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Council of Europe: Austerity Measures in Europe Deemed to Increase Racism and Xenophobia

(May 8, 2012) On May 3, 2012, the European Commission on Racism and Xenophobia (ECRI) of the Council of Europe (COE), in its annual report, noted that, in general, religious intolerance and discrimination continue to exist in COE Member States and acknowledged that high unemployment and the reduction of social benefits are contributing factors to the recent increase in violent incidents and displays of intolerance against minorities. (Annual Report on ECRI'S Activities Covering the Period from 1 January to 31 December 2011, CRI (2012) 23, Council of Europe website (May 2012),

Key 2011 developments or subjects discussed in the Annual Report include the following:

  • ECRI published nine individual reports, on Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, Lithuania, Monaco, Serbia, Spain, and Turkey. The country reports address the state of racism and xenophobia in these jurisdictions and provide specific recommendations for them to follow to ameliorate the situation. (Id.) ECRI, in its efforts to combat racism and xenophobia in the Member States of the COE, works in close cooperation with the national specialized bodies that have been designated to deal with these issues domestically. (Id.)
  • ECRI noted that a number of serious and disturbing incidents have occurred in several COE Member States indicating that the situation of the Roma people in Europe is deteriorating. Based on the findings of investigations conducted in several countries, ECRI drafted General Policy Recommendation (GPR) No.13 on Combating Anti-Gypsyism and Discrimination Against Roma. The GPR requests that national authorities step up their efforts to fight discrimination through the adoption of 90 measures, including encouraging Roma to file complaints when they experience discrimination and violence and urging the media to cease inflammatory reporting. (Id.)
  • ECRI expressed disappointment that Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which prohibits discrimination in general, has been ratified by only 18 of the 47 Member States of the COE; ECRI urged those members that have not ratified it to proceed with ratification as soon as possible. (Id.)
  • ECRI also expressed its concern about the rise of extreme political parties in a number of countries. It castigated in particular the aggressive rhetoric used by politicians against immigrants, calling it one of the important factors leading to polarization and marginalization of certain segments of the population. Some radical politicians, for example, equate immigration “with insecurity, irregular migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees [who] either 'steal jobs' or risk 'capsizing our welfare system … .'” Muslims are described by such politicians as “not able to integrate in western societies.” (Id.)
  • In addition, ECRI noted that social media contribute to radicalization of citizens, and that there are several websites that write against Muslims and other websites that propagate the idea of a world-wide conspiracy orchestrated by the Jewish people. ECRI also emphasized that often religion is used as a pretext to discriminate against people on other grounds. (Id.)