BRUSSELS– Minority populations in Europe and North America need a stronger voice in the seats of power, elected leaders from both sides of the Atlantic said today at the conclusion of the Transatlantic Minority Political Leadership Conference in Brussels.
Coming on the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the European Union’s Racial Equality Directive, the two-day conference focused on efforts to increase Black and ethnic minority representation in politics and government and support development and implementation of anti-discrimination laws.
“Throughout Europe and the United States we have seen historic and encouraging initiatives, however the persistence of anti-immigrant and downright xenophobic policies and rhetoric shows us that even our modest gains can too quickly be lost,” said U.S. Representative Alcee L. Hastings, Co-Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission).
“Political inclusion and participation of minorities at all levels of governments, especially in institutions like Congress and the European Parliament are key for advancing equal rights and opportunities,” said Hannes Swoboda, MEP for Austria and the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) Group Vice President responsible relations with the U.S. Congress. “In our enlargement policy we should demand an active inclusion policy as a condition for accession.”
S&D MEP Emine Bozkurt of the Netherlands added: “Above all, we need to ensure that we have laws protecting against all forms of discrimination. However, it is not enough to just have laws in place; it is another thing to ensure that they are implemented and respected. Practice shows that there is a barrier to prosecuting on the grounds of discrimination. Policy makers at all levels, from local to national, European and international, need to work together in this regard to ensure positive change. ”
As a follow up to last year’s Black European Summit: Transatlantic Dialogue on Political Inclusion, sessions addressed the impact of diversity and anti-discrimination efforts, immigration laws, and national security policies on Black and ethnic minorities. Attendees also discussed the roles minorities play in formulating policy.
The conference brought together political and intellectual minority leaders from the United States and Europe to strengthen the transatlantic dialogue on increasing opportunities for minorities and breaking down barriers to political participation.