European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI)

Press Release – 11.12.1998

New report published on anti-racism laws in 40 Countries

STRASBOURG, 11.12.98 – A majority of the Council of Europe’s 40 member States has no integrated body of legislation to combat racism and related discrimination, according to new information published today (14.12.98) in a unique report.

The report, Legal measures to combat racism and intolerance in the member states of the Council of Europe, provides explanatory information on constitutional, criminal, civil and administrative laws on each of the Organisation’s member States, together with legal references in table format. The 587-page report1 was commissioned by the Council’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) from the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law in Lausanne.

In recent years, new or amended criminal legislation to combat racism and intolerance has been introduced in some countries. However, the report reveals that there are still few member States with a comprehensive body of legislation on racial discrimination, covering criminal, civil and administrative laws and judicial redress for individuals. Such laws would tackle areas where racism is often most rampant, such as, in access to housing, social services and employment.

The report points out that there is as yet little specific anti-racist legislation in new member States from central and eastern Europe, where the existence of many national minorities has led to priority being given to laws aimed at protecting the political, cultural and linguistic rights of national minorities.

Launching the report2, ECRI Chair Nikos FRANGAKIS stated: “While the legal arena is only one of those in which the fight against racism must be waged, it is of paramount importance for several reasons. Statutory protection will not only afford a remedy to individuals, but also constitute a commitment, on behalf of the authorities responsible, to firm opposition to racism in all its forms. The law is a powerful aid to education and the fact that parliament has branded racism and intolerance unacceptable in the society concerned sends a strong educational message to the general public.”

1 The report is the third and fullest edition to date. It includes all 40 of the Council’s members states for the first time.

2 The full text is to be available on ECRI’s Internet site in late January 1999. Copies of individual country entries are available from the press office.