25th Feb 2020

EU condemns racist attacks on Italian minister

  • Ministers from 17 member states gathered in Rome to condemn racism. (Photo: Giampaolo Macorig)

Ministers from 17 EU member states on Monday (23 September) gathered in Rome to condemn the racism directed towards Italy’s integration minister Cecile Kyenge.

The ministers called for a new pact to stamp out racism across Europe, which they see as on the rise.

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“What has happened to the Italian minister is unacceptable but we're talking about a widespread phenomenon," Belgium’s deputy prime minster, Joelle Milquet, told reporters in Rome.

They signed a "Declaration of Rome," which calls upon the EU to put together a plan for 2014-2020 on diversity and the fight against racism.

“Intolerance and discrimination, in whatever form, is reprehensible. We cannot ignore it and we cannot do nothing about it,” states the declaration.

The ministers want the European Commission to draft a report on racism before the European Parliament elections next May.

It notes that all member states should finalise the transposition of anti-discrimination legislation and put in place "judicial instruments" to help weed out attacks.

The declaration also condemns political movements with racist and xenophobic positions and notes that the economic crisis has reinforced populism and racism.

Speaking to reporters after the declaration, Kyenge thanked her counterparts for their support.

Kyenge, an eye doctor born in the Congo, has faced racial slurs and jeers in her first five months office from far right Italian politicians and others. She has also faced death threats.

Right-wing Northern League senator Roberto Calderoli compared her features to that of orangutan. Italian Northern League MEP Mario Borghezio, who is a member of the civil liberties committee, described the Italian government as a ‘bongo bongo’ administration because of Kyenge.

In early September, members of the far-right Forza Nuova movement smeared blood on mannequins, which they placed outside municipal buildings in Rome. The act was in protest of Kyenge’s proposal to extend citizenship to Italian-born children of immigrants.

"I have never said Italy is racist, every country needs to start building awareness of immigration and Italy has simply arrived very late," Kyenge said following the mannequin incident.

In August, a member of separatist group Veneto State, threatened to kill Kyenge on his Facebook page.

In another incident over the summer, Italian Councillor Dolores Valandro, was given a 13-month suspended sentence, a €13,000 fine, and a three-year ban from holding public office after she suggested Kyenge should be raped.

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