27 June 1995

Doc. 7337

1403-27/6/95-10-E

OPINION

on the fight against racism, xenophobia,

anti-semitism and intolerance

(Rapporteur: Mr BARSONY,

Hungary, Socialist Group)


1.       The Political Affairs Committee gives a warm welcome to and congratulates Mr López Henares concerning the precise, detailed and objective analysis of the report submitted by him.

2.       The committee fully agrees with and supports the proposals put forward in the report.

3.       It is our view, however, that these proposals should not put an end to monitoring this range of problems, as the rapporteurs should continue to analyse the processes taking place in the member countries and in a wider sense in Europe.

4.       This is especially true as a new additional protocol is being prepared to the European Convention on Human Rights by the competent intergovernmental committees under the authority of the Committee of Ministers. For each phase of drawing up the protocol, the rapporteurs must make a timely analysis for the relevant committees of the Assembly.

5.       The committee expresses its concern over the preparation of the protocol indicated above taking a specific turn within the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI). After a lengthy debate, ECRI took the position at its full meeting in March 1995 that Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, or more precisely its section on discrimination, is to be interpreted in a narrower sense than now.

6.       This entails considerable risks, if the new protocol would not include all the criteria featuring in Article 14, on the grounds that definition could be a problem. According to the committee, the additional protocol must not have a narrowing effect. With accurate wording it should, on the contrary, be extensive and should provide more protection.

7.       The committee welcomes ECRI's working out a watchdog system, under which groups of four will examine in the coming period events and progress in the judicial system in each country. On the basis of this analysis, proposals on closing gaps or perhaps unifying the legal means and norms will be made. Therefore our recommendation to the members of the Assembly is that they should also observe constantly the judicial practice in the courts of their respective countries, of which ECRI could be informed.

8.       At the same time the committee underlines that since racism, anti-semitism, intolerance and xenophobia may not be exclusively treated as legal issues, preventive political action must be stepped up. In close association with this action a package of measures should be taken in each country in order to improve the disadvantageous social and economic situation of certain groups of the society. At the same time the Council of Europe must strengthen its co-operation with the European Union in organising and financing such programmes.

9.       The committee especially emphasised that the handling of all issues related to minorities on a European level is of crucial importance, and expressed its firm belief that accelerating the work on the additional protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights to be drawn up, in addition to the Framework Convention on National Minorities, is an urgent necessity.

10.       In agreement with the proposal, we underline again the importance of signing and ratifying by each member country the European Charter of Regional and Minority Languages. In this respect we believe it is difficult to understand why certain governments, which considered the text of the charter to be acceptable in the Committee of Ministers, would be reluctant to sign it.

11.       Our suggestion is that in the coming period, the Parliamentary Assembly should co-operate with the Parliamentary Assembly of OSCE, with special regard to preventing and to handling conflicts among different ethnic communities.

12.       It is the firm belief of the committee that the Committee of Ministers will accept the proposals and will suggest the application of efficient tools.

13.       This is the only possible way forward, because racism, anti-semitism, intolerance and xenophobia represent the greatest challenge to modern European societies. If the attempts to combat these phenomena fail, this may put the very foundations of democratic societies at risk. Therefore, we do not consider our activities to be completed with this debate and with the current resolution of the Assembly. On the contrary, this should be the beginning of effective action.

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      Reporting committee: Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights (Doc. 7318).

      Committee for opinion: Political Affairs Committee.

      Reference to committee: Recommendation 1222 (1993).

      Draft opinion approved on 27 June 1995.

      Secretaries to the committee: Mr Hartland, Mr Kleijssen and Ms Chatzivassiliou.