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Countering racism in the candidate countries

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1) OBJECTIVE

To give an overview of measures which can contribute to countering racism in the candidate countries, and to make some suggestions for involving the candidate countries more closely in EU initiatives.

2) UNION MEASURE

Communication from the Commission of 26 May 1999 to the Cologne European Council meeting on 3 and 4 June 1999: countering racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism in the candidate countries.

3) CONTENTS

At the meeting of the European Council in Vienna on 11 and 12 December 1998, the Commission was invited to suggest measures to counter racism in the countries applying for membership of the European Union, particularly in the light of the Treaty of Amsterdam, which places renewed emphasis on human rights and fundamental freedoms, and provides a mechanism for taking action against any Member State failing to comply.

Various instruments to counter racism already exist: the United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Most candidate countries have ratified the Conventions, so there is a basis of common rules on human rights and racism.

The enlargement context

In 1997 the Commission assessed the membership requests of the candidate countries (i.e. the countries of central and Eastern Europe, Cyprus and Malta, the latter having requested accession in 1999) on the basis of the criteria defined at the Council meeting in Copenhagen in 1993 stating that candidate countries should have "stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and respect for and protection of minorities". Both in that initial evaluation and in the annual reports on each candidate country, particular attention is paid to minority issues.

Accession Partnerships with each of the candidate countries of central and Eastern Europe set priorities, such as the integration of Romanies in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania, the integration of non-citizens in Latvia and Estonia, and the fostering and strengthening of policies and institutions protecting the rights of minorities in Slovakia. The agreements are revised according to how much progress each country has made. At present Turkey does not meet the political criteria referred to in point 3, largely because of the treatment of its Kurdish minority.

Action to combat racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism

The EU has been providing support for the candidate countries through the Phare programme for the central and Eastern European countries and the Meda programme for Turkey. The candidate countries have adopted government plans or programmes to protect and promote minorities and tackle racism, but need to make further efforts by implementing the adopted policies, and monitoring their enforcement at regional and local levels.

In order to prepare the candidate countries for EU membership, it is also possible to involve them in Community programmes, agencies and activities such as the action plan against racism, the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, implementation of the Amsterdam Treaty provisions on non-discrimination, and programmes for education, vocational training, youth and the strengthening of civil society (social partners and NGOs).

Working with other international organisations to combat racism

In order to avoid duplication and ensure a real impact on the ground, co-operation between the Commission, the Council of Europe, the UN and the OSCE should be strengthened. Preparations for the World Conference on Racism in 2001, which are co-ordinated at European level by the Council of Europe, will provide a good opportunity for the EU to work closely with the candidate countries and their NGOs to combat racism.

In the annex the Commission provides a list of international legal instruments designed to fight against racism and xenophobia, a summary of the situation in each candidate country and details of EU support in this field.

4) DEADLINE FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF THE LEGISLATION IN THE MEMBER STATES

Not applicable.

5) DATE OF ENTRY INTO FORCE (if different from previous date)

Not applicable.

6) REFERENCES

COM(99) 256 final
Not published in the Official Journal

7) FOLLOW-UP WORK

8) COMMISSION IMPLEMENTATION MEASURES

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