16 October 2000


Press Release
HR/4497
RD/901



HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS DECRIES ‘FORTRESS EUROPE’ AT EUROPEAN CONFERENCE AGAINST RACISM

20001016

(Reissued as received)

STRASBOURG, 13 October -- The European Conference against Racism wound up its deliberations in Strasbourg on Friday, 13 October, with a reaffirmation of Europe’s cultural diversity and a call for increased action to combat racism and related discrimination at national and subnational levels on the continent. In a strongly-worded declaration, the Conference expressed alarm at the continuing violence and occurrence of racism, including contemporary forms of slavery, ethnic cleansing and the support for political parties and organizations disseminating racist and xenophobic ideology in Europe.

Earlier, on 11 October, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Secretary-General of the World Conference against Racism, Mary Robinson, told the European Conference against Racism that Western Europe must be aware of what she described as “the Fortress Europe” mentality and urged that national governments effect change. She reminded the gathering at the Council of Europe that European politicians bear the responsibility to effect change in the face of increasing acts of racism on the continent. She saw a larger scope for improvement if politicians were to lead by example and take a strong stance against racism. The “Fortress” mentality was not economically sustainable in the long term, as the population of Europe was aging fast. Morally, she said, it cannot be right that millions go hungry, live without clean water or even basic medicines, and die of AIDS, at a time when people in the developed countries enjoy unparalleled prosperity and access to the most sophisticated technology.

The High Commissioner said a serious impediment to tackling the problem of racism in Europe was the broad denial that racism and xenophobia exist at all, and called on Europeans to face up to this reality and make use of the wide range of legislative instruments that were available. She also called for more strategic prioritizing and resourcing of institutions for combating racism.

In this connection, the High Commissioner paid tribute to the Council of Europe for the contribution it had made and continues to make, particularly the country reports issued by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance that monitor racism and intolerance in Member States. She also welcomed the steps taken by the European Union to establish the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia and commended the


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European Youth Campaign against Racism and the European Year against Racism as these engaged young people’s attention to issues of racism.

The European Conference is the first in a series of four regional conferences in preparation to the World Conference against Racism, scheduled for the fall of the year 2001 in South Africa. The High Commissioner told the regional gathering that the World Conference, which she hoped would be an action-oriented meeting with specific follow-up and review provisions, would provide the international community with an ideal occasion to start this new century by stepping up the fight against racism.

Further information regarding the conference may be obtained from: Teferra Shiawl, World Conference Secretariat, Geneva; Fax: + (41-22) 917 9050; E-mail: tshiawlk.hchr@unog.ch.

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