European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI)

Press Release – 24.03.1999

European “stock-taking” on racism reveals persistent discrimination against members of minority groups

STRASBOURG, 24.03.99 - In publishing today its 1998 annual report, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), the Council of Europe’s body of independent experts on this subject, identifies the main trends in racism in Europe. The review is based on ECRI’s findings over the five years since its creation.

The most striking feature, ECRI notes, is the “persistence of discrimination at various levels”, such as employment, housing, provision of services and acquisition of citizenship, which is “compounded by a lack of effective anti-discrimination provisions in most member States”. Such daily discrimination is practised by both public bodies, for example the judicial and law enforcement systems and schools, as well as by private individuals.

Other worrying developments to which ECRI draws attention include:

- continued hostility to immigrants, asylum-seekers and refugees, widely expressed in the media and by politicians; this is reflected in restrictive legislation or other measures which do not always guarantee respect for human rights;

- increased manifestations of racial or ethnic violence, or incitement to such acts, often linked to the proliferation and growth of extremist groups throughout Europe;

- the rise of religious intolerance, with prejudice against Muslim communities of particular concern, as well as the dissemination of antisemitic material;

- persisting discrimination in many walks of social and economic life against Roma/Gypsies, who are also subjected to violent racist attacks.

ECRI was established by the first Summit of Heads of State and Government of Council of Europe member States, held in Vienna in October 1993. It examines the legislation, policies and other measures pursued by the Organisation’s 40 member States in combating racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and related intolerance and formulates recommendations in this respect. The Council of Europe’s second Summit (Strasbourg, October 1997) decided to strengthen ECRI’s activities.

ECRI’s annual report, covering the period 1 January to 31 December 1998, details its activities in each aspect of its programme: country-by-country approach; work on general themes; and relations with civil society. The report is available on internet: