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World U.S. Summer of Discontent Inspires EU Anti-Racism Action Plan

12:48  18 september  2020
12:48  18 september  2020 Source:   bloomberg.com

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(Bloomberg) -- Global outrage over discrimination and police brutality in the U.S. is set to spill over into European Union policies as the bloc’s executive arm prepares to unveil its first ever anti-racism action plan.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - JUNE 03: Protesters participate in a demonstration in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and against police brutality at Sergels Torg on June 03, 2020 in Stockholm, Sweden. The May 25 killing of an African-American man, George Floyd, in the U.S. city of Minneapolis sparked protests across that country and inspired demonstrations of solidarity around Europe. (Photo by Linnea Rheborg/Getty Images) © Photographer: Linnea Rheborg/Getty Images STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - JUNE 03: Protesters participate in a demonstration in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and against police brutality at Sergels Torg on June 03, 2020 in Stockholm, Sweden. The May 25 killing of an African-American man, George Floyd, in the U.S. city of Minneapolis sparked protests across that country and inspired demonstrations of solidarity around Europe. (Photo by Linnea Rheborg/Getty Images)

Europeans faces face a “moment of reckoning” that can no longer be ignored, the European Commission says in the draft seen by Bloomberg. The authority vowed to sue nations that don’t apply the bloc’s strict racism and xenophobia laws and said it would also review the existing measures to make sure they’re tough enough.

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“Over half of Europeans believe that such discrimination is widespread in their country,” the EU action plan says. “The conflict between our values of equality and the reality of ingrained racism cannot be ignored: the global Black Lives Matter movement has acted as a stark reminder.”

The move in Europe comes as the U.S. is reeling over several highly-charged episodes in which police have killed Black Americans, prompting protests in multiple cities. The victims include George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who was killed by an officer in Minneapolis. The officer has been charged with murder. Tensions spread to the EU, where groups of campaigners toppled old statues glorifying slave traders.

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In this week’s State of the Union speech, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pointed to developments in the U.S. before warning that the EU must now put its own house in order.

“When we look around, we ask ourselves, where is the essence of humanity when three children in Wisconsin watch their father shot by police while they sit in the car?” she said.

“We ask where is the essence of humanity when anti-semitic carnival costumes openly parade on our streets?” Von der Leyen said. “Where is the essence of humanity when every single day Roma people are excluded from society and others are held back simply because of the color of their skin or their religious belief?”

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One of the EU’s priorities, according to the draft, should be to create a reliable set of data to properly assess the scale and nature of discrimination across the EU. Compared to data on other grounds of discrimination, such as sex, disability and age, data on discrimination by ethnic or racial origin is scarce. This is partly due to the backlash in many nations after World War II against the keeping of such records.

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“Obstacles include problems in establishing a common methodology, with some member states collecting such data while others consciously avoid this approach,” the draft says. “As a result, many surveys focus on the perception of discrimination or use proxies such as citizenship or country of birth.”

The commission wants “a new approach on equality data collection” and will organize a roundtable to find ways toward a more harmonized collection of data.

“These are times when we have to curb our cynicism and we should really welcome this as a very important moment in which we have the EU executive acknowledging that racism is a problem in Europe,” said Judith Sunderland, acting deputy director for Europe at Human Rights Watch.

“Action plans in general, while they are never properly and fully implemented, send a message that this is an issue that we care about” and lay out a roadmap and specific benchmarks, Sunderland said.

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©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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