The Big 5: Five popular New Europeans of 2014

December 18th marks International Migrants Day! The rise of mobility and the population of migrants in the world, which according to the United Nations is currently at 232 million, is an international milestone in the last 50 years, especially in the European Union, a Union envisioned to be rich and united in diversity.

New Europeans, or individuals with a migrant background who have connections with more than just their country of residence in Europe, are taking the old continent by storm. Many of them are now household names in different EU countries and in different sectors of European society.

UNITEE jots down five of the most popular New Europeans in Europe this year, in the field of politics, business, arts and literature, entertainment, and sports.

In politics…

  • Aydan Özoğuz. Born and raised in Germany, Özoğuz grew up in a Turkish household, with Turkish parents who were entrepreneurs and owned their very own food business. Before becoming a German politician and member of the Hamburg Parliament in 2001, the New European was very active in German-Turkish projects and associations, in hopes to integrate the Turkish community into German society. As a member of Bundestag, the German Parliament, the Deputy Chair of Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Minister for Immigration, Refugees and Integration, her roots play an important role in all her political activities. She is the first woman of Turkish origins in the German Federal Government who became a minister.

In business…

  • James Caan. Born in Pakistan, Caan, born Nazim Khan, and his family arrived in the United Kingdom when he was just two years old. Wanting to shape his own future separate from his father’s clothing company in London, he flew the nest at 16, decided not to pursue a university degree, and worked as a door-to-door salesman and for recruitment agencies. An entrepreneur at heart, he put up a fashion boutique with his wife, and eventually started his very first recruitment company in his early 20s. Caan is now one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the UK. Aside from running different businesses, the New European is also helping out SMEs and aspiring entrepreneurs through chairing the UK Government’s Start Up Loans Scheme and hosting the business advice show The Business Class.

“It makes an immigrant laugh to hear the fears of the nationalist – scared of infection, penetration, miscegenation, when this is small fry, peanuts, compared to what the immigrant fears – dissolution, disappearance.” – Smith

In Arts and literature…

  • Zadie Smith. The best-selling English novelist Smith was born in London to an English father and a Jamaican mother, who migrated to the UK a few years earlier. She wrote her very first book, White Teeth, in her early 20s and became an instant international hit. “I was expected to be some expert on multicultural affairs, as if multiculturalism is a genre of fiction or something, whereas it’s just a fact of life… I am the sole author of the dictionary that defines me”. Her best-seller, and the rest of her literary works, focuses on immigration, conflict with one’s own roots and the collision of different cultural perspectives.

In entertainment…

  • Ayo. This New European is becoming a household name both as a singer and an actress. She was born in Germany as Joy Olasunmibo Ogunmakin (Ayo is the Yoruba, a Niger-Congo language, translation of Joy) to a Nigerian father and a Romanian mother. At age 21, she moved to London, New York, and Paris to pursue her musical career. Since the release of her first album Joyful in 2006, Ayo has been gaining popularity in Germany, France, Poland, Switzerland, Greece, Italy, and even in the United States. She is also a UNICEF patron for children’s rights to education.

“Racism is like a cigarette. You cannot stop smoking if you do not want to, and you cannot stop racism if people do not want to.” – Balotelli

In sports…

  • Mario Balotelli. This Italian footballer best known for being the striker of club Liverpool and Italy’s national team, is of Ghanaian descent. Born to an immigrant family, the young Mario Barwuah was raised by an Italian foster family, thus his last name Balotelli. “I am Italian. I feel Italian. I will forever play with Italy’s national team”. The 24-year-old New European football superstar is given the name “Super Mario” by his avid fans from around the world, due to his amazing performance on the pitch, as well as his controversial image off the pitch.


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