Margaritis Schinas under fire for failing to respond to complaint by leading rights group

The European Commission Vice-President was initially lambasted by the European Network Against Racism after comments he reportedly made following the death of George Floyd in the United States.
European Commission Audiovisual

By Martin Banks

30 Jun 2020

Schinas was reported as saying, “I do not think that we have issues now in Europe that blatantly pertain to police brutality or issues of race transcending into our systems.”

The wave of demonstrations were “not likely … to happen in Europe on this scale”, he reportedly said.

However, the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) said the death of Floyd was a “wake-up call” for the EU, which has to “acknowledge the urgency of tackling racism.”

“He [Schinas] did not reply to our comments and the open letter and nor did von der Leyen or Commissioner Dalli, who were also copied to the letter, which is very disappointing given the attention given to this issue in recent weeks” ENAR spokesman

The group, in an open letter to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, also said it was “appalled” by Schinas’ comments which “delegitimised the public outcry against police brutality.”

Greek-born Schinas, a former chief spokesman for the Commission who is now responsible for “promoting our European way of life,” has again been attacked, this time for failing to respond to the letter, which was signed by a total of 150 groups.

A spokesman for ENAR told this website, “He did not reply to our comments and the open letter and nor did von der Leyen or Commissioner Dalli, who were also copied to the letter, which is very disappointing given the attention given to this issue in recent weeks.”

“Indeed, we have raised concerns on several occasions about the lack of involvement of anti-racist organisations and activists from racialised groups in recent EU initiatives on racism, whether on the European Parliament anti-racism resolution, or the European Commission debate on racism.”

“As an EU commissioner, Schinas should have shown empathy with the victims of widespread racism in the EU. Instead his reckless statement has denied racialised communities across the EU the recognition of the oppression they are subjected to on a daily basis” ENAR letter to Margaritis Schinas

“For these initiatives to be meaningful and also given the overwhelming lack of racial diversity within the Commission and EU institutions more generally, it is crucial to involve anti-racist organisations and activists from radicalised groups – something that has not happened to date.”

“Otherwise, there is a real risk that EU institutions are reproducing the structural racism they are trying to address.”

The spokesman said “It is not normal to have to wait so long for a response to a letter. We expect the European Commission to respond at the earliest opportunity.”

“A letter we sent to Commissioner Jourová with other EU equality networks on another topic got a reply within three weeks so it seems to be a question of political will rather than lack of resources.”

“The letter has been received and it will be replied to. The President has given her very clear position in the speech before the Parliament and we have had a structured debate on racism in the College” European Commission spokesman

The ENAR letter, dated 12 June, said, “As an EU commissioner, Schinas should have shown empathy with the victims of widespread racism in the EU. Instead his reckless statement has denied racialised communities across the EU the recognition of the oppression they are subjected to on a daily basis.”

“His statement is a blatant denial of the existence of police brutality and discriminatory policing in Europe, despite evidence of this reality, including from EU bodies themselves.”

The letter said that a “lack of reaction reflects a denial of long-standing existence of systems of oppression in European societies, of historical injustices and persistent racial inequalities in areas of housing, healthcare, employment and education, as well as repeated experiences of state violence and impunity.”

A Commission spokesman told The Parliament Magazine, “The letter has been received and it will be replied to. The President has given her very clear position in the speech before the Parliament and we have had a structured debate on racism in the College.”

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