Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) The European Union has as its main pillars the values of human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights. Based on these principles, the EU law condemns discrimination and harassment rooted in racial or ethnic hatred. Despite all this theoretical support, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) published a report showing how racist crimes and hate speech increased across the EU in the last year. Their research indicates that ethnic minorities and migrants face racism and discrimination not only at an individual level but also at an institutional and structural level.
Against this background, the European Parliament today adopted a report on racial injustice, non-discrimination and anti-racism in the EU. As one of the negotiators on the report, I am proud that we managed to include some of Renew Europe’s main priorities in its fight against racial discrimination.
Firstly, we must without further ado include the fight against racism and discrimination in all EU policies, and we, as so many time before, call for a horizontal Anti-Discrimination Directive. In this report, we strongly regret that the Council has been blocking this directive since 2008. The current horizontal Anti-Discrimination Directive proposal that has been sleeping for almost 15 years must be updated and adopted by the Commission immediately, and we urge all European Institutions, in cooperation with the Member States and all groups concerned, to promote an EU framework on the subject. It is essential to facilitate discussions on structural and intersectional discrimination and to consider this issue in all policies.
Secondly, as showed in the Fundamental Rights Report of 2022 published by FRA, hate speech manifested particularly online continued to rise, but also in the media and political discourse. Regarding these crimes, we have made particular emphasis on the need to implement new measures to encourage victims and witnesses to come forward and facilitate the process of reporting hate crimes, for example, through safe spaces or confidential hotlines. Member States must implement relevant standards and measures that would help both victims and witnesses of hate crimes during the whole process of the investigation, before, during and after the procedure.
Thirdly, we highlight the need to train law enforcement and justice authorities to deal with these types of crimes in a proper way and equip them with the necessary tools to correctly identify and record discriminatory and racist incidents. Member States should in the future ensure that a racist or xenophobic motive is considered an aggravating circumstance and therefore, something that the courts should take into account when determining penalties.
Further, in the fight against structural racism that persists in our society, Renew Europe wants to address the disproportionate representation of racialized groups among the lower-income strata of the European population, wherefore this report calls to adopt a strategy to ensure workforce diversity and inclusion.
Lastly, the importance of regular and structured dialogue with civil society organisations working on racial justice cannot be stressed enough. Organisations at European, national and local levels have our support in their fight for tolerance and against racism and discrimination. The Commission and Member States should promote campaigns that raise awareness and help to fight against stereotypes and preconceived ideas among the population.
Civil society organisations need EU funding in order to carry out their work, this can be supported under the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values programme. I believe that for civil organisations to help European Institutions with the common goal of ending racism and discrimination, it is crucial for them to participate in the decisions, therefore, the Permanent Anti-racism Civil Society Organisations Forum should formally be included in the creation of relevant policies and legislation.
It is clear that to finally eradicate the structural racism lived by millions of EU citizens, all forces must come together on a horizontal front. I am determined to make sure that this report will not be only another piece of paper, but an ambitious plan for our Member States and institutions to act against racism and discrimination in Europe.