On September 22, members of the U.S. Helsinki Commission and select other Members of Congress met virtually with 20 Members of the European Parliament to discuss how best to combat racism and systemic discrimination and promote equality on both sides of the Atlantic. Following the event, which was organized by the Helsinki Commission in cooperation with the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Human Rights, Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, and the European Parliament Liaison Office in Washington DC, participants adopted a joint declaration to reinforce US-EU parliamentary coordination to combat racism and discrimination on both sides of the Atlantic.
During the event, EU Equality Commissioner Helena Dalli presented the EU’s first ever anti-racism action plan, released on September 18. Eamon Gilmore, EU Special Representative for Human Rights, described his conversations with Assistant Secretary of State Robert Destro on justice for George Floyd, and ensuring peaceful protests and free media.
Other presenters included Kristen Clarke, president & executive director of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and senior vice president for advocacy and policy; and French historian Professor Pap Ndiaye, who each provided recommendations to improve racial justice in the United States and Europe through police reforms and restorative justice.
Parliamentarians followed with statements on legislative and administration efforts in support of human rights and recommendations to realize racial justice in the United States and Europe, including US Congress and US government joint action with the European Parliament, European Union, and 27 European governments that make up the European Union.
Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Maria Arena presided over the event and opened the dialogue, affirming the Civil Liberties Committee’s dedication to address systemic racism and discrimination and its threat to democracy in Europe. MEP David McAllister, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, followed with remarks stating that racism and discrimination are not just an American phenomenon but rather a global issue that we all must stand against together. Juan Fernando Lopez, Chair of the Civil Liberties Committee, argued that the new EU Action Plan against Racism is not enough, but that international “instruments need to be accompanied by policies that ensure the reality of those rights and equalities before the law.”
U.S. Helsinki Commissioner Rep. Gwen Moore provided opening remarks on behalf of the commission, sharing information about de-escalation legislation she led on criminal justice reform following the shootings by police of Dontre Hamilton and Jacob Blake in her home state of Wisconsin. U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of the Judiciary Committee, who also serves as a member of the U.S. Delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, noted that the atrocities of the transatlantic slave trade are a shared issued with Europe and called for European support of U.S. legislation (H.R.40, a Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act) to address systemic racism and human rights in the United States. U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks of the House Foreign Affairs Committee highlighted the Rangel program and other initiatives as models for supporting diversity and inclusion in diplomatic corps on both sides of the Atlantic.
MEP Samira Rafaela supported a U.S.-EU Joint Action Plan to address racism and increased funds for civil society to address the problem. MEP Assita Kanko called for greater diversity in the European Parliament. MEP Romeo Franz noted similarities between African-American and Roma populations and called for a transatlantic network to combat racism and discrimination.
Helsinki Commission Ranking Member Sen. Ben Cardin, who also serves as OSCE PA Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Intolerance, closed the joint meeting by stressing the importance of strengthening the strategic bilateral relationship, and called on EU and U.S. leaders to “root out the causes of racism and make a difference for future generations.”
Participants (in order of appearance)
- Helena Dalli, European Commissioner for Equality
- Eamon Gilmore, EU Special Representative for Human Rights
Members of the U.S. Congress / U.S. Helsinki Commission
- Senator Ben Cardin (MD), Ranking Member, U.S. Helsinki Commission
- Representative Gwen Moore (WI), Member, U.S. Helsinki Commission
- Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (TX)
- Representative Gregory Meeks (NY)
- Representative Jim Costa (CA)
- Representative Sylvia Garcia (TX)
- Representative Karen Bass (CA)
- Representative Ted Deutch (FL)
- Keenan Keller, Senior Counsel, House Committee on the Judiciary
- Maria Arena, Member, European Parliament
- David McAllister, Member, European Parliament
- Juan Fernando Lopez, Member, European Parliament
- Radoslaw Sirkorsi, Member, European Parliament
- Isabel Wiseler, Member, European Parliament
- Maria Walsh, Member, European Parliament
- Sanchez Amor, Member, European Parliament
- Isabel Santos, Member, European Parliament
- Samira Rafaela, Member, European Parliament
- Jaak Madison, Member, European Parliament
- Salima Yenbou, Member, European Parliament
- Alice Kuhnke, Member, European Parliament
- Assita Kanko, Member, European Parliament
- Miguel Urban Crespo, Member, European Parliament
- Marek Belka, Member, European Parliament
- Maria Soraya Rodriguez Ramos, Member, European Parliament
- Romeo Franz, Member, European Parliament
- Janina Ochojska, Member, European Parliament
- Nicolae Ştefănuță, Member, European Parliament
- Jordi Sole, Member, European Parliament
- Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director, National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
- Pap Ndiaye, French historian;
- Hilary Shelton, Director, Washington Bureau, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)