BRUSSELS – The European Commission presented a series of measures Friday aimed at tackling structural racism and discrimination, acknowledging a blatant lack of diversity among the European Union’s institutions.
The bloc’s executive arm set out its action plan for the next five years, which includes strengthening the current legal framework, recruiting an anti-racism coordinator and increasing the diversity of EU staff.
The European Commission’s vice president for values and transparency, Věra Jourová, said that recent anti-racism protests in the U.S. and Europe highlighted the need for action.
“We have reached a moment of reckoning. The protests sent a clear message, change must happen now,” Jourová said. “It won’t be easy, but it must be done.
“We won’t shy away from strengthening the legislation, if needed,” she said. “The commission itself will adapt its recruiting policy to better reflect European society.”
The current College of Commissioners, which oversees EU policies, is made up of 27 members, one from each EU country. All the members of the team set up last year by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are white.
Under the plan, data on the diversity of commission staff will for the first time be collected on the basis of a voluntary survey that will help define new recruitment policies.
Meanwhile, the new coordinator for anti-racism will be in charge of collecting the grievances and feelings of minorities to make sure they are reflected in EU policies.
The EU said that more than half of Europeans believe that discrimination is widespread in their country. According to surveys carried out by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, or FRA, 45% of people of North African descent, 41% of Roma and 39% of people of sub-Saharan African descent have faced such discrimination.
The EU’s racial equality directive will also be assessed, with possible new legislation introduced in 2022. In the wake of the Black Live Matters protests triggered by George Floyd’s death in the U.S., the European Commission said it would look carefully into discrimination by law enforcement authorities such as unlawful racial profiling. Meanwhile, the EU agency for fundamental rights will continue to collect data on police attitudes towards minorities.
The European Commission also wants to combat stereotypes and disinformation by setting up a series of seminars and promoting commemorative days linked to the issue of racism. It also encouraged member states to address stereotypes via cultural and education programs, or the media. A summit against racism is planned next year.
“Nobody is born racist. It is not a characteristic which we are born with,” said Helena Dalli, the EU commissioner for equality. “It’s a question of nurture, and not nature. We have to unlearn what we have learned.”
Earlier this year, the European Parliament approved a resolution condemning the Floyd’s death and asking the EU to take a strong stance against racism.