EC 'will extend role to race relations': Delors seeks to assure anti-racist groups and adds immigration to social affairs portfolio

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THE European Commission is extending its role to cover race relations and immigration, Jaques Delors, EC Commission president, has assured MEPs, according to the head of a European group for migrants.

Mr Delors has appointed Padraig Flynn, the Social Affairs Commissioner, to take on responsibility for a new portfolio on immigration. Mr Delors also sought to assure MEPs demanding a European commissioner on racial affairs that the Commission collectively covered anti-racism, although it has no remit to do so under either the Treaty of Rome or the Maastricht treaty.

In a letter to Mel Read, the Labour MEP for Leicester, Nuneaton and North Warwickshire, Mr Delors said: 'Much of what the Commission does within its designated working areas more or less directly affects the fight against racism and xenophobia. Various members of the Commission are responsible for these areas and there is therefore a collegiate responsibility for this amongst the commissioners.'

Tory MPs on both sides of the Maastricht dispute are alarmed at the prospect of the Commission extending its powers into these areas. Anti- Maastricht Tory rebels are expected to resist the move. Hugh Dykes, a leading Tory supporter of the treaty, said: 'The Commission should be careful not to get into areas which are strictly inter-government affairs, unless the Government requests it.'

Ms Read believes the assurances by Mr Delors do not go far enough, but his letter was welcomed by Tara Mukherjee, the British president of the European Migrants Forum, which fights for migrants' rights.

He told a conference at Westminster organised by the Westminster Race Equality Council: 'This is the first significant shift by the European Commission in the field of race relations. When we started our campaign 18 months ago, they said we would like to do it, but there is nothing we can do. Now they are saying, 'We are doing it'.'

He added: 'I am writing to Jacques Delors thanking him for giving the immigration portfolio to the Commissioner for Social Affairs and asking him again to appoint a commissioner for racial affairs. This is something that minorities in this country will have to campaign for.'

A national protest rally is being organised by anti-racist groups for 8 May at the headquarters of the extreme right British National Party in Welling, south-east London. Organisers said yesterday it was being moved from central London in protest at the racially motivated killing of Stephen Lawrence in Eltham, south- east London, as he waited for a late night bus.

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