MEPs complain that Commission suffers from 'structural discrimination'

Written by Rajnish Singh on 6 September 2017 in News

Budget and human resources Commissioner Günther Oettinger has been accused of going back on his word to protect workers who come from ethnic, racial and religious minorities.

European Commission | Photo credit: Fotolia

MEPs from all of the major political groups have criticised European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker , European Council President Donald Tusk, and Commissioner Günther Oettinger, for failing to introduce measures to tackle discrimination against people from racial, ethnic and religious minorities.

In an open letter signed by 17 MEPs, they expressed their concerns about the EU's new diversity and inclusion strategy, 'A better workplace for all: from equal opportunities to towards diversity and inclusion.'

Though the deputies, who are members of Parliament's Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup (ARDI), are pleased that the new strategy, launched in July 2017, is tackling discrimination against women, people with disabilities, LGBTI staff and older employees, they state "it is completely unacceptable that the strategy fails to tackle discrimination based on race, ethnic origin and religion."

Swedish S&D group MEP Soraya Post, a co-signer of the letter, said, "Equality for some is not equality for all. The Commission has sent the wrong message to current and future employees from racial, ethnic and religious minorities, that neither they nor their concerns are a priority of the European Commission."

She added, "It is also a U-turn by Oettinger, from the meeting I had with him and the subsequent minutes that his office had sent out."

Greens/EFA group member MEP Jean Lambert also complained, saying, "Its failure to extend these policies to racial, ethnic and religious minorities undermines the progress of its diversity and inclusion strategy.

"The decision to implement new measures for some minorities, to the exclusion of others, sets a worrying precedent, particularly when EU legislation itself includes all these groups."

The letter also criticised the Commission about the lack of diversity among senior EU staff. "At senior levels, there is currently no Commissioner or Director General from a racial, ethnic or religious minority background. This clearly indicates a level of structural discrimination within the European Commission."

One of the few non-white MEPs and Italian S&D deputy, Cécile Kashetu, also highlighted this problem saying, "The European Commission had the chance with this strategy to take the necessary actions to change recruitment patterns in the Commission workforce and push for greater political representation of people from a racial, ethnic and religious minority background. Therefore I'm extremely disappointed and concerned with the omission of racial, ethnic and religious minority staff as a target group in this strategy. "

Post wants to see the strategy amended urgently, and called on Juncker and Oettinger to introduce "an action plan that sets out to tackle under-representation (particularly at senior levels), discrimination within the workplace, as well as guidelines on reasonable accommodation of cultural and religious needs for Commission staff."

According to MEPs the exclusion to protect employees from racial, ethnic and religious minority backgrounds was "irresponsible and dangerous given the current political context in Europe."

At the beginning of this week a letter co-signed by the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) and 28 other religious, civil rights, disability and LGBTI groups, also called on the Commission to amend the new diversity and inclusion strategy and seek their input in any future action plan.

In their letter, the NGOs remind Juncker and Oettinger that, "the EU was founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities."

About the author

Rajnish Singh is commissioning editor of the Parliament Magazine

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