EU should enforce 'zero tolerance' against racial discrimination

Written by Claude Moraes on 9 March 2015 in Opinion

Claude Moraes outlines why racial discrimination has been exacerbated by the recent economic crisis and calls on the EU to put an end to it.

Respect and tolerance are at the core of European values as well as being essential components to tackling racial discrimination. The international day for the elimination of racial discrimination serves as a pressing reminder that more has to be done at EU level to address the problem. Failure to do so risks the normalisation of particular groups in society being marginalised. The increased presence of the far-right across Europe has drawn attention to failures in effectively tackling racial discrimination and the worrying trend of hate speech being aired at all levels, not least at EU level. The racial incident in the Paris metro involving football fans and a passenger highlights the dangers of being complacent when addressing the issue of racism.

"We should celebrate the diversity of our continent and continue to promote inclusivity and respect for others"

Austerity driven policies have also contributed to targeted hostility towards ethnic minorities, as highlighted in studies which have drawn attention to discrimination in the labour market as mentioned by many NGOs. We should resist scapegoating particular groups with hate speech and focus our attention on improving a wide range of socioeconomic factors which have exacerbated problems for societies in Europe. Racial discrimination is a violation of fundamental rights and dignity and there should be zero tolerance of it in all settings.

Parliament’s civil liberties, justice and home affairs (LIBE) committee has general competence with regards to discrimination and the protection within the union of fundamental rights, including the protection of minorities; this has been a core of our work. The racial equality directive, published in 2000, was a ground-breaking piece of legislation for the committee as well as the EU, as it outlined the principle of equal treatment between people irrespective of racial or ethnic origin. As well as being involved in the legislative negotiations for the directive, I also campaigned for proper implementation with the assistance of NGOs such as the European network against racism (ENAR). Working alongside civil society helped to strengthen the legal framework concerning racial and ethnic equality in Europe.

As chair of the LIBE committee, I will continue to apply pressure for negotiations to begin with the council on the horizontal anti-discrimination directive. It is unacceptable that the EU is still lacking a horizontal anti-discrimination instrument, which results in serious gaps and asymmetries in protection from one member state to another. It is essential that the EU comes together and is more proactive as opposed to reactive with regards to eliminating xenophobia and racial discrimination in our continent.

2015 marks 50 years since the introduction of the UK race relations act. Later this year, I will join a number of key figures from academia, the legal profession, civil society and government to reflect on the first piece of anti-discrimination statute in Britain. It will also offer a chance to discuss ways to strengthen legislation on anti-discrimination measures. It is essential that we apply a multilayer approach to bridge the gap between policy and implementation with regards to raising awareness of racial discrimination.

As a Labour MEP for London, I am proud to represent a region that is home to a wide-range of ethnic minorities. We should celebrate the diversity of our continent and continue to promote inclusivity and respect for others. It is essential that the EU closely measures racial discrimination and xenophobia and its effects in order to recognise the issue and implement laws to discourage racist behaviour.


About the author

Claude Moraes (S&D, UK) is chair of parliament's civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee

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