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Statement by the Commissioner of Fundamental Rights and the Deputy-Commissioner responsible for the Rights of National Minorities on the Equinet Seminar on Fighting Discrimination on grounds of Race and Ethnic Origin, organise in the Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights

November 9th 2016

On the 9th and the 10th of November 2016 the Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights is hosting a seminar organised by Equinet, focusing on the fight against discrimination on grounds of race and ethnic origin.

Equinet is a non-profit organisation functioning as the European network of equality bodies. It is aimed at serving as a professional platform for the mutual cooperation of equality bodies and the development of their capacities in the fields of the legal interpretation of the EU’s equal treatment directives and their practical implementation. The organisation is very active in promoting equal treatment and in the fight against discrimination. It has 46 members from 34 countries with the Equal Treatment Authority and the Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights representing Hungary.

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Commissioner for Fundamental Rights László Székely greeted the participants emphasizing that, despite the positive developments in Europe in the fields of protecting human rights and facilitating equal treatment, there are several areas where the Member States have to face challenges. Unfortunately, we still encounter in many countries of Europe racial and ethnic discrimination of minorities, in particular Roma people, who remain the most disadvantaged and persecuted group in society. Discriminations against the Roma are rooted in the prejudices present in the society and they form part of a complex set of problems related to welfare, education, employment and housing issues. These discriminations often end up in making the affected persons victims of hate crimes.

Deputy-Commissioner Elisabeth Sándor-Szalay pointed out that the problems that affect the whole continent can only be tackled by way of a dialogue on European level. The Equinet seminar is an excellent opportunity for the leading European experts of this topic to share their knowledge with the staff members of European equality bodies. The examination of case studies, best practices and the joint processing of problems will surely help us to be more prepared to face the challenges. This programme is also a good opportunity to raise awareness for all members of the society about the importance of the complex problem of discrimination based on grounds of race and ethnic origin, and to call the attention of the decision makers to the fact that the fight against this phenomenon requires the active and responsible approach of all stakeholders.

As stressed by Equinet chair Evelyn Collins in her opening speech: although we face today in Europe a general increase of xenophobia as well as hostile public sentiment and discourse against racial and ethnic minorities, this should not deter national and international institutions and organisations from continuing their work based on the firm ground of shared values. As a good example of international cooperation, she mentioned the joint statement to condemn the recent evictions of Roma and Travellers in Europe, issued this summer by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR), the Council of Europe, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI) and the European Network of Equality Bodies (Equinet).

See statement on Commissioner’s website in English and Hungarian