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Mr Chair, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the European Union on this combined agenda for the Elimination of racism, racial discrimination, and xenophobia and related intolerance as well as on the implementation and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
The European Union is based on a set of common, fundamental values, which include respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. As reflected in Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union (TEU), these common values characterise a society where pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity, and equality between women and men prevail. Upholding these values is necessary, not only to protect the rights of persons belonging to, or being perceived to belong to minorities, but also to safeguard the personal freedoms and rights of all people residing in Europe.
Our founding treaties do not only concern the people in the Union. Indeed our treaties also direct us to uphold and promote in our relations in the wider world the very same values on which the Union was build.
Mr Chairperson, we would first and foremost like to thank for the rich documentation at our disposal for our debate today: the reports of the Secretary General, the reports of the Special procedures mandates, the Durban follow-up mechanisms and of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
These documents combined give us an overview of the highly complex and daunting challenges that confront the world community in the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Luckily, they also inform on many encouraging developments and activities, both at national and international levels and within the UN system.
Allow me to provide some examples which directly implicate the European Union:
The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance E. Tendayi Achiume documents a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe. Ms. Tendayi Achiume refers to the study of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) published in December 2018.
We are also aware that other surveys of FRA, such as the FRA’s Second Minorities and Discrimination Survey (MIDIS II) published in 2017, report that discrimination is felt by others such as Muslim communities, Roma people or people of African descent.
The EU does not take these disturbing trends as reflected in survey data and results lightly. They underline the urgency of our consistent efforts to ensure an effective and even implementation of our legal frameworks to combat racism, intolerance and discrimination.
These frameworks include first and foremost the Racial Equality Directive which implements the principle of equal treatment irrespective of racial or ethnic origin in the areas of social protection, social benefits, education, and access to and supply of goods and services.
There is also the Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law, which sets the framework for a common response to racist hate speech and hate crime. It obliges EU Member States to penalise the public incitement to violence or hatred against persons defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin, including when committed online. It also requires our EU Member States to ensure that the racist and xenophobic motivation is considered as an aggravating circumstance or can be taken into account in the determination of the penalties for any other criminal offence. This legislation has been complemented by EU rules to protect victims of crime, enshrined in particular in the Victims’ Rights Directive, which oblige our Member States to ensure a fair and non-discriminatory treatment of victims of crime, and pays particular attention to victims of crime motivated by hate and bias.
The discouraging trends also make us cognisant of the need for the EU to continuously refine and sharpen its non-legal tools and initiatives such as for instance, on promoting diversity management in the workplace, working with IT companies on countering illegal hate speech online, making citizens aware of their rights, awareness among the discrimination affected of both legal and non-legal remedies, training of border and law enforcement officials including on how to escape illegal racial profiling in their line of work, as well as to better target the funding available for authorities and civil society actors under the EU wide Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme.
In this work the EU High level Group on combatting racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance plays a key role in advising and informing our efforts. The High-level group was established in 2016 and consists of 46 representatives from all EU Member States, the Council of Europe, The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and 28 non-governmental organisations.
Relevant survey data such as those resulting from the aforementioned surveys of FRA are also crucial for informing our actions to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Let us here underlines the vital importance of applying a human rights based approach to data collection in which principles of data protection and the anonymity and privacy of persons are essential. The FRA is also bound by these principles.
Now turning the attention to the topics we will be debating more specifically during this UNGA session. We would like to reiterate some of the views that we have consistently expressed in various Durban follow-up mechanisms and in sessions of the Human Rights Council over the past year.
First and foremost, the EU is of the firm conviction that the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) is and should remain the basis of all efforts to prevent, combat and eradicate racism. There is no agreement upon nor any evidence that the Convention has gaps nor that it fails to address contemporary forms of racism, including in relation to criminalizing acts of racist and xenophobic nature. Against that background, it is disheartening to read from the report of the Committee of the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD Committee). According to the CERD Committee the periodical reports of around 65 States are overdue of which more than 40 are categorized as seriously overdue, meaning for more than 10 years. In that category there are even some States whose reports are overdue by 40 years or more. We would therefore encourage that more States make use of the simplified reporting procedure offered by the CERD Committee. In the same vein we would also encourage more States to recognize the competence of the Committee to consider communications from individuals and groups as foreseen by the article 14 of the Convention.
We also draw attention to the amendment of ICERD’s article 8. This technical amendment is vital for the effective functioning of the CERD and the regularization of the Treaty bodies’ management by allowing for the financing of the CERD Committee from the regular budget of the UN. We therefore call for more acceptances for this amendment so it can enter into force.
As we draw to closing, we won’t fail to mention our well-known stance against the proliferation of Durban Follow-up instruments and mechanisms. This stance will inform our approach when we discuss the modalities and mandate for the Forum for People of African Descent. The EU looks forward to engaging in these discussions with the view to achieving consensual outcomes.
Mr Chairperson, in closing allow us to assure you and all our partners of the EU’s unwavering commitments to the fight for a better world – a world free of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
Based on our European experiences, both bad and good, we will continue to engage actively with all our partners in the exchanges of lessons learned and best practices in all our relations and at all levels to give effect to the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination as well as the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.