Anti-racism groups claim European Commission guilty of excluding them from flagship anti-racism summit

Campaigners say anti-racism organisations “didn’t have chance to meaningfully contribute to design of summit’s agenda.
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

19 Mar 2021

The summit, co-organised by the Portuguese presidency of the Council, the European Commission and the ARDI Intergroup of the European Parliament, was taking place on Friday.

Helena Dalli, commissioner for equality, Vera Jourova, commissioner for values and transparency, MEP Roberta Metsola, a vice president of parliament, and Michael O’Flaherty, director of the EU fundamental rights agency, were among the speakers.

The summit comes just ahead of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (21 March) and will address the implementation of the European Anti-Racism Action Plan with the involvement of EU institutions and grassroots organisations.

EU High Representative Josep Borrell told the event that, “systemic racism in Europe runs deep across all strands of society and structures and jeopardises the promotion, protection and realisation of human rights of all persons.”

He added, “The EU recognises the existing challenges and is determined to tackle them.”

But two groups, the European Network against Racism and the Equinox Initiative for Racial Justice, expressed their “deep concern” regarding the actions of the Commission’s political leadership and services involved in the organising of the summit.

 A joint statement said, “We believe that the Commission should have listened and engaged more meaningfully with anti-racist civil society as the primary expert on the structures and manifestations of racism.

“We believe that the Commission should have listened and engaged more meaningfully with anti-racist civil society as the primary expert on the structures and manifestations of racism" European Network against Racism and the Equinox Initiative for Racial Justice statement

“The agenda of the summit is not a safe space for experts, speakers and participants who are racialised.

“The summit is the key event to secure political leadership of member states on combating racism in the European Union. Given the summit’s important role in securing political support, our concerns in relation to the panels and speakers at the summit should have been taken more seriously.”

It goes on, “Civil society organisations didn’t have the chance to meaningfully contribute to the design of the agenda and ensure it is inclusive. “

“The Commission has also refused to rescind the invitation to the European Jewish Congress (EJC) to speak at the summit after being made aware of a video uploaded to YouTube, which was still available until recently, in which EJC's President Dr. Moshe Kantor engages in hate speech that stigmatises and demonises Muslims and migrants, including by alluding to the need for population control.”

“For too long, racial justice activists have been on a tight leash with the EU institutions. When too critical, we risk exclusion from proceedings and sometimes even black-listing” Equinox Initiative for Racial Justice co-founder Sarah Chander

“The European Commission has jeopardised the integrity of the summit and the Anti-Racism Action Plan, as well as its constructive collaboration with civil society, by giving a platform to an organisation that has refused to distance itself from his statements, despite calls to do so.”

Meanwhile, Equinox’s co-founder Sarah Chander said the EU “needs to fundamentally re-think its approach to racism policy to address structures.”

She added, “This must include looking inward and correcting what it has done as an institution to exacerbate racial inequalities.”

“From failing to support targeted anti-racist civil society, to turning a blind eye when people of colour in Europe are killed by police, the EU institutions have not as yet met their commitments to ensure equality for all.”

“The steps forward are to undertake a wholesale review of EU policy - from economy, migration, security, counter-terrorism, climate and digital - from a racial justice lens.”

“For too long, racial justice activists have been on a tight leash with the EU institutions. When too critical, we risk exclusion from proceedings and sometimes even black-listing” said Chander.

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