itself. In the meantime, the same counts for Turkish or Arabic. Culture could also become a strong factor for the representation of political interests and at the same time act as a bridge. The »multi-level government power« has been the norm for a long time in Belgium. Where politics seem to be distorted, then cross state country, regional district, city or community life are plumbed against each other. The regional language communities are brought into a position against the national state. The intricate bi-national institutional architecture and divided public culture makes Brussels into a terrain of post or transnational integration model as a reaction to the exclusion experienced. The region of Brussels is one of the wealthiest areas of the European Union. At the same time, the number of people living in poor conditions is high. Turkish and Moroccan people were for a long time the leading population in the industrial belt bordering the north and southwest of the centre. Other parts of the city on the other hand stay exclusively white and Belgian. In the city, there is a growing hostility towards immigrants even amongst the otherwise liberal French speakers, so that many Wallons from Brussels elected the, actually Flemish influenced, racist Vlaamsblok. This is even more apparent as party tendencies mirror the individual regional divisions, e.g. there are two green parties. This voting right is extensively forbidden for migrants. The lack of formal political participation leads immigrating groups to other forms of participation and political expression in their own concerns. Immigrants raise their voices through focusing on common origin or anti racist unions while local, regional or national funds remain out of reach. Brussels has the advantage that the European commission, the European council and the European parliament are in the city. In other places, the presence of the rich EU funded concerns and NGOs are a thorn in the side of the self-organised local minority groups.

Carpet Trade

Informal relationships and networks play an important part when, as is usual in Belgium, the official route is closed for immigrants. Organised Islam and the close co-operation of local businesspeople form alternative scenes for community interests, whose connection on a transnational level go beyond the city and national context. Brabant Street starting at the Nordbahnhof in Schaarbeek is a long stretch of bazaar full of migrant influenced countries. Cars, whose number plates show customers from France, the Netherlands or even the Ruhr Valley, queue up here at the weekend and on holidays. The ›guest workers‹ mainly from Morocco stop off at Brabant Street on their way to their home countries to buy carpets. These products are woven in an oriental style in Belgian factories to stay in competition with the low salary countries of the South. These carpets are sold to tourists on the markets of Tangiers or Casablanca, (who bring these presumably original Moroccan carpets back to their Brussels suburb settlements) to finance the trip. These informal and tricky practices of city survival don’t come accidentally to a city and a country especially where politics between the Flemish and Wallons are expedited so obdurately territorially. In this sense the immigrants are reacting to that which they have learned from the dominant political group in the country, where extreme powers, be they advocates of radical regionalism or an ethno-nationalistic separatism, profit particularly strongly.

Excursion 3: We’re turning London into Punjab

Almost simultaneously in the British weekly The Economist and the weekly newspaper Outlook India from New Delhi ran extensive articles on the sudden rise in immigration from India to London, whilst white middle-class Britons were leaving London in droves, to re-form in the country. Or quite leaving the country: to Spain, the south of France or to Canada. Last year a quarter of a million Britons emigrated, and around the same number immigrated to England, many of them from India. Of 150,000 work permits issued, of those 100,000 to asylum seekers, many were to Indians who, according to Scotland Yard, said they where Afghanis. »And don’t forget our brothers, who arrive informally, or unconventionally in crates on lorries and whatever.«, notes the author. The colonial bridges and the Commonwealth between the British Empire and the annexed Indian subcontinent – today India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are more effective than ever. »How do the British survive India? By pissing off out of London«, Sanjay Suri writes in his contribution.11 The formerly colonialised people are now taking their place in the heart of the old empire. »And one thing is loud and clear/ Friends, Punjab will never be London / We’ll make London into Punjab/... And I’ll tell you white boys / You can go somewhere else if you want / but I’m not leaving your country«, the author cites the satirical poem by the electrician Gurdev Singh Manku. Great Britain’s first large wave of immigration in the 60s and 70s invited south Asian workers to textile factories in the north. Post-industrial jobs are to be found in the south. More immigrants come to London than to New York or Los Angeles. Two thirds of the new immigrants however come from high-income countries. London’s service industry and the liberalisation of finance services act as a magnet in this. This doesn’t mean only a growth in bank jobs, but also for service personnel from the global south. »These foreign kids do everything before you even ask them«, as the Economist article cites the London hairdresser Hari Salem. »They demonstrate the laziness of the others …«12 According to a census, 1.2 million Indians live in Great Britain. In reality, probably one million are living in London alone and take over the local area. Sanjay Suri describes the story of an interpreter at a local hospital who despite a meagre salary made it to owning eight properties, by using the low interests at the start of new credit cards. »You like London? Forget it, we own the place.« (Sanjay Suri) Immigration has contributed to driving London’s property prices to rise far above the rest of the country. So, the fleeing Britons profit from the rising property prices to swap their London flat for a much cheaper one in the provinces. Rural areas can expand their infrastructure whilst schools and hospitals in London can hardly find personnel, as life in the metropolis is too expensive for them. The exodus from London has until now been formed from three groups: pensioners, commuters and those who have found jobs in rural areas. »peace«, »escape from the rat race« and »less non-white people« were given as reasons for the move. The differences have blurred through mobile phones, the Internet and flexible pension ages. The people moving in are responsible for two thirds of the new revenue in rural areas. In London the arrival of the ›foreigners‹ have noticeably changed the city. New ethnic areas are formed. »The Arabs have been in Bayswater for a long time, the West Indians in Brixton, the Punjabis in Southall and Bangladeshis in Tower Hamlet. Now the Poles are in Lambeth and Southwark, The Algerians and Moroccans in Finsbury Park, the Kosovans and Albanians in Enfield and Newham, The Iraquis in Barnet and the Congolese in Croydon«, according to the Economist. Now the white Britons seem to increasingly lose their jobs to the Indian population: those which are taken over by Indians in the country itself, but also those which through outsourcing go to India. »They have money, more and more shops, and now more and more property. The streets are English, the house Indian. Many Britons have a hard time surviving this.« (Sanjay Suri). With time, the white Britons could become a national minority. »The face of Great Britain is changing fast, and that face is looking more Indian all the time.«

