Fundamental Rights Agency issues a call for action against racism

"As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the European Union, nobody can remain neutral in the fight against racism", said Beate Winkler, interim Director of the newly established European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), speaking from Rome on the occasion of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (21 March). "The European project was founded on peace and reconciliation, in the aftermath of our darkest period related to racism, the Shoah and mass murder of Roma in the Nazi death camps. We should not have to repeat this message in 50 years' time".

"Our reports document how racism, discrimination, entrenched disadvantage, racist violence and harassment are a fact of life for many individuals in Europe. As the EU has designated 2007 as the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All, we call on governments to intensify their efforts and to engage society at large to turn principles into reality".

Beate Winkler commented: "The European Year can create an environment where society as a whole will engage in addressing discrimination, prevent it from occurring, and encourage victims to use the remedies which are in place at the national level. This is about creating the sort of Europe we can be proud of and share equally in".

"Tolerating inequality means denying people one of their fundamental rights - their right to a life free from discrimination! The protection from racism and other forms of discrimination is enshrined in European and international law. It forms part of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Yet, it is not enough to pass laws against discrimination. Racist behaviour and attitudes must be combated actively. This needs decisive government action and the support of NGOs, employers, trade unions and the general public".

Scheduled to participate, on 21 March, at an EU conference in Rome on ‘Equal Opportunities for All in Education and Employment', Beate Winkler will stress the need to change perspectives, seeing diversity as a benefit rather than a threat to society. "The most prosperous societies are those that provide equal opportunities for all. The success of these societies is based on ‘three Ts': (1) technology, (2) talents, and (3) tolerance. The recognition of diversity is the very basis for making use of all talents in society. Europe cannot afford to waste talents if it wants to prosper."

For background:

  • A large proportion of Europeans are of the opinion that discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin is widespread in their country (64%), says a recent Eurobarometer survey (1). However, only one third of EU citizens claim to know their rights, should they be victims of discrimination. Four out of ten Europeans are unaware that discrimination is prohibited by law.
  • Over nine million people (3% of all inhabitants in the 18 EU countries covered by a large-scale survey) experienced racist crime in 2004. The figure is an extrapolation by the Fundamental Rights Agency from the European Crime and Safety Survey (February 2007) (2).
  • According to EUROSTAT data from 2006, the unemployment rate for non-EU citizens is significantly higher than those of EU citizens in 14 of the 16 EU countries which provide such data. In four Member States, immigrants from outside the EU-25 were more than three times as likely to be unemployed than EU citizens. While statistics of higher unemployment rates for immigrants do not in themselves represent evidence of discrimination, they are an indicator of existing labour market inequalities.
  • A recent OECD analysis (3) indicates that students from immigrant parents often report stronger learning dispositions and a more positive attitude towards schooling than their native peers. Nevertheless, they generally leave school with lower educational success.
  • Disparities in housing between migrants and nationals are pervasive across Europe. These differences relate to housing standards, occupancy rates, quality of facilities and concentration levels in poorer housing areas. There is also evidence of outright discrimination in the housing market.
  • The designation of 21 March as International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination refers back to events in 1960. On 21 March 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people in Sharpeville, South Africa, at a peaceful demonstration against apartheid. Proclaiming the Day in 1966, the UN's General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.


For further information, please contact the FRA Media Team:
Tel: +43 1 58030-633 or Email

To find out more about our work, please visit the FRA website:

(2) European Survey of Crime and Safety, February 2007.
( 3) OECD 2006: Where immigrant students succeed - A comparative review of performance and engagement in PISA 2003.