Tuesday

1st Dec 2020

EU to have first-ever anti-racism coordinator

  • Demostrators take the streets of Brussels in June, following the brutal US police killing of George Floyd (Photo: EUobserver)

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announced on Wednesday (16 September) the priorities for the EU's upcoming anti-racism action plan.

Earlier this year, the murder of George Floyd in the US brought into focus racial discrimination and police brutality also existing in Europe.

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Now the commission wants to identify gaps in the bloc's 2000 Race Equality Directive, especially regarding policing and law enforcement.

"Hate is hate and no one should have to put up with it," von der Leyen said in her first State of the Union speech, adding that in the European Union "fighting racism will never be optional".

The head of the EU executive pledged to use the EU budget to tackle racial discrimination in areas such as education, employment, housing to healthcare - aiming to tackle "unconscious bias" in people, institutions and even in algorithms that regulate the internet.

Additionally, Brussels seeks to extend the list of EU crimes to add all forms of hate crime and hate speech based on race, religion, gender or sexuality.

And the commission will have its first-ever anti-racism coordinator, who will be in charge of keeping the issue at the top of the agenda.

The European Parliament's Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup (ARDI) welcome the commission's decision to "break the silence and contribute to recognising structural racism in the EU".

But MEP Peter Pollak, who is a member of ARDI, said that it is a "pity" that such an action plan is needed.

'Not enough'

Fellow ARDI MEP Hilde Vautmans said that the upcoming action plan should reflect Europe's "ambition to move beyond statements," containing clear and measurable goals, as well as concrete actions.

For her part, MEP Alice Kuhnke warned that "an action plan is nothing without concrete legislative proposals".

"The times of magnificent words are over. Every politician, parliament and government has to do its utmost to combat racism and other forms of discrimination," she told EUobserver.

Kuhnke said the anti-racism action plan must include a concrete strategy to unblock the directive on equal treatment, which has been stuck in the European Council since 2008 - leaving the bloc without an EU law on discrimination outside of the workplace.

While figures from the EU Fundamental Rights Agency show that one in every three citizen of African descent has suffered racist discrimination, only 15 out of 27 EU member states have specific strategies to combat racism and ethnic discrimination.

The new action plan will call on EU governments to put in place anti-racism action plans by the end of 2022.

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