Anti-Racism efforts in 25 EU nations were mixed in 2004

EU governments' record of fighting racism and xenophobia in 2004 was mixed, at best, and they must do more to end discrimination in employment, housing, education and other sectors, the EU's racism monitoring agency said Wednesday.

"The report clearly shows much work is still ahead of us," said Anastasia Crickley, head of the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia. Its 2004 annual report speaks of "mixed messages."

Some countries do well in countering discrimination, it says, while others are either slow to enact anti-racism laws, lack data to measure how their policies affect ethnic minorities or pass measures that actually restrict minorities' rights.

The Vienna-based agency's report concludes that the 25-nation EU "must prioritize the fight against racism and xenophobia" to generate a stronger basis for a "positive" public debate on diversity and equality issues.

The report covers 2004 a year that saw a terrorist attack on commuter trains in Madrid that killed some 200 people and the slaying of Islam-critical Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh on an Amsterdam street. Both events triggered "incidents of racist violence ... including in countries outside Spain and the Netherlands," the report says.

Also, 2004 was the year the EU absorbed Malta, Cyprus and eight eastern European nations amplifying the unevenness of data-keeping across a bloc that is home to almost half a billion people.

The huge difference in recorded racist incidents "tells us as much about the inadequacy and inconsistency of data collection as it does about the actual extent of racist violence and crimes in the EU," the report says.

It says British police received almost 53,000 reports of racist incidents in 2004. Germany was second with 6,474 reports, and in "France, which has a large ethnic minority population recorded, only 1,565 racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic threats and acts" were recorded during the year, the report says.

In the eastern nations of the EU, recorded incidents ran from 25 in Hungary to 209 in the Czech Republic.

The report says it is difficult to accurately monitor racism because of inconsistencies in data-keeping across the EU.

Minorities face discrimination in many different forms, from poor housing for migrants and minorities to segregation of certain groups in "special education" schools to job agencies that cold-shoulder immigrant applicants, it says.

The report found that Europe's 8 million Gypsies, or Roma, were the most vulnerable, followed by Muslim groups and migrant workers from Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. It also found, among other things, that:

- a significant degree of discrimination exists in hiring practices in France, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Britain.

- segregation in the housing sector is "prevalent" throughout the EU.

- the European Commission sued Germany, Luxembourg, Austria and Finland for failing to enact EU anti-discrimination laws at home.

- many governments pass anti-discrimination legislation but also measures that restrict marriage, labor and other rights of ethnic minorities, reported AP. P.T.

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