Representation of people of colour in EU elections is ‘abysmal’, says anti-racism group

Written by Martin Banks on 26 May 2019 in News
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A new report says that people of colour are “highly underrepresented” in all candidates’ lists for the EU-wide elections.

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The keenly-awaited elections, starting in the UK and the Netherlands on 23 May, are described as the most important since the first direct elections were held in 1979.

But a report by the European Network Against Racism – ENAR – says the representation of people of colour (POC) on the lists is abysmal.

The study says that people of colour rarely make the top of candidate lists and this could affect the likelihood of an individual or party’s election success.


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Diversity in the lists differs widely per country, Left-leaning factions are the most racially diverse and “very few” parties have a racially diverse list.

Brexit, according to the report, will also have a “huge” effect on racial diversity in the next Parliament after this weekend’s elections.

The ENAR study predicts that the number of POC MEPs in the next parliament will only be “marginally” higher than in the last mandate.

Sarah Chander, senior advocacy officer at ENAR, told this website, "Our analysis of candidate lists for the EU elections shows an abysmal representation of people of colour. Fewer than three per cent of all European Parliament candidates are people of colour; and an even lower proportion is likely to be elected.”

“Migrants, minorities and people of colour are an undeniable fact of Europe’s reality. It’s time Europe reflected that.”

“Migrants, minorities and people of colour are an undeniable fact of Europe’s reality. It’s time Europe reflected that" Sarah Chander, senior advocacy officer at ENAR

ENAR analysed the racial and ethnic representation in the elections, reviewing candidate lists from all member states, covering approximately 6,500 candidates.

The study found that people of colour (racial, ethnic and religious minorities) make up approximately 10 per cent of the EU population, but make up less than three per cent (approximately 190 candidates) of the candidates on the election lists. Only 21 candidates are projected to win.

Of the projected winners, nine are women and 13 are men. Three are black women, which is an increase from the last parliament in which only one black woman was elected to parliament.

The UK, Sweden, France, the Netherlands and Belgium, says the report, have the most racially diverse party lists. Without the unexpected UK representation, the number of diverse candidates drops drastically to under 150 (two per cent representation).

Sweden, France and Germany are likely to have four POC MEPs each. Ireland, Greece, Slovakia, Slovenia and Austria have no POC candidates, says ENAR.

In Spain, only four of the 594 candidates (0.6 per cent) up for election are from a minority ethnic background, compared with 10 per cent of the wider EU population.

"ENAR points out that there has never been a black or brown EU commissioner and nor have any of the top positions in the European parliament or council been held by a member of one of Europe’s ethnic minorities"

The study says that Left-leaning political groups put forward the majority (59 per cent) of POC candidates on their lists, compared to 16 per cent from right-leaning groups.

The most diverse political group, according to the ENAR study, is the European Parliament’s Socialist and Democrats (S&D) while the least was the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group (EFDD), followed by the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR).

Only 74 parties put forward a “diverse” candidate on their election list. The UK Labour party has the most diverse candidates, followed by La France Insoumise (France), Socialdemokraterna (Sweden), and Génération.s (France).

The report by ENAR, which represents 160 anti-racist groups across Europe, says the expected departure of UK MEPs after Britain leaves the EU will “likely greatly impact” on racial diversity in the European Parliament.

It states, “Currently, both the Labour and Conservative parties have diverse representatives in the Parliament. UK MEPs also bring a clear racial diversity angle, including cross-party agreement on the need for representation and equality data collection.”

Among those standing is Alice Bah Kuhnke, a Greens candidate, who seeks to become Sweden’s first black MEP. Just four of the 32 Swedish candidates who are people of colour are on track to get a seat, says the report.

ENAR points out that there has never been a black or brown EU commissioner and nor have any of the top positions in the European parliament or council been held by a member of one of Europe’s ethnic minorities.

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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