7th Aug 2020


Racism alive and well as EU sits on anti-discrimination bill

  • One in three Muslims in Italy feels unwelcome in cafes and shops (Photo: miss_ohara)

It seems that the European Commission has just about given up on getting a progressive EU anti-discrimination law adopted.

This draft law, which would ban discrimination on grounds of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation in areas such as education and access to goods and services, has been blocked in negotiations at member state level for over three years. So far, minorities (with the exception of ethnic minorities) are only protected against discrimination in employment but not in other fields of life.

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If this bill indeed ends up being "forgotten," as one EU diplomat says in the above-mentioned article, the consequences will be dire. Not only has hope been raised that all people in Europe will finally enjoy the same rights in housing, schools, access to services and healthcare, this directive would also ensure legal protection against discrimination in these areas, not only in their own country but also when they visit or move to other EU countries.

An EU-wide survey by the European Fundamental Rights Agency on Muslims' experiences of discrimination clearly demonstrates the need for such protection: some of the highest levels of discrimination occurred in private services (at a bar, restaurant, shop, by a landlord, when trying to open a bank account etc. - total 14 percent).

Muslim North Africans in Italy stood out as experiencing a very high level of discrimination: 1 in 3 experienced discrimination in shops, cafes, restaurants or bars, while 1 in 4 experienced discrimination in banks.

By burying the directive both EU Member States and the European Commission, who initiated the proposal, are sending the message that the need to respect our human rights and to be protected against discrimination is unimportant.

In particular in the current climate of growing intolerance against minorities across Europe, we need EU member states to show political will to improve this situation and the European Commission to create political pressure to put the proposed law back on the agenda now, not later.

It is urgent that these government actors follow the advice of the European Parliament, who has repeatedly called for the draft law to be adopted.

After all, we are living in a democracy and this requires that more institutions than just the parliament should be concerned about protecting the rights of minorities, LGBTers, disabled persons, and other groups facing discrimination.

The writer works for the European Network Against Racism (ENAR)


The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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