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Press Release – 23.04.2002

Council of Europe: Five new reports on racism

Strasbourg, 23.04.2002 – The Council of Europe’s expert body on combating racism, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), today released five new reports examining racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance in Estonia, Georgia, Ireland, Italy and Romania. ECRI recognises that in all five Council of Europe member countries positive developments have occurred. At the same time, the reports detail continuing grounds for concern for the Council’s Commission against Racism.

In Estonia, problems remain with regard to the situation of the Russian-speaking communities, many of whom are non-citizens. These persons risk exclusion and marginalisation from the structures of the country and from the democratic process - a situation which may evolve into ethnic tensions, says ECRI.

In Georgia, different groups, such as religious and national minorities, are confronted with problems of racism, intolerance, and direct or indirect discrimination. The response to such problems, in particular from the police and from the prosecuting authorities, has not been adequate in most instances. ECRI notes the lack of civil and administrative anti-discrimination statutory provisions, as well as of criminal law provisions in this respect.

In Ireland, a degree of intolerance towards persons of immigrant origin, refugees, asylum-seekers and the “Traveller community” is noted by ECRI. Discrimination and intolerance are manifested, notably, by the refusal of entry into public places, verbal harassment and - in some cases - violence.

In Italy, problems of racism and xenophobia affect more particularly non-EU citizens, as well as Italian and non-Italian Roma/Gypsies. Manifestations of these problems include societal prejudice, discrimination and instances of violence, in some cases by the police. The role played by certain politicians having recourse to racially inflammatory and xenophobic propaganda in the development of this situation is stressed by ECRI.

In Romania, problems persist with regard to the lack of implementation of the legislative provisions (particularly in the field of criminal law) to combat racism and discrimination and concerning the climate of opinion in the country. The Roma/Gypsy community remains particularly disadvantaged in all fields and faces a significant level of discrimination; notably, the problem of police behaviour towards members of this minority group has not yet been entirely solved.

The five new reports form part of a second cycle of monitoring of Council of Europe member States’ laws, policies and practices in order to combat racism. ECRI’s country-specific reports (available on the internet site in English and French) cover all member States on an equal footing, in the perspective of the protection of human rights. The second reports examine the implementation of proposals made to the government in previous reports, they provide a general up-date and also contain a deeper analysis of selected issues of particular concern in the relevant country.