European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI)

10 years of combating racism

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

Progress in combating racism and racial discrimination

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) regularly highlights the main negative trends that can be seen in the areas it works in. However, since ECRI was set up in March 1994, substantial progress has also been made in terms of combating racism and racial discrimination.

Over the last ten years, Council of Europe member states have increasingly dealt with the fight against racism from the angle of protecting and promoting human rights.

The essential precondition for combating racism and racial discrimination effectively is acknowledging that the problems exist. Not least thanks to ECRI, it is clearer today at pan-European level that racism and racial discrimination occur everywhere, not only in their most extreme and most serious forms, but also in everyday life throughout Europe, and present major and sometimes even insurmountable obstacles in the daily lives of many individuals.

ECRI has helped develop national and European law and practices so that racism and intolerance can be combated more effectively. It has made people understand that the terms “racism” and “racial discrimination” are evolving concepts and now include phenomena that affect people or groups of people not only because of their colour or ethnic origin but also because of their language, religion or nationality.

The last ten years have also seen significant advances in the European legislation providing protection against racism and racial discrimination. At the Council of Europe, this has involved the adoption of Protocol No 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights which provides a general prohibition of discrimination and the Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime concerning criminalisation of acts of a racist or xenophobic nature committed through computer systems. At the European Union, it has involved the adoption of a Directive implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin and a Directive on equal treatment in employment and occupation. A further advance worth noting has been the efforts at national level to implement legal and political measures more effectively. ECRI has played a key role here by advocating the establishment of national bodies specialised in combating racism and racial discrimination.

ECRI’s very existence reflects the clear political will of Council of Europe member states to take practical measures together to combat racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance throughout Europe.

However, the true measure of the effectiveness of all the work done over the last ten years and that still to come will be whether or not there are real changes in the lives of the victims of racism.