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26th Aug 2016

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Political groups pledge to conduct hate-free campaigns

The majority of mainstream parties in the European Parliament on Wednesday (19 March) signed a pledge to conduct election campaigns free from discrimination and intolerance.

“The [European Parliament] elections are taking place at a time that is marked by crisis and the rise of extremism in different parts of Europe,” said Evelyne Paradis, executive director at the Brussels-based Ilga-Europe, the EU umbrella organisation for the rights of LGBTI people.

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  • More MEPs from far-right groups are likely to enter the European Parliament following the elections in May (Photo: European Parliament)

The pledge, drafted jointly by Ilga-Europe and the Brussels-based European Network Against Racism (Enar), calls upon the groups to refrain from any message that would foster prejudice and discrimination in the lead-up to the elections in May.

It asks them to use “inclusive language” when referring to minorities, contribute to debates in a responsible manner, and reject anything that insights hostility towards different communities.

Both NGOs will monitor the political parties to make sure they follow the commitments.

The liberals (Alde), the centre-left (S&D), the European Green Party, and the European Left have all signed the appeal.

The parliament’s largest group, the centre-right EPP, did not.

“We have decided not to sign the declaration,” said EPP’s deputy secretary-general Christian Kremer.

Kremer said the group instead sent a letter to Ilga-Europe and Enar with points similar to those highlighted in the declaration.

“It was merely a technical decision because we were receiving a number of declarations from different NGOs,” he said.

He pointed out that the EPP presidency is not signing declarations from any external organisation.

Kremer said the group is committed to fighting discrimination, inequality “and everything that regards discrimination.”

Lousewies van der Laan, a former Dutch MEP and current vice-president of the European Liberal Democrats, said the space for homophobia and racism needs to be limited.

“Every time you don’t expose it or counter it, you allow the discourse to become more vulgar,” she told this website.

“This is not about not having certain discussions, it is about putting limits … you don’t want people to incite hatred, you don’t want them to be racist, you don’t want them to be homophobic,” she said.

The joint pledge will also be sent to the different parties at the national level.

“It is really good that we have this large commitment so that we can try to have a cleaner campaign this year,” said Enar’s director Michael Privot.

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