The EU and most national policy frameworks almost entirely overlook the existence of structural inequalities aligned to race, ethnicity and religion. Their focus is mainly on individual forms of racial discrimination and hatred, overlooking the other dimensions of racism that are structural, institutional and historical. ENAR is therefore organising and advocating for national and EU policies to address structural racism.
Research by ENAR, other NGOs, and research institutes such as the EU Fundamental Rights Agency shows that racial minorities in Europe are systematically disadvantaged across the board, including in employment, education, healthcare, housing, social welfare and political participation. They show how racial discrimination is recurring across every area of society, is part of how European societies have been historically constituted and has a compounded impact on the well-being, dignity and rights of segments of the population. Across Europe, there is a lack of data disaggregated by race; as a result, structural inequalities are difficult to evidence, and policy makers cannot design informed and targeted policies.
The EU and most national policy frameworks almost entirely overlook the existence of structural inequalities aligned to race, ethnicity and religion. Their focus is mainly on individual forms of racial discrimination and hatred, overlooking the other dimensions of racism that are structural, institutional and historical. This emphasis on individual racism prevents questioning and addressing the system and structures in place and their impact on racialised people’s lives. For example, the fact that women of colour (and migrant women in particular) are likely to be overrepresented in precarious, low-paid employment in sectors that present a higher risk of exploitation and abuse.
In addition, existing legislation is not properly implemented – for a number of reasons, including lack of awareness of the legislation; under-reporting of racist incidents; bias and prejudices in the judiciary; and the difficulty, cost and mental burden of bringing cases to court.
ENAR is therefore organising and advocating for national and EU policies to address structural racism.
National Action Plans Against Racism
We are calling for EU Member States to develop and adopt strong National Action Plans Against Racism (NAPAR). They are a unique tool to develop a comprehensive framework which puts racialised communities at the centre of the social justice and equality agenda, with an intersectional anti-racist perspective, to tackle structural inequalities and discrimination.
Acknowledging the important legislative framework that is currently in place in EU countries, such targeted initiatives are crucial to address the lack of implementation and push for more public policies that could come as a complement and tackle more structural forms of racism. These positive action measures could also contribute to an increased mainstreaming of racial equality in all policies. Considering the state of denial of long-standing existence of systems of oppression and persistent racial inequalities in European societies, there is a sense of emergency requiring strong actions and commitments from States to act at structural level and not only through fragmented and isolated policies or projects.
This could include measures such as the review of anti-discrimination laws to prohibit racial profiling, accessible and independent complaint mechanisms, amendments to school manuals, remembrance and reparations measures, increasing racial diversity in institutions and more. These policies need to be supported by equality data mechanisms, strong civil society involvement and dedicated resources.
ENAR is supporting national NGO coalitions in Belgium, Portugal, and other countries to join forces and advocate for the adoption a national action plan against racism. In Belgium, this has led to an agreement by the federal government to start the process for the adoption of a national action plan, and the adoption of a NAPAR by the Government of the Brussels Region. In Portugal, the coalition has been reinforced and the demand for a NAPAR is being mainstreamed in political and public debates.
At EU level, we are advocating for EU policies to address structural racism and for the adoption of EU guidelines on successful NAPARs by the European Commission. We are also working in close coordination with the UN Office of the Human Rights Commissioner, which has decided to support national governments deciding to explore the development of NAPARs. We have also started working with networks of cities such as Eurocities and the European Coalition of Cities against racism (ECCAR) to get more cities to adopt action plans against racism.
EU Action Plan Against Racism
Following widespread public mobilisation of the Black Lives Matter and anti-racism movement worldwide demanding racial equality and justice, and longstanding calls from anti-racist organisations for EU action to tackle racism through a comprehensive strategy, the European Commission published an EU action plan against racism in September 2020.
This plan is a ground breaking initiative for racial equality and justice in Europe. For the first time, the EU explicitly acknowledges the existence of structural, institutional and historical dimensions of racism in Europe and the need to address them through wide-ranging, proactive policies. This is an important shift from the current limited focus on combating racial discrimination by individuals.
There are a number of positive proposals in the action plan, in line with what ENAR has been calling for:
– The European Commission strongly urges national governments to develop and adopt national action plans against racism and will adopt common principles for their implementation.
– It calls for consistent and improved collection of equality data, disaggregated by racial or ethnic origin, which is crucial to uncover and address existing structural inequalities, while ensuring due respect of privacy.
– It identifies the need for potential new legislation to address racism in law enforcement.
– The European Commission will ensure that EU policies e.g. on migration, digital services, AI, Green Deal, benefit all and do not contribute to further racial inequalities.
– The European Commission will take concrete steps to improve racial diversity and representation within its ranks and encourage other EU institutions to do the same.
To prevent this action plan from remaining just on paper, we are advocating to put in place strong processes to ensure that it is implemented, with clear and measurable targets, and that progress is monitored. There should be a strong focus on consulting and engaging racialised groups with key expertise from civil society organisations in a meaningful and timely manner on the implementation of the plan. We are also working to ensure that the different measures proposed in the action plan will effectively be carried out by both EU institutions and national governments.