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Contribution to the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance

The purpose of this communication is to contribute to the debate at the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (hereafter referred to as the World Conference) by highlighting the measures taken to combat racism in the European Union (EU). To inspire the debate by reiterating the recommendations presented by the Commission at the Regional European Conference in October 2000.

ACT

Communication from the Commission of 1 June 2001. Contribution to the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance [COM(2001)291 final - Not published in the Official Journal]

SUMMARY

Context

The decision to hold a World Conference in 2001 was taken in 1997 by the United Nations General Assembly. Organised by the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, it focused on action-oriented and practical steps to eradicate racism. Its main objectives were to: assess the fight against racial discrimination and its future, increase the level of awareness about racism and its consequences, formulate recommendations to the United Nations (UN) on ways to increase the effectiveness of its actions, etc. The European Commission played an active part in the preparations for the World Conference. On the one hand, it attended the preparatory Conference entitled 'All Different - All Equal: From Principle to Practice' held at the Council of Europe. On the other hand, it contributed EUR 3.7 million to non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the least developed countries (to ensure their participation) and the World Conference itself. It also helped to draw up the political declaration and programme of action adopted at the Conference. It is in this context that this communication was drawn up. It aims to demonstrate the success of the fight against racism in the EU with a view to inspiring the Conference participants to work together within regional groupings.

Actions in the European Union

Action at European level has taken two general forms: a number of legislative acts have been adopted and the fight against racism has been mainstreamed into other policies.

The legislative measures include efforts to harmonise legislation in the Member States as previously, although discrimination was banned, the scope, content and enforcement of the legislation varied considerably from one country to another. A package of proposals to combat discrimination including two directives and an action programme were thus adopted in 1999. These proposals included Directive 2000/43/EC implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin. Aimed at preventing racial discrimination in the Union, the directive strengthens the position of victims and requires the establishment of independent bodies capable of conducting surveys and studies in the field. Moreover, in 1996, it was agreed that judicial cooperation should be established between the Member States, so as to prevent, in particular, those responsible for crimes from avoiding prosecution by moving from one Member State to another. Lastly, the Commission has presented five proposals for directives on immigration and asylum issues (since the end of 1999). These relate, in particular, to family reunification, temporary protection in case of mass influx of displaced persons, procedures for granting and withdrawing refugee status, the status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents and reception conditions for asylum-seekers.

Mainstreaming in other Community policies involves the employment policy, the external relations policy and programmes providing financial support.

The European employment strategy pursued by the EU since 1997 is an important instrument in the fight against racism. The employment guidelines which have, since 1999, included the principle of non-discrimination in the labour market, are the EU's own contribution. The Member States are required to pay particular attention to the needs of ethnic minorities and other groups and persons likely to be disadvantaged, and to formulate appropriate policies of prevention and action to promote their integration into the labour market.

The external relations policy deals with racism through the preparations for enlargement (whereby the candidate countries are required to satisfy the Copenhagen criteria and to combat racism, especially with regard to the Roma population), the agreements with the New Independent States (NIS), the Common Strategy on Russia and the development policy.

Many EU programmes that provide financial aid contain provisions on racism. These include:

  • the Community action programme to combat discrimination, which has a budget of EUR 100 million for 2001-2006;
  • the Community initiative EQUAL, which deals with discrimination on the labour market and has been allocated almost EUR 3 billion for the 2000-2006 period;
  • the programme relating to the Community framework strategy on gender equality, which focuses on the situation of women;
  • the European Fund for Refugees, which provides support for the reception, integration and voluntary repatriation of refugees;
  • the Grotius programme, which aims to foster legal cooperation on general and criminal issues between the Member States of the European Union;
  • external programmes such as those financed by the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), which has a budget of EUR 110 million for 2002, Phare, which concentrates on the candidate countries, Tacis, which focuses on the NIS and Mongolia and, finally, projects relating to the Republics of Former Yugoslavia and those organised under the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe;
  • programmes in the field of education and youth, such as Socrates, Leonardo da Vinci and Youth together with the Fifth framework programme for research and technological development.

Evaluation, monitoring and analysis of activities in the European Union

In addition to monitoring by the European Commission, which is responsible for ensuring respect for the Treaties and other Community laws, the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia has established a European Racism and Xenophobia Information Network (Raxen). This network, whose task is to gather data and information on racism and xenophobia, incorporates research centres, NGOs and specialised centres, and its activities could be extended to the candidate countries.

Independent evaluation of Community actions and policies is also of importance, especially with a view to ensuring that the efforts made to combat racism are effective. This is a prerequisite for all the projects and actions supported by the programmes listed above.

Commission recommendations

The Commission hopes that the participants in the World Conference take account of the European Union's action against racism as well as the recommendations presented by the Commission at the Regional European Conference in October 2000. These call on all participants to establish or maintain:

  • a combination of legislation and practical action to combat racism;
  • cooperation with the NGOs and the social partners;
  • specific policies involving the host society in order to promote respect for cultural diversity;
  • practical measures concerning the labour market;
  • access without discrimination to education and measures to combat discrimination in the media, culture and sport;
  • research in this area;
  • systematic mainstreaming of the fight against racism in the external relations and human rights policies;
  • legislative protection against racial discrimination;
  • effective, proportionate and deterrent criminal penalties for racist and xenophobic behaviour.

RELATED ACTS

Council Conclusions on the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. General Affairs Council - 16 July 2001 [Not published in the Official Journal].
The General Affairs Council (GAC) reiterated the European Union's desire to contribute to the success of the World Conference. In its conclusions, the Council stresses that the World Conference might represent a mobilising factor in the fight against racism. To achieve satisfactory results, it is essential for the Action Programme and the Declaration to be forward-looking and oriented towards action. It also emphasises that racism and racial discrimination must be fought by all legal means and it refers to the European Union's many efforts mentioned in the above communication.

The Council thus hopes that the World Conference's priorities include strengthening the legal framework for combating racism and improving education, training and the prevention of racism. Moreover, it calls for greater priority to be given to what is known as multiple racism, in other words cases where an individual belongs to several categories that are subject to discrimination, such as the Roma population, women and disabled people.

In order to ensure the success of the Conference, the Council feels it is necessary for NGOs and other actors in civil society to contribute and for a global strategy aimed at increasing international cooperation to be drawn up.

Deploring the effects of colonialism, such as slavery, the Council highlights the European Union's current efforts to achieve a more just world, in particular through its development cooperation. It concludes by calling on the participating countries to work together in a spirit of cooperation, which is essential if the World Conference is to be a success.

World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. Durban, South Africa, 31 August - 7 September 2001.Declaration and Action Programme.

Last updated: 05.07.2006
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