ENAR Director General, Kim Smouter, calls for improvements to EU anti-discrimination legislation and policies at EESC public hearing

ENAR’s Co-director Kim L. Smouter at the EESC hearing.

Last week, ENAR Director General—Kim L. Smouter—addressed policymakers, EU institutions and civil society representatives at a European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) public hearing on  ‘improving equality in the EU’. In doing so, he welcomed key points of a new EESC report to improve the equality legislation directive and highlighted key gaps, including:

Key points welcomed:

  • Addressing discrimination both from a systemic perspective and from an intersectional perspective. Very welcome development that we need to further push forward to see concrete implementation of this acknowledgement.
  • Modernising the 2008 Equal Treatment Directive in a post-COVID and explosion of the Social Media world. It needs to be kept up with the times.
  • Focus on employment.

Gaps raised:

  • Lack of a harmonised approach of the EU as to discriminations. It is a very siloed approach with some work done in anti-Semitism but not applied to Islamophobia, or work done on anti-racism, but not applied to LGBIATQ+ issues. 
  • Lack of awareness of institutional remedies for reporting discrimination. We have a multiplication of figureheads and Equality bodies in an environment where minorities already have a distrusting relationship with public services. It results in having a more and more complex framework to address experiences of discrimination.
  • Lack of legislative framework to make discriminatory behaviours and racism a cost instead of a profit to benefit from. We saw this in the result of the last French Presidential elections where a convicted candidate for incitement to hatred was able to gather significant popular votes and essentially lead the political discourse. 
  • Barriers to access courts and to justice in general, including the length of proceedings, complexity of anti-discrimination law, a lack of legal aid, lack of sufficient financial means to pursue a case and a lack of effective remedies; An unfair burden is put on the victims.
  • Lack of protection of CSOs in a shrinking civic space context with Member States using administrative tools to target essential guardians and watchdogs.
  • Silence on ways to respond to discriminations being performed by public services, especially in Law Enforcement where racism is often first experienced.
  • Need to address the question of nationality and third country nationals to avoid double standards. We have seen poignant example of double-standard with Member States happy to use nationality as a discriminatory ground in a fleeing war situation.
  • Lack of legislation to address the “subtle racism”  and microaggressions lived in a day to day basis

In conclusion, Mr. Kim L. Smouter stated that, while the opinion is a very timely and sorely needed document, we encourage the two member states that are blocking the legislation to remove that blockage and enable Europe to move forward.


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