The EU has a strong mandate to combat racism and related discrimination. The European Union Treaty includes equality and non-discrimination as core values for the EU. There is solid legislation at EU and national levels when it comes to combating racism. However some legislative gaps remain and structural barriers to proper implementation of these laws leave many European residents unprotected against discrimination. This is all the more worrying as the political and social context has got worse for ethnic and religious minorities since the 2014 European elections, amid terrorist attacks, a rise in racist crime and speech, and increasing violence targeting migrants.
The European Parliament has a crucial role to play when it comes to reducing inequalities and violence faced by EU citizens and residents with an ethnic or religious minority background. Ahead of the 2014 European elections, the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) asked candidates to commit to advance equality and fight racism in the EU if elected to the European Parliament. 44 candidates endorsed our ‘Equality Demands’, including the three ‘top candidates’ Ska Keller, Guy Verhofstadt and Martin Schultz.
Since 2014, the European Parliament has made some progress on promoting equality and fighting discrimination, but there is still work to be done in a number of areas.
Tackle all forms of racism
The European Parliament organised a first hearing on the fight against Antisemitism and Islamophobia in 2015. The Civil Liberties committee also adopted an oral question to the Commission, explicitly asking whether the Commission envisages asking Member States to adopt specific national strategies to combat Antisemitism, Islamophobia and other forms of racism. The need to recognise and adopt strategies to combat specific forms of racism was also included in a number of EP reports (on the situation of fundamental rights in the EU, and on the implementation of the Employment Equality Directive). In 2017, the European Parliament co-organised a joint action day on Islamophobia and Antisemitism and adopted a parliamentary question on the consequences of the European Court of Justice ruling on wearing the headscarf at work. The European Parliament adopted a Resolution on combating Antisemitism in 2017.
Step up efforts against racist violence
Promote diversity and equality at work
Proactively react against racist elements in political discourse
Establish an Intergroup on anti-racism and diversity
Next steps and looking towards 2019
Over the next two and a half years, particularly in light of the upcoming 2019 European elections, MEPs must continue to push these topics.
A major gap has been the complete lack of action to ensure participation of ethnic and religious minorities and migrants in decision making processes. This is particularly concerning in a context where only fewer than 20 out of the 751 MEPs are thought to be from an ethnic minority background and where most ethnic and racial diversity is represented by UK MEPs and staff who will no longer be present after the 2019 elections. Worryingly, the European Commission recently published an internal diversity strategy which completely omits to include measures on ethnic and racial diversity.