Open Letter to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen: The European Commission must prioritise addressing police violence and structural racism in the EU

CC to: Vice-President Margaritis Schinas, Commissioner Helena Dalli

Dear Ms. von der Leyen,

As organisations working for an equal and inclusive Europe, we would like to raise our serious concerns regarding the lack of real reaction of EU leaders regarding police brutality against people of colour in Europe as well as institutional and structural racism, following the killing of George Floyd in the United States and ensuing solidarity protests in Europe and across the world. We were appalled by the statement by EU Commissioner Schinas which delegitimises the public outcry against police brutality and institutional racism in Europe.

On 3 June 2020, Commissioner Schinas was quoted in the Financial Times as saying that events such as the killing of African-American man George Floyd in Minneapolis, and the wave of demonstrations against it, were “not likely . . . to happen in Europe at this scale”. “I do not think that we have issues now in Europe that blatantly pertain to police brutality or issues of race transcending into our systems. But we do have an issue in Europe, which is the issue of inequalities and income distribution — making the best for everyone of what we have.”

As an EU Commissioner, Mr. Schinas should have shown empathy with the victims of widespread racism in the EU. Instead his reckless statement has denied racialised communities across the EU the recognition of the oppression they are subjected to on a daily basis.

His statement is a blatant denial of the existence of police brutality and discriminatory policing in Europe, despite evidence of this reality, including from EU bodies themselves, such as the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, which found that one quarter of all persons of African descent surveyed were stopped by the police in the five years before the survey, and among these, 41% characterised the most recent stop as racial profiling. In France, young men perceived as black or Arab are 20 times more likely to be controlled by police than others. In the UK, data shows that the proportion of black and ethnic minority deaths in custody as a result of use of force or restraint by the police, is over two times greater than it is in other deaths in custody. Roma people across Europe also experience racial profiling and police violence. This is not a new issue. For decades, ENAR and anti-racist organisations on the ground have been reporting what racialised communities experience at the hands of the police across the European Union: discriminatory stop and search, abuse, violence and even death. So far, however, there has been little visibility and no public response.

EU and member state leaders pointed fingers at the United States for the killing of George Floyd and police brutality, while maintaining a deafening silence on the situation in their own countries, going as far as denying that police violence is an issue in Europe. This lack of reaction reflects a denial of long-standing existence of systems of oppression in European societies, of historical injustices and persistent racial inequalities in areas of housing, healthcare, employment and education, as well as repeated experiences of state violence and impunity.

The bare minimum that EU leaders should do is acknowledge the existence of and publicly condemn discriminatory and violent police practices, in particular when it results in death. But most European political leaders were not even able to do that.

There is an urgent need to ensure fair and effective policing practices for all communities. EU member state governments must adopt measures to combat and prevent racism in law enforcement. This includes severe sanctions in cases of police violence, ensuring fair and independent investigations, prohibiting racial profiling, and increasing racial diversity and trainings within the police force. The EU and its Member States should also collect equality data to make visible where racial profiling, disproportionate use of force and deaths following an interaction with the police are happening. Such data should enable intersectional cross-analysis, for example to identify specific experiences of racialised women.

Twenty years ago, the European Union was at the forefront of the fight against racial discrimination when it adopted landmark laws to prohibit discrimination based on race or ethnic origin. In a time of rising racist violence, persistent discrimination and racial inequality, the European Commission must have a stronger, more public commitment to address police violence and structural racism in Europe.

We would be happy to meet you to discuss our concerns in more detail and propose solutions, and look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,
Karen Taylor, Chair of the European Network Against Racism

The letter is available here.


