Racist Violence Persists in Bloc

AP, June 24, 2008

Racist violence and discrimination persist across the European Union, and most members of the 27-nation bloc aren’t taking advantage of tough legislation to crack down on the scourge, the EU’s rights agency warned Tuesday.

Britain and France lead a list of nine countries credited with actively fighting racism and xenophobia, but most other EU members aren’t making the most of a tough EU-wide “racial equality directive,” the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights said in its annual report.

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From 2006-2007, Britain punished 95 offenders with sanctions—more than all of the other 26 member states combined—said the Vienna-based agency, which polices the EU in an effort to stamp out discrimination in employment, housing, education, health care and other key areas.

It also singled out Bulgaria, France, Ireland, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Finland and Sweden for making good use of existing legal tools to fight discrimination.

By contrast, a dozen EU member states—the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Greece, Spain, Cyprus, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal and Slovenia—issued no sanctions at all during the same period. “The absence of sanctions coincides in most cases with the absence of an effective equality body” to fight racism and discrimination, the rights agency said. It said the Czech Republic, Luxembourg and Spain have no commission in place to deal with complaints.

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The EU is struggling to get a full picture of racially motivated crime because 16 of its 27 members do not adequately record it, it added.

“We must guarantee that equal rights and protection from discrimination and racism are a right in practice and not just on paper,” said Anastasia Crickley, who chairs the agency’s management board.

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