A comprehensive recap of racism and discrimination in Europe

Giovanni Dal Prà

As explained in the previous articles of this series, racism and discrimination persist as challenging issues within the European Union. Despite the EU’s commitment to upholding human rights, equality, and social cohesion, instances of racism and discrimination continue to undermine these principles. Discrimination episodes affect peoples’ lives every day, and they are especially persistent in the education fields, employment and job-seeking, housing, and in the access to public services[1]. Episodes of discrimination might be based on race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, and other factors persists in various forms, including institutional practices, verbal abuse, hate crimes, and exclusionary policies.

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Moreover, intolerance is nurtured by the negative images and expressions used in the media and in public speeches, such as the political discourse. Violation of human and migrants’ rights, stigmatization of Roma communities, use of incorrect, violent, and racist language against Muslim people, Jewish and LGBTQIA+ community are some examples that carry out a negative representation of some communities, fuelling hatred and discrimination within our society[1]. Efforts to combat racism and discrimination are ongoing, with the EUs’ institution and the Member States implementing legislative measures, awareness campaigns, and integration programs. However, the path towards eradicating racism and discrimination remains a complex and multifaceted endeavour, requiring continued dedication, education, and inclusive policies to foster a truly equal and harmonious Europe for all its residents[2].

This article attempts to summarize the key findings of the research undertaken by ECEPAA on the subject of discrimination based on race and ethnicity, national origin, and religion, as well as the general legal framework. 

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Discrimination still exists in Europe

As highlighted in the second post of this series, the European Union has developed a substantial legal framework over the years to combat discrimination at the forefront and protect the fundamental rights of individuals. The Council Racial Equality Directive of 2000 has implemented the principle of equal treatment between persons, which has consistently shaped the legal protection against ethnic discrimination for over two decades. More recently, the Anti-Racism Action Plan 2020-25 was developed as a holistic strategy supporting specific measures to allow people, victims of racial and ethnic discrimination, to act and address the injustices more effectively. Furthermore, other legal measures were taken such as the Council Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law of 2008 and the Victim’s Rights Directive[1].

Afterwards, the research focused on the discrimination experienced at different levels in the European Union by four different communities: Asian and Afro descendants, Muslim, and Roma community. According to the second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey (EU-MIDIS II) conducted in 2015-2016 by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), discrimination based on ethnic is still present though the European society and affect the previous mentioned communities in diverse fields[2]. Starting from Asian descendants, we found that discriminations increased in the last years because of the pandemic cause by COVID-19, worsening the social exclusion of those people who were already prejudicated by many biases and stereotypes, as explained in the third article[3]. When it comes to Afro descendants, they frequently encounter prejudice, abuse, hate speech, and discrimination in the workplace. Additionally, they are particularly vulnerable to police brutality and racial stereotyping[4].

In addition, the European Muslim community is still suffering from many negative stereotypes, increased especially by the spread of general visions and ideas that associate Muslim people to the Terrorism Events. On the other side, Roma community is also affected by a general negative perception among people, reflecting marginalization and exclusion in social and cultural attitudes and institutional practices; for this reason, the European Commission adopted the new 2020-2030 EU Roma Strategic Framework for Equality, Inclusion and Participation, with the aim of foster new and more effective integration strategies of the community[5].

All forms of prejudice against the Asian, Afro-descendant, Muslim, and Roma communities have a severe impact on their everyday life and hinder their ability to integrate and cohabit with other communities in European society. People who are marginalized and discriminated against struggle to find job, housing, and educational opportunities. They also experience physical and verbal racial discrimination. Therefore, in order to build a more peaceful and cohesive Europe, intervention is absolutely necessary at both the national and European levels.

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Intersectionality is the right approach

The research has shown, however, that instances of discrimination frequently have many root causes, which means that a person may experience prejudice as a result of belonging to multiple communities that are targets of discrimination. This is an important result coming from the research, and this leads to the idea that racisms, xenophobia, LGBTIQ+ phobia, islamophobia, antigypsyism and antisemitism must be analysed though holistic and intersectional approaches. The concept of intersectionality was developed by the American civil right advocate and professor Kimberly Crenshaw in 1989. She began by claiming that the analysis of racism and sexism that had been done up to that point was flawed since Black women’s experiences with discrimination were distinct from those of White women and Black males in terms of gender discrimination and racism. Because of this, Black women have experienced and continue to experience intersectional discrimination, which is more of a result of the total of both gender and racial discrimination[1]. The theory has been then extended to other any other social and cultural groups affected from discrimination, recognising indeed, the possibility of being victims of discrimination because of belonging to multiple communities in society[2].

In conclusion, the research demonstrates that a significant and serious legal framework exists at the EU level to protect minorities and discriminated people. However, a very strong commitment by Member States is essential to then implement the EU legislations and translate it into national law and plans, according to the specific territories’ needs. In addition, another crucial factor to consider is the language we employ. Political statements, media coverage, and public representation are all key channels for promoting social inclusion and acceptance of diversity at all levels.Thus, to combat racial and ethnic discrimination episodes, proactive efforts are required from policymakers, employers, and all citizens to finally go over negative biases and stereotypes, and to promote and create equal opportunities. In this way, Europe can be a more inclusive and peaceful region which welcome people and give them the chance to express the greatest parts of oneself, in order to contribute to the social, cultural, political and economic development.  Only through the involvement of European Institutions, National and Regional governments, and civil society we can fight racisms and discriminations and truly be “United in diversity”.








[1] Ibidem