Racism and Xenophobia : Meps Pass Motion against Rising Racist and Homophobic Violence

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The European Parliament, on 15 June, adopted a resolution condemning the increase in racist and homophobic violence in Europe (301 votes in favour, 161 against and 102 abstentions). The motion is a joint initiative of the Socialist (PES), Liberal Democrat (ALDE), Communist (GUE/NGL) and Green political groups largely motivated by recent racist violence incidents, notably in Antwerp (where a woman and the child she was looking after were shot in the street in broad daylight by a student of far right-wing persuasion) and in Poland (the disturbing declarations by the League of Polish Families inciting violence against homosexuals).

The European People's Party and European Democrats (EPP-ED), which regretted seeing a list of these events in the Resolution, had proposed an alternative Resolution and left its members to vote as they saw fit: some of them abstained, others voted against and a small minority voted in favour of the Resolution. During the debate on the subject, held in Strasbourg on the eve of the vote on 14 June, Patrick Gaubert (EPP-ED, France) explained the different approach adopted by his party. "It is unacceptable to confuse individual attacks committed in member states fighting to combat racism and homophobia with the positions openly held by certain governments", he said. But basically he said he agreed with the analysis shared by the majority of MEPs, adding that the EU is founded on a community based on "indivisible and universal rights of human dignity, freedom and solidarity".

He described the growing number of racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic and homophobic attacks as "intolerable and unacceptable". "As citizens, we must remain vigilant and as Members of Parliament we must remain firm and roundly condemn it, to keep quiet implies tacit acceptance", he emphasised. He invited governments without anti-racist or anti-discrimination legislation to legislate and called on the Council to stop blocking the Framework Decision on Racism and Xenophobia immediately, "otherwise declarations of good intentions serve no purpose".

The leader of the Socialist Group, Martin Schultz (Germany), warned that the fact that such a debate is again needed is horrifying and "should set alarm bells ringing". He explained that it was "not criticism of any nations, but against the intellectual bankruptcy of people promoting such ideas" adding that they "don't belong in any society, and certainly not in this Parliament".

Listing the victims of racism and homophobia, Sophie in't Veld (ALDE, the Netherlands) maintained that member states were using "subsidiarity as an excuse for national governments not to act" and added that Article 7 of the EU Treaty should be invoked if a member state is found to be guilty of infringing fundamental rights.

Jean Lambert (Greens/EFA, UK) welcomed the strong statements and expressed her wish for other politicians to be as clear and forthright. She said that "it is clear that no European Union member state is free from this hatred". …