Open letter: The European Commission must prioritise addressing police violence and structural racism in the EU

ENAR and 150+ organisations across Europe co-signed this open letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to raise our serious concerns regarding the lack of reaction of EU leaders regarding police brutality against people of colour in Europe as well as institutional and structural racism.

12 June 2020

Open Letter to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen

The European Commission must prioritise addressing police violence and structural racism in the EU

CC to: Vice-President Margaritis Schinas, Commissioner Helena Dalli

Dear Ms. von der Leyen,

As organisations working for an equal and inclusive Europe, we would like to raise our serious concerns regarding the lack of real reaction of EU leaders regarding police brutality against people of colour in Europe as well as institutional and structural racism, following the killing of George Floyd in the United States and ensuing solidarity protests in Europe and across the world. We were appalled by the statement by EU Commissioner Schinas which delegitimises the public outcry against police brutality and institutional racism in Europe.

On 3 June 2020, Commissioner Schinas was quoted in the Financial Times as saying that events such as the killing of African-American man George Floyd in Minneapolis, and the wave of demonstrations against it, were “not likely . . . to happen in Europe at this scale”. “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. But we do have an issue in Europe, which is the issue of inequalities and income distribution — making the best for everyone of what we have.”

As an EU Commissioner, Mr. 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, such as the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, which found that one quarter of all persons of African descent surveyed were stopped by the police in the five years before the survey, and among these, 41% characterised the most recent stop as racial profiling. In France, young men perceived as black or Arab are 20 times more likely to be controlled by police than others. In the UK, data shows that the proportion of black and ethnic minority deaths in custody as a result of use of force or restraint by the police, is over two times greater than it is in other deaths in custody. Roma people across Europe also experience racial profiling and police violence. This is not a new issue. For decades, ENAR and anti-racist organisations on the ground have been reporting what racialised communities experience at the hands of the police across the European Union: discriminatory stop and search, abuse, violence and even death. So far, however, there has been little visibility and no public response.

EU and member state leaders pointed fingers at the United States for the killing of George Floyd and police brutality, while maintaining a deafening silence on the situation in their own countries, going as far as denying that police violence is an issue in Europe. This 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.

The bare minimum that EU leaders should do is acknowledge the existence of and publicly condemn discriminatory and violent police practices, in particular when it results in death. But most European political leaders were not even able to do that.

There is an urgent need to ensure fair and effective policing practices for all communities. EU member state governments must adopt measures to combat and prevent racism in law enforcement. This includes severe sanctions in cases of police violence, ensuring fair and independent investigations, prohibiting racial profiling, and increasing racial diversity and trainings within the police force. The EU and its Member States should also collect equality data to make visible where racial profiling, disproportionate use of force and deaths following an interaction with the police are happening. Such data should enable intersectional cross-analysis, for example to identify specific experiences of racialised women.

Twenty years ago, the European Union was at the forefront of the fight against racial discrimination when it adopted landmark laws to prohibit discrimination based on race or ethnic origin. In a time of rising racist violence, persistent discrimination and racial inequality, the European Commission must have a stronger, more public commitment to address police violence and structural racism in Europe.

We would be happy to meet you to discuss our concerns in more detail and propose solutions, and look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Karen Taylor, Chair of the European Network Against Racism