Co-signed by:

  1. ABVV-ACOD Cultuur, Belgium
  2. ACLI-Vlaanderen vzw, Belgium
  3. Aditus Foundation, Malta
  4. Africa Solidarity Centre, Ireland
  5. African and Caribbean Diversity, United Kingdom
  6. African Media Association, Malta
  7. AGE Platform Europe
  8. AIF+ – Actieve Interculturele Federatie vzw, Belgium
  9. AKAZ – Kazumba Association, Portugal
  10. Alliance Citoyenne, France
  11. Altera, Italy
  12. Andalucía Acoge, Spain
  13. ANTIGONE – Information and Documentation Centre on Racism, Ecology, Peace and Non-Violence, Greece
  14. Anti-Racist Forum, Finland
  15. Apna Haq, United Kingdom
  16. Arciragazzi Portici, Italy
  17. ASKV Refugee Support, Netherlands
  18. Asociación Musulmana por los Derechos Humanos (AMDEH), Spain
  19. Asociacion Nacional Presencia Gitana, Spain
  20. Asociación Rumiñahui, Spain
  21. Association of African Students in Europe (AASE)
  22. ASTI asbl – Associations de soutien aux travailleurs immigrés, Luxembourg
  23. Ba Omar, Ecowasflanders, Belgium
  24. Balbriggan Integration Forum, Ireland
  25. BAMKO-CRAN asbl, Belgium
  26. Ban Ying Koordinations- und Beratungsstelle gegen Menschenhandel e.V., Germany
  27. BePax, Belgium
  28. Café Congo, Belgium
  29. CCME, the Churches´ Commission for Migrants in Europe
  30. CEJI-A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe
  31. Center for Equality Advancement, Lithuania
  32. Center for Intersectional Justice, Germany
  33. Center for Migration, Gender and Justice, Germany
  34. Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, Germany
  35. Centre de Médiation des Gens du Voyage et des Roms, Belgium
  36. Centre for Peace Studies, Croatia
  37. Centre Régional de Verviers pour l’Intégration, Belgium
  38. Centre Régional d’Intégration de Charleroi, Belgium
  39. Collectif Contre l’Islamophobie en Belgique (CCIB), Belgium
  40. Collectif Contre l’Islamophobie en France (CCIF), France
  41. Collectif féministe Kahina, Belgium
  42. Collectif Mémoire Coloniale, Belgium
  43. Confédération des Syndicats Chrétiens (CSC), Belgium
  44. Conseil Représentatif des Associations Noires (CRAN), France
  45. Counsellor Sanchia Alasia, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, United Kingdom
  46. Discrimination Law Association, United Kingdom
  47. Dokumentations- und Beratungsstelle Islamfeindlichkeit & antimuslimischer Rassismus, Austria
  48. Each One Teach One e.V. (EOTO), Germany
  49. Een Andere Joodse Stem (EAJS), Belgium
  50. ELLA vzw, Belgium
  51. EMCEMO, Netherlands
  52. ENAR Belgium
  53. Equal Opportunities Initiative Association, Bulgaria
  54. European Council for Refugees and Exiles (ECRE)
  55. European Forum of Muslim Women (EFOMW)
  56. European Network of Women of African Descent (ENWAD)
  57. European Network On Religion and Belief
  58. European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network
  59. European Roma Information Office (ERIO)
  60. European Roma Rights Centre
  61. European Women’s Lobby
  62. Federation of Roma Associations in Catalonia – FAGiC, Spain
  63. FMV vzw, Belgium
  64. Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organisations (FEMYSO)
  65. Foundation for Shelter and Support to Migrants, Malta
  66. Fundación Al Fanar para el Conocimiento Árabe, Spain
  67. Furia, Belgium
  68. Generation 2.0 RED, Greece
  69. Greek Forum of Migrants, Greece
  70. Grupo EducAR – Anti Racist Education, Portugal
  71. Hand in Hand tegen racisme, Belgium
  72. Hart Boven Hard, Belgium
  73. Help Refugees, United Kingdom
  74. Human Rights League (Liga za ľudské práva), Slovakia
