By S Neeraj Krishna
THE European Commission on Friday (18) pledged to crack down on racism in a “moment of reckoning” amid global outrage over racial violence.
Member states that to fully implement the European Union’s anti-racism laws will face stringent action, it warned.
Launching its first anti-racism action plan, the Commission said the initiative will allow “infringement actions” by which it can take erring countries to the EU Court of Justice.
“We know that progress to fight racism and hate in Europe is not good enough,” Vera Jourova, the EU Commission’s vice-president for values and transparency, told reporters in Brussels.
“We have reached a moment of reckoning. The protests sent a clear message, change must happen now.
“It won’t be easy, but it must be done.”
The death of black American George Floyd in police custody had triggered waves of anti-racism protests in the US. Ripples spread across the world, prompting more European citizens to challenge discrimination in society.
Under the plan, the 27 EU nations would face closer scrutiny, investigations and possible infringement procedures if the European measures are not correctly applied.
The Commission has also called for a “new approach on equality data collection” to get a better picture of discrimination in Europe and to push the bloc to collect data about racial or ethnic origin.
The EU Commission also plans to review its existing rules to guarantee they are strict enough and possibly present new legal measures in the next five years.
EU institutions, including the Commission and European Central Bank, have themselves come under fire from critics for being excessively white and sometimes racist.
Helena Dalli, the EU commissioner for equality, said: “Nobody is born racist. It is not a characteristic which we are born with.
“It’s a question of nurture, and not nature. We have to unlearn what we have learned.”
In June, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen had told the European Parliament that she was aware of the lack of diversity in the bloc’s executive.
“We need to talk about racism. And we need to act,” she added.
“It is always possible to change direction if there is a will to do so. I am glad to live in a society that condemns racism. But we should not stop there.
“The motto of our European Union is: ‘United in diversity’. Our task it to live up to these words, and to fulfil their meaning.”