European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI)

10 years of combating racism

Palais de l’Europe, Room 1
Strasbourg, Thursday 18 March 2004


On 18 March 2004 the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), will celebrate its 10th anniversary with its long-standing partners in the fight against racism and intolerance with a major conference.

The aim of the conference will be to take stock of ECRI’s contribution to the fight against racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance in Europe in the past ten years, and to provide ECRI with fresh ideas for its ongoing and future work.

ECRI’s 10th Anniversary Conference will be opened by Mr Walter Schwimmer, Secretary General of the Council of Europe. At the opening session, Ms Rita Verdonk, Dutch Minister for Immigration and Integration, Mr Peter Schieder, President of the Parliamentary Assembly and Mr Alvaro Gil-Robles, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe will address the conference.

This conference will also be the occasion for the launch of the publication “ECRI – 10 years of combating racism in Europe”. This publication, whose author is an independent consultant, provides a synthesis of the gist of ECRI’s work, drawing out the main messages of ECRI’s country-by-country reports as well as its General Policy Recommendations, and outlining its relations with civil society. The study tries to answer the question of how ECRI has contributed to the fight against racism in Europe, and evaluates the impact of its action. This question will also be discussed extensively during the conference and partners of ECRI have been invited to act as “witnesses” to ECRI’s action, describing their co-operation with ECRI and how ECRI’s action has contributed to the fight against racism and intolerance in their respective fields of activity.

The key-note speech of the eminent philosopher and sociologist Professor Zygmunt Bauman on the topic “Insecurity and fear of the stranger in liquid-modern times” will also provide for food for thought and discussion.

Furthermore, the conference will address in more detail the following themes: (1) “Combating racism while fighting terrorism”; (2) “Combating racism in the context of migration in Europe”; and (3) “Racism: a ‘mutating bacillus’ – islamophobia, antisemitism and ‘cultural’ racism as new challenges in our societies”. Renowned experts in these fields have been invited to prepare discussion papers on these topical subjects of public debate, which will be discussed in more depth in three separate workshops in the afternoon.

The closing address of the conference will be given by Ms Catherine Lalumière, who also opened ECRI’s first plenary meeting 10 years ago on 22 March 1994. Ms Lalumière will share her vision of ECRI’s way ahead.

There is no doubt that the fight against racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance in Europe is far from being won, not least because racism is a “bacillus” which evolves over time and which continually takes on new forms. ECRI’s 10th Anniversary Conference seeks therefore to take a snapshot of its current state of evolution, in order to come up with a treatment that is as effective as possible.

This conference will take a serious look at this very dangerous phenomenon and also explore how possible weaknesses in ECRI’s action, which might be identified during the conference, could be overcome in practice. This assessment of ECRI’s action over the past ten years will help ECRI devise new strategies to counter racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance, with the clear aim of changing the every-day lives of victims of racism and racial discrimination for the better.