  75. IDB Initiative für ein diskriminierungsfreies Bildungswesen, Austria
  76. Il Razzismo è una brutta storia, Italy
  77. ILGA-Europe
  78. In IUSTITIA, Czech Republic
  79. Inequalities Research Network, University of Leeds, United Kingdom
  80. InMenteItaca, Italy
  81. Instituto de Asuntos Culturales – IACE, Spain
  82. Integratipact vzw, Belgium
  83. Integro Association, Bulgaria
  84. Intercultural Dialogue Platform, Belgium
  85. Irish Network Against Racism, Ireland
  86. Jesuit Refugee Service Europe
  87. Jesuit Refugee Service Malta
  88. [email protected], Belgium
  89. Kaneza Karen, former ENAR board member, Belgium
  90. KARAMAH EU
  91. Killion Munyama, Polish MP
  92. King Brenda, ACDiversity, United Kingdom
  93. KISA – Action for equality, support, anti-racism, Cyprus
  94. Kopin – Koperazzjoni Internazzjonali, Malta
  95. Kreativ Research Association-Center for Media Studies and Social Research, Romania
  96. La Voix des Rroms, France
  97. Lallab, France
  98. Le Monde des Possibles, Belgium
  99. Ligue des droits humains, Belgium
  100. Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Malta
  101. Merhaba, Belgium
  102. Migrant Tales, Finland
  103. Migrant Women Association, Malta
  104. Minderhedenforum, Belgium
  105. MOC, Belgium
  106. Movimento di Cooperazione Educativa di Torino, Italy
  107. MRAX ASBL, Mouvement contre le Racisme, l’Antisémitisme et la Xénophobie, Belgium
  108. Muslim Association of Greece, Greece
  109. Mwinda Kitoko vzw, Belgium
  110. Netzwerk Rassismus und Diskriminierungsfreies Bayern e.V., Germany
  111. Nevo Parudimos Association, Romania
  112. NiLi, Network Italiano dei Leader per l’Inclusione, Italy
  113. Objectif, mouvement pour l’égalité des droits asbl, Belgium
  114. ORBIT vzw, Belgium
  115. Pan-African Movement for Justice, Sweden
  116. Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM)
  117. Por Ti Mujer, Spain
  118. Quaker Council for European Affairs
  119. Queer Base – Welcome & Support for LGBTIQ Refugees, Austria
  120. Rainbowhouse Brussels, Belgium
  121. Red Acoge, Spain
  122. Red Española de Inmigración y Ayuda al Refugiado, Spain
  123. Refugee Rights Europe
  124. Reghif Mouhad, Bruxelles Panthères, Belgium
  125. Regional Roma Educational Youth Association – RROMA, North Macedonia
  126. Rete21marzo, Italy
  127. REVIBRA Europe – European Support Network to Brazilian women in Europe
  128. Roma Active Albania
  129. Roma Community Centre, Lithuania
  130. Roma Education Fund
  131. Roma Entrepreneurship Development Initiative REDI
  132. Roots vzw, Belgium
  133. Samenlevingsopbouw, Belgium
  134. SEER vzw, Belgium
  135. SHARE Forum, Belgium
  136. Siempre-Making Latin Women Visible, Belgium
  137. Slovo 21, Czech Republic
  138. SolidarityNow, Greece
  139. SOS Malta, Malta
  140. Stichting OCAN, Netherlands
  141. Stichting voor mensen zonder verblijfsvergunning – STIL Utrecht, Netherlands
  142. Tayush, Belgium
  143. Uganda Association of Ireland, Ireland
  144. UNESCO Inclusive Policy Lab – People of of African Descent and the SDGs e-team
  145. Union des Progressistes Juifs de Belgique (UPJB), Belgium
  146. Vaiya Alfiaz, former coordinator of the EP Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup
  147. Victoria Deluxe vzw, Belgium
  148. Vie Féminine, Belgium
  149. Voice of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians, Kosovo
  150. Waterford Integration Services, Ireland
  151. WoW e.V., Germany
  152. CeRAIC, Belgium
  153. Red AMINVI, Spain
  154. Centre d’action interculturelle de la Province de Namur, Belgium