Co-signed by:
1. ABVV-ACOD Cultuur, Belgium
2. ACLI-Vlaanderen vzw, Belgium
3. Aditus Foundation, Malta
4. Africa Solidarity Centre, Ireland
5. African and Caribbean Diversity, United Kingdom
6. African Media Association, Malta
7. AGE Platform Europe
8. AIF+ - Actieve Interculturele Federatie vzw, Belgium
9. AKAZ - Kazumba Association, Portugal
10. Alasia Sanchia, Counsellor, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, United Kingdom
11. Alliance Citoyenne, France
12. Altera, Italy
13. Andalucía Acoge, Spain
14. ANTIGONE - Information and Documentation Centre on Racism, Ecology, Peace and Non-Violence, Greece
15. Anti-Racist Forum, Finland
16. Apna Haq, United Kingdom
17. Arciragazzi Portici, Italy
18. ASKV Refugee Support, Netherlands
19. Asociación Musulmana por los Derechos Humanos (AMDEH), Spain
20. Asociacion Nacional Presencia Gitana, Spain
21. Asociación Rumiñahui, Spain
22. Association of African Students in Europe (AASE)
23. ASTI asbl - Associations de soutien aux travailleurs immigrés, Luxembourg
24. Ba Omar, Ecowasflanders, Belgium
25. Balbriggan Integration Forum, Ireland
26. BAMKO-CRAN asbl, Belgium
27. Ban Ying Koordinations- und Beratungsstelle gegen Menschenhandel e.V., Germany
28. BePax, Belgium
29. Café Congo, Belgium
30. CCME, the Churches´ Commission for Migrants in Europe
31. CEJI-A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe
32. Center for Equality Advancement, Lithuania
33. Center for Intersectional Justice, Germany
34. Center for Migration, Gender and Justice, Germany
35. Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, Germany
36. Centre d’action interculturelle de la Province de Namur, Belgium
37. Centre de Médiation des Gens du Voyage et des Roms, Belgium
38. Centre for Peace Studies, Croatia
39. Centre Régional d’Intégration de Charleroi, Belgium
40. Centre Régional de Verviers pour l’Intégration, Belgium
41. Centre Régional d’Intégration du Brabant Wallon (CRIBW), Belgium
42. CeRAIC, Belgium
43. Collectif Contre l’Islamophobie en Belgique (CCIB), Belgium
44. Collectif Contre l’Islamophobie en France (CCIF), France
45. Collectif féministe Kahina, Belgium
46. Collectif Mémoire Coloniale, Belgium
47. Confédération des Syndicats Chrétiens (CSC), Belgium
48. Conseil Représentatif des Associations Noires (CRAN), France
49. Discrimination Law Association, United Kingdom
50. Dokumentations- und Beratungsstelle Islamfeindlichkeit & antimuslimischer Rassismus, Austria
51. Each One Teach One e.V. (EOTO), Germany
52. Een Andere Joodse Stem (EAJS), Belgium
53. ELLA vzw, Belgium
54. EMCEMO, Netherlands
55. ENAR Belgium
56. Equal Opportunities Initiative Association, Bulgaria
57. European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN)
58. European Council for Refugees and Exiles (ECRE)
59. European Forum of Muslim Women (EFOMW)
60. European Network of Women of African Descent (ENWAD)
61. European Network On Religion and Belief
62. European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network
63. European Roma Information Office (ERIO)
64. European Roma Rights Centre
65. European Women’s Lobby
66. Federation of Roma Associations in Catalonia – FAGiC, Spain
67. FMV vzw, Belgium
68. Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organisations (FEMYSO)
69. Foundation for Shelter and Support to Migrants, Malta
70. Fundación Al Fanar para el Conocimiento Árabe, Spain
71. Furia, Belgium
72. Generation 2.0 RED, Greece
73. Greek Forum of Migrants, Greece
74. Grupo EducAR - Anti Racist Education, Portugal
75. Hand in Hand tegen racisme, Belgium
76. Hart Boven Hard, Belgium
77. Help Refugees, United Kingdom
78. Human Rights League (Liga za ľudské práva), Slovakia
79. IDB Initiative für ein diskriminierungsfreies Bildungswesen, Austria
80. Il Razzismo è una brutta storia, Italy
81. ILGA-Europe
82. In IUSTITIA, Czech Republic
83. Inequalities Research Network, University of Leeds, United Kingdom
84. InMenteItaca, Italy
85. Instituto de Asuntos Culturales - IACE, Spain
86. Integratipact vzw, Belgium
87. Integro Association, Bulgaria
88. Intercultural Dialogue Platform, Belgium
89. Irish Network Against Racism, Ireland
90. Jallow Momodou, General Rapporteur on combating racism and intolerance, Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly
91. Jesuit Refugee Service Europe
92. Jesuit Refugee Service Malta
93. Job@Ubuntu, Belgium
94. Kaneza Karen, former ENAR board member, Belgium
95. KARAMAH EU
96. Killion Munyama, Polish MP
97. King Brenda, ACDiversity, United Kingdom
98. KISA – Action for equality, support, anti-racism, Cyprus
99. Kopin - Koperazzjoni Internazzjonali, Malta
100. Kreativ Research Association-Center for Media Studies and Social Research, Romania
101. La Voix des Rroms, France
102. Lallab, France
103. Le Monde des Possibles, Belgium
104. Ligue des droits humains, Belgium
105. Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Malta
106. Merhaba, Belgium
107. Migrant Tales, Finland
108. Migrant Women Association, Malta
109. Minderhedenforum, Belgium
110. MOC, Belgium
111. Movimento di Cooperazione Educativa di Torino, Italy
112. MRAX ASBL, Mouvement contre le Racisme, l’Antisémitisme et la Xénophobie, Belgium
113. Muslim Association of Greece, Greece
114. Mwinda Kitoko vzw, Belgium
115. Netzwerk Rassismus und Diskriminierungsfreies Bayern e.V., Germany
116. Nevo Parudimos Association, Romania
117. NiLi, Network Italiano dei Leader per l’Inclusione, Italy
118. Objectif, mouvement pour l’égalité des droits asbl, Belgium
119. ORBIT vzw, Belgium
120. Pan-African Movement for Justice, Sweden
121. Peregrina, Austria
122. Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM)
123. Por Ti Mujer, Spain
124. Quaker Council for European Affairs
125. Queer Base - Welcome & Support for LGBTIQ Refugees, Austria
126. Rainbowhouse Brussels, Belgium
127. Red Acoge, Spain
128. Red AMINVI, Spain
129. Red Española de Inmigración y Ayuda al Refugiado, Spain
130. Refugee Rights Europe
131. Reghif Mouhad, Bruxelles Panthères, Belgium
132. Regional Roma Educational Youth Association – RROMA, North Macedonia
133. Rete21marzo, Italy
134. REVIBRA Europe - European Support Network to Brazilian women in Europe
135. Roma Active Albania
136. Roma Community Centre, Lithuania
137. Roma Education Fund
138. Roma Entrepreneurship Development Initiative REDI
139. Roots vzw, Belgium
140. Samenlevingsopbouw, Belgium
141. SEER vzw, Belgium
142. SHARE Forum, Belgium
143. Siempre-Making Latin Women Visible, Belgium
144. Slovo 21, Czech Republic
145. SolidarityNow, Greece
146. SOS Malta, Malta
147. Stichting OCAN, Netherlands
148. Stichting voor mensen zonder verblijfsvergunning - STIL Utrecht, Netherlands
149. Tayush, Belgium
150. Uganda Association of Ireland, Ireland
151. UNESCO Inclusive Policy Lab – People of of African Descent and the SDGs e-team
152. Union des Progressistes Juifs de Belgique (UPJB), Belgium
153. Vaiya Alfiaz, former coordinator of the EP Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup
154. Verein Schwarze Frauen Community, Austria
155. Victoria Deluxe vzw, Belgium
156. Vie Féminine, Belgium
157. Voice of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians, Kosovo
158. Waterford Integration Services, Ireland
159. WoW e.V., Germany

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