After hundreds of French riot police were deployed Wednesday night to clamp down on violent clashes in a Paris suburb, Germany's interior minister has warned that similar unrest could spread.
Could riots spread to the streets of Berlin?
"We have to be careful to curb potentially explosive currents in our society that could erupt into violence," Wolfgang Schäuble told the daily Neue Presse on Thursday, Nov. 29. "We have to take (this possibility) very seriously."
Although he conceded that German suburbs are less vulnerable to social tensions than the French outskirts, he maintained that it is nonetheless crucial that Germany address key social ills.
Schäuble has been called a panic-mongerer by critics and a realist by supporters
"Not everyone is able to adapt to the rapid changes of our social realities," he said, stressing that the integration of immigrant communities is not the only issue at stake.
Meanwhile, Kenan Kolat, head of the Turkish Association in Berlin and Brandenburg (TGB), was quoted in Spiegel Online as saying that Berlin needs to boost its efforts to integrate immigrants.
Warning that "copycat" incidents could occur in Germany, he said that although the situation was not as volatile in Germany as it is in France, improvement was long overdue.
"Unemployment among immigrant youths under 25 is above the average," he said. "We have to give our young people a future. They need to be given the opportunity to train and work."
Sarkozy said French police would take a tough line on violence in the suburbs
French President Nicolas Sarkozy met on Thursday with several of his ministers and 2,000 police to discuss security and orientation after the recent clashes, France's worst since the nationwide riots of 2005.
At least 130 police officers have been injured since violence broke out on Sunday in the northern Paris suburb of Villiers le Bel. The unrest was sparked by the death of two boys in a motorcycle collision with a police car.
As security was stepped up to contain the unrest, Sarkozy vowed on Wednesday that any rioters who shot at police would be severely punished.
"Opening fire at officials is completely unacceptable," Sarkozy warned. "This has a name: attempted murder."
The protestors have been hurling petrol bombs and bricks at police, torching cars and buildings. The use of shotguns against police dramatically upped the stakes in the face-off, the AFP news agency reported.
As interior minister in 2005, Sarkozy called rioters "scum"
Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie told Europe 1 radio that the police clampdown would be "maintained as long as necessary."
Police and politicians say the French suburbs remain a "tinderbox" after the riots two years ago, which were deemed symptomatic of France's failure to integrate its black and Arab population.
After Wednesday's cabinet meeting, government spokesman Laurent Wauquiez said that plans to improve education, job prospects and transport links in the suburbs would be unveiled in January.