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Press Release – 18.03.2004

Peter Schieder: “Racism and intolerance are the quislings of terror”

Strasbourg, 18.03.2004 - “Seven days after the tragedy of Atocha, El Pozo and Santa Eugenia, the images of horror provoked by terrorist bombs are still on everyone’s mind. 11 March – and the more than two hundred victims savagely murdered on that day – will be forever engraved in the collective memory of Europe and the world. (…) The message we should draw from the tragedy of Madrid is that in the face of such horror our anger is human, normal and justified. I say anger, not hate. Anger can make us stronger, hate only weakens us. Anger may help us to win, but if we succumb to hate, we have already lost”, Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly President Peter Schieder said today, speaking in Strasbourg at a conference marking the tenth anniversary of ECRI.

“The greater the degree of prejudice in our societies, the greater the chance that the reaction to an act of terrorism will be inappropriate, misdirected and wrong. Racism and intolerance are the quislings of terror. This is why the work of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) is so important,” he said.

Denouncing growing populism across Europe, Peter Schieder added: “Much of the blame lies with politicians. We are all responsible for what we do, but also for what we say, and what kind of attitudes we help to create and inspire. Recent years have produced many easy political sound-bites, but one phrase which we hear increasingly often is ‘zero tolerance’. In terms of the fight against racism, this phrase is dead wrong – ‘tolerance’ is, in a word, what ECRI is all about. And the sad fact is that our governments are displaying less and less of it”.

“I wish to offer a challenge to all member states of the Council of Europe: to come up with a concrete plan of action – one clearly spelling out measures, structures and deadlines – to achieve zero intolerance, zero racism and zero xenophobia. Only if there is ‘zero intolerance‘ can the fight against terrorism be successful, and only if there is ‘zero intolerance’ can policies on asylum-seekers and other immigrants be fair and just. This is the real challenge, the real task and the only way to find genuine, lasting solutions to the problems we face”.

Peter Schieder, speaking ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 21 March, concluded by congratulating ECRI on its important work. “ECRI holds up a mirror to ourselves. The image we see is not always the one we would like to see, or would like others to see, but it is the image that most accurately corresponds to who we really are. (..) Let us be honest with ourselves: we are all quick to condemn racism, intolerance, anti-Semitism, xenophobia or islamophobia in general terms, or in far and distant parts of the world, but when it comes to the situation in our own countries, we often lack the courage or the will to be totally honest and genuinely critical”.