1. What if one took the much burdened ›Americanisation‹ as a reality for US and Latin America seriously? And what does this mean for the cities of Europe?
2. See the NGBK exhibition and accompanying publication - ›Baustop.randstadt,– # 1 – agressives, nicht-akkumulatives, städtisches Handeln auf knapp 300 Seiten‹, Berlin 1999.
3. A huge mural by the internationally successful artist Chérie Samba (Kongo Kinshasa/ Paris) defines the entrance to the African quarter. As we stopped in front of the mural, a black African female passer-by watches us full of pride.
4. The Congo Einsatz angeführt by France, with British and German participation is according to Prime Minister Chirac the »last European operation outside Europe«.
5. Mark Leonard: ›Combine and Conquer. Euro Space – A State of Mind‹ Wired Magazine 11. Juni 2003, San Francisco 6. »In Bosnia, in Kosovo and in Macedonia, in Afghanistan, in Usbekistan and in Georgia, at the Horn of Afrika and in Kuwait, now also in Congo and Uganda – almost 9.000 German soldiers are now engaged in very different uses, ….never, except in the time of imperialism, were German soldiers used so far from the centre of Europe, not even during the second World War. They do their duty today on three continents.« Gregor Schöllgen, ›In the German interests. Who will take the initiative in Europe’s security politics?‹ Süddeutsche Zeitung, 27.08.2003
7. »›We are here because you are destroying our countries‹, is how flight reasons, persecution of social and political movements in our countries of origin and the economic and political domination of our countries through the rich, Western countries are expressed. « (Flyer of the International Union of human rights Bremen from June 2002)
»there is actually a very direct connection between Europe’s multi and economic and political interventions in our countries and the establishment of refugees. Cheap oil and gas which came to Europe from Nigeria as a result of the neo-colonial partnership between multinationals like Shell, and the successful military dictatorship which has controlled and destroyed Nigeria for the past 32 years…the systematic destruction of democratic measures and the political and economic expropriation of the Ogonis levelled the way in the last three decades for a merciless exploitation of the oil reserves of Nigeria. Today the Nigerian Delta is in flames whilst millions of dollars from the natural riches are carted off overseas.« From the presentation ›We are here because you destroy our countries‹ by Anthony Edeh, International Human Rights Association Bremen, at the refugee congress in Jena on the 21st April 2000
8. See also: Adam Hochschild ›Schatten über dem Kongo‹ Reinbek, 2003.
9. The colonial era history of Belgium is hardly history. So the study ›Government assignment murder‹ by the Belgian sociologist Ludo de Witte shows that Belgium in 1960 participated in planning, carrying out and finally glossing over the murder of Patrice Lumumba, the first freely elected Prime Minister of Congo.
10. »The case of Belgium is continually ignored and is in comparative studies of west European politics and society under-researched.« Favell/ Martiniello, in: Online-Serie ›Transnational Communities‹, published by Steve Vertovec and Ali Rogers,
11. Sanjay Suri ›Surviving India. Ol’ Blighty, My Pind – How are the Brits surviving India? By getting the hell out of London‹ in: Outlook India Magazine (New Dehli) 18.8.2003
12. ›London’s comings and goings‹ London, 7.8.2003