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Press Release – 23.07.2002

Council of Europe: Four new reports on racism

STRASBOURG, 23.07.2002 – The Council of Europe’s expert body on combating racism, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), today released four new reports examining racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance in Finland, Latvia, Malta and Ukraine. ECRI recognises that in all four Council of Europe member countries positive developments have occurred. At the same time, the reports detail continuing grounds for concern for the Commission.

In Finland, there appears to exist a certain level of prejudice and intolerance towards those who are different from the majority (both “traditional” minorities such as Roma/Gypsies and minorities of immigrant origin). Such prejudice finds its expression in discrimination in a number of fields, including employment, housing and access to public places, as well as in instances of harassment and sometimes racial violence. ECRI notes that initiatives taken at the national level to combat racism and discrimination do not always successfully filter down to the local level.

In Latvia, problems appear to remain with regard to the situation of the Russian-speaking population, many members of whom are still non-citizens. These persons risk exclusion and marginalisation from social structures and the decision-making processes. The lack of a comprehensive body of anti-discrimination legislation and the need to increase the effectiveness of the criminal law provisions aimed at combating racist and intolerant expressions are also noted by ECRI.

In Malta, certain incidents of discrimination, inter alia in access to public places such as discotheques and bars, as well as prejudices and stereotypes within society suggest that further steps have to be taken, both to combat concrete manifestations of discrimination and to raise awareness and combat prejudices among the general public. ECRI stresses the importance of combating stereotypes and prejudices since such latent phenomena may lead to more overt forms of racism and discrimination.

In Ukraine, problems of racism and direct and indirect discrimination particularly affect formerly deported persons, Roma/Gypsies, immigrants with or without legal status, asylum-seekers and refugees. These persons experience difficulties in various areas of life, including relations with the police. ECRI also notes the insufficient implementation of the criminal law provisions in the areas covered by its remit and the absence of comprehensive civil and administrative anti-discrimination provisions.

The four 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 www.coe.int/ecri 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 governments in the previous reports; they provide a general up-date and also contain a deeper analysis of selected issues of particular concern in the relevant countries.