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Race relations

May 26, 2009

The Council of Europe has criticized Germany for not doing enough to fight racism. The country defines racist acts too narrowly, and its school system is discriminatory, a council report says.

Handshake between people with light and dark skin
Race relations in Germany could be betterImage: picture-alliance / dpa

The Council of Europe says Germany has made some progress in fighting racism, but the most recent report by the council's Commission on Racism and Intolerance is generally critical of German efforts.

Germany has not done enough to improve the integration of asylum seekers, Jews and blacks, the council says. They remain targets of "racism, anti-foreigner sentiment and anti-semitic attacks," according to the report, which was released on Tuesday.

Report: new laws required

Germany doesn't do enough to prosecute racist acts, the commission says. Acts are only considered to be racist if they are clearly deemed to have been committed by members of right-wing extremist groups or sympathizers. This definition is too tight, the commission says.

Moreover, the law should punish racially motivated crimes more severely than the same crimes that are committed without a racist background, the commission recommends.

The fact that there is no independent body where complaints against police-led racism can be reported is also a failing, the report notes.

School system heavily criticized

Some of the strongest criticism is reserved for the German school system. According to the report, "children with a migrant background have much narrower chances of scholastic success than other children," a situation it considers racist. Germany's tripartate schools system - which divides children into separate schooling levels at a very young age - is singled out as being a basic part of the problem.

However, there is also some praise for Germany for having initiated language-improvement programs for pre-schoolers, as well as for introducing a new equal rights law and for starting up a Germany-Islam conference.

Author: jen/AFP/AP

Editor: Susan Houlton

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