The news were stirring last week as the EU appointed its first ever Anti-Racism coordinator to work alongside the Anti-racist Action Plan of 2020-2025. Why is this position so significant and what does it mean for the years to come? Here’s an insight to why, how and what of the situation.
The cooperation to set the foundations of the European Union as we know it dates back almost eight decades all the way to 1945 and a war ridden world trying to reset the rules of peace and diplomacy. As the starting points of the new organisation were understandably focused on the economical and politically stabilising aspects of international cooperation, something was forgotten or perhaps even overlooked for the years to come.
As the EU grew, so did its membering countries and the diversity of the population. When this is added to the already diverse setup of nations, it is safe to say that this reality still isn’t reflected to an equal extent within the institution, nor outside of it despite some efforts to remedy the situation. The threat of inner division and it’s drastic outcomes seen for instance in the growing popularity of populist parties, attitudes and policies looms strongly. While the political sphere and its doers seem to be walking on eggshells, the EU reflects an issue much wider in the modern world, regarding terms or more precisely, the lack of them. While discriminative phenomena like racism continue to exist in our social, political and professional dimensions stirring at the center of a long awaited conversation, a lack of courage towards the correct terminology and knowledge drives a considerable wedge between ideas and action. It is easier to stay silent or wait, than to tackle things that for the most part have no name.
Aside from this structural criticism towards how things are, it is important to note how widely the EU proudly celebrates diversity as one of the most important global and political advocates. As a fresh initiative the newly celebrated European Diversity Month roots back to the year 2020 and the collective work of the 24 Diversity Charter initiatives across Europe. As a joint project to promote diversity across Europe, a month dedicated solely to diversity was established.
The past year it was celebrated in May 2021 themed especially with a focus on ethnic diversity. Regarding the reasoning behind this public celebration, the European Commission states it is and has been committed to promoting diversity and inclusion and combatting discrimination through legislation for a long time already. As a statement, it doesn’t bring any new nyances to the standstill of inclusion conversation, but what is worth noticing is the latter part, where Helena Dalli, the EU Commissioner for Equality, stands behind the call for public institutions, private companies, non-profit organisations, cities and other actors working together to build equal and inclusive environments especially in a world shaken by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The desire to develop the EU as an expert in diversity and a reliable institution when it comes to inclusion and anti-racism manifastes in it’s newest decicion to grant a position of importance and validate the anti-racist movement from within the institution. As a result of the EU Anti-Racism Summit and the five year plan of the EU anti-racism Action Plan 2020-2025, Michaela Moua has been appointed as the first ever Anti-Racism Coordinator by the European Commission. The role will focus on strengthening policy responses through the guidelines of the Action Plan, which entails cooperation with minority racial and ethnic groups and further on reporting their concerns to the Commission.
Not only is the newly appointed position of an anti-racism coordinator a great and necessary strategic societal move for the EU, it’s also a reflection of a profound change in mindsets. This change varies from firstly realising the dire racially discriminate situation we still continue to live in and the depths of its reach. Secondly, it’s a sign of claiming responsibility instead of omitting it. The radical idea behind the position relies on the constant cooperation and dialogue between the coordinator and civil society organisations. This enables the restructuring of policy aims and organisational structure. The position also enables new and insightful precision, in before understandably and strategically loose definitions and policies, which at their best provide a tool for upholding equality, but at their worst the very method for dismissing them. Thus it is safe to say that the appointment was something long awaited.
To conclude, let us take a closer look at our regional behaviour. Despite being a part of the EU’s Diversity Charters, Finland is one of the most racist countries in the EU. Finland has begun to make small strides to recover itself from this path. So far, these efforts have been strongly relient on the output of individuals and nonprofit civil organizations and factions. Perhaps this is the sight of something new and something to be proud of, an era where the responsibility is not outsourced to the people alone, much too often the very same people facing that discriminatory behaviour.
With the help of the people’s experience and knowledge, intertwined with legal and structural factors actually wanting cooperation, this could be seen as an effort to reset the dividing rules of society and equality. It is also a chance to renew the way work itself in the European Union is conducted, of creating a link between the institutions and other organisations as well as us everyday citizens beyond the limitations of often too rigid bureaucracy and further dividing etiquettes. Perhaps, one could carefully say that this is a sight of something much better, a European Union that not only is for everyone, but is everyone.
As a Finn, a minority representative and an European, I’m proud to see Michaela Moua take on this position, eagearly following her path towards inclusive anti-racism work from within the EU from this new role. The first of many, let us hope.
TEKSTI AMANI AL-MEHSEN