There is no denying the existence of racism in Europe. We pride ourselves on having advanced democratic systems, a legal framework that protects and guarantees the rights of the individual and a welfare State that supplies basic services to all citizens, equally. All the same, no European society is free from the phenomenon of racism. Besides structural and persistent racism, which is often rooted in stereotypes, there are also new tendencies brought about by immigration.
While the greater diversity that accompanies immigration is enriching, it also gives rise to an irrational fear, which encourages some parts of society to perceive difference as a threat. These fears are exploited by certain political and social movements that spread their racist and identity-based agendas through new technology--especially the Internet--or at crowded sports events, such as football games. Racism leads to intolerance and xenophobia to violence, thereby creating a vicious circle that is very difficult to break.
The existence of a set of international norms does not seem to be enough to combat racism. The international community has equipped itself over the years with the necessary standards, including the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination of 1969 and the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action arising from the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. In Europe, we have the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) within the framework of the Council of Europe, and the European Agency of Fundamental Rights, successor to the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) within the European Union, which is celebrating the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All in 2007.
Nonetheless, there is no doubt that it is at the national level that an effective fight against racist phenomena must be engaged, since in large part the cause feeds off the fear of losing a supposedly homogeneous national culture. Policies of integration, equality of treatment and non-discrimination are at the core of the struggle to eliminate, or at least forestall, the expression and diffusion of racist and xenophobic attitudes. In order to guarantee equality of treatment and equal opportunities for all, it is fundamental that a designated body should monitor expressions of discrimination, racism and xenophobia, and propose strategies for their prevention.
With this in mind, the...