The European Commission has unveiled its keenly-awaited EU Action Plan against Racism, in a move generally welcomed by rights groups.
The initiative, launched at a news conference on Friday in Brussels, comes after widespread public support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
NGOs said it is the first time that there is "high-level recognition" at European Union level of the need to fight "structural racism."
The plan contains a series of measures for the remainder of the Commission’s five year mandate.
Among others, the Commission says it will ensure that EU Member States fully implement relevant EU law and further strengthen their legal frameworks, if needed in the areas not yet covered by non-discrimination legislation, such as law enforcement.
The Commission also called on EU national governments “to maximise the use of all the tools at their disposal,” and urged Member States to introduce better policies against racism and to report regularly about progress in tackling it.
"We are going to work harder on this. We won’t shy away from strengthening the legislation, if needed. The Commission itself will adapt its recruiting policy to better reflect European society” European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Vera Jourova
Speaking at the briefing in Brussels, Vera Jourova, European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency, told reporters: “We have reached a moment of reckoning. The protests sent a clear message – change must happen now. It won’t be easy, but it must be done.”
"We are going to work harder on this. We won’t shy away from strengthening the legislation, if needed. The Commission itself will adapt its recruiting policy to better reflect European society.”
Further comment came from Helena Dalli, the Commissioner for Equality, who said: “There is no place for racial discrimination and racism of any kind in democratic societies. We need to address it at all levels of governance to turn the tide.”
“This is why, among other things we will address law enforcement, social attitudes, stereotypes and economic concerns; and encourage Member States to adopt their respective anti-racism action plans.”
Reacting to the news, Karen Taylor, chair of the European Network against Racism (ENAR), said, “This is a groundbreaking moment for racial equality and justice, and has significant potential to achieve positive change for racialised people in Europe”
“The open boxes now need to be filled: it is crucial that the measures proposed are effectively carried out by both EU institutions and national governments. Without this commitment, this ambitious action plan will remain just a piece of paper.”
“There is no place for racial discrimination and racism of any kind in democratic societies. We need to address it at all levels of governance to turn the tide” European Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli
The plan, she said, “could be stronger on measures to address racist and disproportionate policing, as it plays a key role in maintaining and fostering racial inequalities in Europe.”
Taylor said, “There should be more focus on collecting data disaggregated by racial or ethnic origin on profiling. It is also problematic that profiling is presented as a legitimate practice, given the numerous abuses of this law enforcement tool.”
“It is also disappointing that the plan does not include specific measures to tackle the structural racism and barriers faced by migrants in Europe.
“We count on the EU institutions and national governments to be drivers of positive change to ensure we achieve justice and equality for all. ENAR and the broader anti-racist movement will remain vigilant to ensure these goals lead to real action”, said Taylor.