″Humans Have Legs, Not Roots″ | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 28.11.2006
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"Humans Have Legs, Not Roots"

DW-WORLD.DE spoke to Beate Winkler, director of the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia, about racism in the European Union. Legislation, educational opportunities and the media need to change, she said.

Europe has much work to do to stomp out racism and xenophobia

Europe has much work to do to stomp out racism and xenophobia

DW-WORLD.DE: You presented your organization's yearly report to the European Parliament on Monday. What developments did you observe in racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Europe over the last year?

Beate Winkler: I would like to be able to give you very clear and precise data for all 25 member states. Unfortunately, we cannot do that in spite of our work, because in compiling data, we are also dependent on the member states' cooperation and their data. Within the EU there are only two countries that have a very good and efficient system to compile data -- Britain and Finland. Two out of 25! In contrast, five don't have any system at all, which can lead to absurd results in the statistics as we were proved in earlier reports.

Beate Winkler Die Direktorin des Europäischen Zentrums zur Beobachtung von Rassismus und Fremdenfeindlichkeit (EUMC)

Winkler has headed the EUMC since 1998

So the first result of our yearly report is that the full extent and character of racist violence and crime is still hard to measure, since it is often inadequately documented and thus neglected.

Even so, we were able to detect trends. They show that racist violence has increased in the EU member states in recent years, mainly in those countries which have good systems to compile the data. However, this statistical increase could also in part be attributable to the better data compilation.

In the yearly report you give an overview of the five key areas racist violence and crime, employment, education, housing and legislation. What were the results in detail?

If you look at the individual areas -- in the job market, for example, it's still apparent that migrants have to deal with the problems of unemployment more often than average, even when they have the same qualifications as natives.

There are still worse conditions in education, where, for example, Roma children are especially affected. They have a significantly higher drop-pout rate than other children, and what makes us particularly uneasy is that up to 70 percent of them are shunted off to special needs schools or special education classes.

When it comes to housing the situation is also alarming: We were able to prove that migrants live in the poorer and more socially vulnerable residential areas.

Are there also positive tendencies?

Yes, there are also many positive developments. By now, the entire domain of racism and xenophobia has a whole different political dimension. The governments take this phenomenon considerably more seriously in the meantime. There are, for example, national action plans or also the European Union's anti-discrimination directives. Though it must be said that the latter is far from being fully implemented in all member states. Work must be done here.

In which EU countries are there acute problems?

Immigranten erreichen Kanaren

"Diversity is Europe's future"

There isn't a racism hit list, just as there isn't a most racist country within the European Union. The phenomenon of xenophobia can be ascertained in all EU countries. A big problem is that the issue of immigration is seen much too strongly through a negative point of view. Even our own organization surely doesn't offer a positive perspective with its name.

But that's what it's about: How do we deal with cultural, ethical and religious diversity in a constructive manner? For that is Europe's future. Especially in a world that draws ever closer through globalization.

What measures can be employed and where?

For a start, the political leadership of each country must set a clear signal, also in the area of national legislation. In our last report, we were able to prove that racism declines when it's clear that such behavior is not socially acceptable.

Secondly, something must urgently be done in the area of education. We know that the best educated groups have the fewest prejudices, because they are more likely to be in the position to examine them.

And, thirdly, it's a question of media reporting. The media have a huge effect, since this whole area is heavily influenced by emotions. The media create images, and the images are more important and more influential than the words. The images can be fascinating in a positive sense, but they can also be threatening and have a negative effect. It would be preferable for the media to also show the positive perspectives of immigration.

What is your organization's role in this process?

Ausländer in Kreuzberg

The media can contribute positively to changing attitudes

We are an early warning system for the area of racism and xenophobia. And, at the same time, we are a center of competence for dealing with cultural differences. We identify and analyze the problems that appear in this regard. We develop strategies to overcome it, and we present them to the EU's organizations and institutions, which can actively implement them, that is, the European Parliament, the European Commission, the European Council as well as the EU member states and not least the media. We are the people who, using a very specific power of persuasion, convince others to take up these topics.

What is your greatest concern at the moment?

It's critical that we actually undertake a change of perspective -- away from the threat scenarios and toward the opportunities that a multicultural society has and has always had. Immigration is one of the oldest human phenomena and has always been mastered in the past. As everyone knows, humans have legs and not roots. Man is a nomad who will always wander about.

Birgit Adolf interviewed Beate Winkler (ncy)

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