EU high-level meeting against racism: end the silence on racist political discourses and practices

Brussels, 16 October 2018 – The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) is calling for an end to the current silence over political discourse emboldening racist policies and practices, as the European Union High-Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance, co-organised by the European Commission and the Austrian Presidency of the EU, meets in Vienna today and tomorrow.

This high-level group was established to support EU and national efforts to combat and prevent hate crime and speech, and tackle specific forms of racism. However, the fact that this meeting is co-organised by the Austrian government, which includes the far-right Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ), highlights the EU’s lack of a strong political stance against racism. This situation is fundamentally different from 2000, when the arrival of the Freedom party (FPÖ) to power led to EU sanctions and strong political reactions.

Amel Yacef, Chair of the European Network Against Racism, said: “There is something deeply paradoxical about a meeting on combating racism hosted by a government in coalition with a far-right party with Nazi roots. The European Commission is failing to take a stance on the role of Member States’ governments in contributing to both structural and individual cases of racism – and not only in Austria. This is both a cause and a consequence of the normalisation of racism in mainstream European politics.”

In addition to the FPÖ entering the ruling coalition over shared anti-migrant and anti-Muslim positions with the centre-right party, there have been some worrying developments in Austria, none of which have elicited a reaction from EU institutions. For instance, officials from the Ministry of the Interior gave instructions to ethnically profile individuals in suspect descriptions to the media. There have also been Islamophobic and Antisemitic discourses and policies, including a proposal to register halal and kosher meat eaters.

ENAR is calling on EU Commissioners and other Heads of States to speak out against racist discourses, policies and practices in all EU Member States. The EU’s High-Level Group on combating racism is an important space for meaningful civil society participation, but it must reflect on the role of State officials and institutions in rising levels of hate motivated discourses, violence and discrimination – beyond the individual dimension of racism.

For further information, contact:
Georgina Siklossy, Senior Communication and Press Officer
Tel: +32 (0)2 229 35 70 - Mobile: +32 (0)473 490 531 - Email: georgina@enar-eu.org - Web: www.enar-eu.org

Notes to the editor:
1. The EU High Level Group on combating racism and xenophobia is a platform gathering the European Commission, EU Member States, EU agencies and civil society, established to support EU and national efforts to prevent and combat hate crime and hate speech.
2. See ENAR’s full policy statement “Review of EU High Level Group Against Racism: an opportunity to deepen the approach to equality in the EU”
3. The European Network Against Racism (ENAR aisbl) stands against racism and discrimination and advocates equality and solidarity for all in Europe. We connect local and national anti-racist NGOs throughout Europe and voice the concerns of ethnic and religious minorities in European and national policy debates.

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