As Europe Veers Right, Minority Parliamentarians Counter

For Immediate Release || June 19, 2009
Contact: Neil Simon
Phone: (202) 225-1901
Cell: (202) 340-7450

As Europe Veers Right, Minority Parliamentarians Counter

WASHINGTON– With far-right and anti-immigrant parties making worrying advances in recent elections across Europe, minority lawmakers and leaders called today for the political process to be more inclusive of minorities.

Following April’s “Black European Summit: Transatlantic Dialogue on Political Inclusion” in Brussels, Belgium, minority political and intellectual leaders today adopted a declaration calling for increased efforts to include racial and ethnic minorities in the political process. (Please find attached a copy of the Brussels Declaration).

“I was very pleased to have the opportunity to work on these initiatives with my European colleagues,” said U.S. Congressman and Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL). “Whether speaking about voting and civil rights, increasing minority elected officials and diversity in policy staff, or responding to
discriminatory policies, we have common issues.

While I have been able to share the many successes we have had in the United States in terms of minority political participation, most recently evidenced by President Obama, one need only look at the lack of diversity in the U.S. Senate and staff in Congressional offices and many government agencies to know that we can be doing more. It is one reason I fully support this transatlantic declaration.”

“Despite the global significance of President Obama’s historic election, the reality is that our elected leadership does not reflect the diversity of origins of people in our nations” said Summit co-organizer Harlem Desir, Member of the European Parliament (MEP). “This has contributed to a lack of inclusion of minorities in the planning and implementation of the very policies that impact us. Despite some successes, the overall
results of recent elections are simply further evidence that we must do more to ensure the representation of the diversity of our society.”

“In Britain we had never elected fascists in a national election until now. Whilst in the past there have been far-right MEPs from other countries, such as France, this election saw new groups gaining seats across Europe, and thus a worrying threshold has been crossed,” said Summit co-organizer and President of the European Parliament All Party Group on Anti-Racism and Diversity, Claude Moraes MEP. “We will have to
tackle the pernicious growth of far-right racist parties head-on, at both the grass-roots and parliamentary levels, and an integral part of this lies in encouraging the full inclusion of minorities in the political process.”

U.S. Helsinki Commissioner Congressman G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), a former Judge known for his work supporting voting rights, who participated in the Summit, added, “it is clear by the outcome of the European elections that too few people are taking part in the political process at a potentially great risk to democracy. As I have learned from my work in the U.S., it is critical to remedy this situation rather than preserve a status quo
that repeatedly elects lawmakers who do not represent the diverse interests of the population.”

“These concerns for minority representation are exactly why we adopted the Brussels Declaration,” said Summit co-organizer Joe Frans, Vice President of the United Nations Working Group on Experts of People of African Descent. “The declaration calls for the full and equal participation of non-White citizens of Europe with African, migrant, and other backgrounds in our countries’ democracies. With more racist, xenophobic, and anti-Muslim parties making political gains, immigration and antidiscrimination policies are going to be further scrutinized, which will impact how persons of different races, ethnicities, and religions, are viewed and treated. Implementation of the Brussels declaration in this current climate is of the utmost importance.”

The first “Black European Summit: Transatlantic Dialogue on Political Inclusion” was held in Brussels, Belgium at the European Parliament on April 15th and 16th. The historic 2-day Summit brought together political and intellectual minority leaders from the United States and Europe to exchange information on the roles of racial and ethnic minority policymakers in developing and supporting policies and initiatives to address
racism, discrimination, and inequality. Participants included Parliamentarians, Congressional representatives, local and nationally elected officials, academics, representatives from European and international institutions, civil society, the private sector, and media.

The Black European Summit was hosted and organized by Harlem Desir, Member of the European Parliament and Vice-Chairman of the Socialist Group; U.S. Congressman Alcee Hastings, Co-Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission; and Joe Frans, President of the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent and a former Swedish Parliamentarian.

Co-organizers included: Claude Moraes, Member of the European Parliament and President of the European Parliament All Party Group on Anti-Racism and Diversity and Glyn Ford, Member of the European Parliament.

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