I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia*, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro* and Iceland**, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, as well as Ukraine, Armenia and Georgia align themselves with this declaration.
Since 2000, the European Union has adopted comprehensive legislation to address the issue of discrimination. Moreover, since 2009, the European Union has adopted a principle according to which, “in defining and implementing its policies and activities, the Union shall aim to combat discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation”, thus enshrining the principle of non discrimination in the Treaties and making sure that it will apply to all policies.
The European Union also continues to organise awareness-raising campaigns. For example, for the eighth time this year, the European Union is running a journalism award for print and online journalists focused on discrimination and diversity issues in the EU. Through this award, the European Commission recognises journalists who contribute to a better understanding of the value and benefits of diversity and the fight against discrimination in the EU. The deadline for submission is 10 November.
The European Union has also been promoting diversity charters at the workplace. A Diversity Charter is a written commitment that can be signed by any company, regardless of its size, that wishes to ban discrimination in the workplace and makes a decision to work towards creating diversity. It expresses a company’s willingness to improve the degree to which their workforce reflects the diversity of Society. On 24 November 2011, a conference will be organised in Brussels, with a view to bringing together diversity charter organisers and stakeholders from the business sector and public authorities to share good practice and raise awareness of the benefits of diversity management for both multinationals and small and medium sized enterprises.
The biggest challenge for the European Union remains the integration of Roma people, a challenge that the European Union is tackling in the most comprehensive manner. In June of this year, the EU framework for national Roma integration was endorsed by the highest political level. European leaders backed a plan to end the centuries-old exclusion of the continent’s Roma minority. Under the EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies, each of the EU’s 27 countries will set out how they intend to improve the situation of the most vulnerable Roma communities living on their territory. Member States will have to address four key areas for better social and economic integration – education, employment, healthcare and housing – and set out measures proportionate to their Roma population. EU funding and a strong legal framework to combat discrimination are available to support national efforts. By the end of this year, EU Member States will submit their national strategies. The European Commission will then assess the plans and report back to the EU Heads of State and Government next spring. This is a clear message that the exclusion of the Roma is not compatible with our societal values and our economic model.
The fight against racism and xenophobia remains a global challenge that demands a multilateral response. In the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination States have a meaningful and effective international legal instrument to combat this scourge. Sadly, too many States have yet to sign, ratify and implement the Convention. We take this opportunity to call on them once more to do so.
By way of conclusion, I would like to assure you that the EU will remain fully engaged in the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance within its borders as well as within the UN system.
I thank you for your attention.
*Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Montenegro continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
**Iceland continues to be a member of the EFTA and of the European Economic Area.