Letter: Europe needs resolution to ban racism

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Sir: 1997 is the European Year against racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism. It also happens to be the year in which the European Treaties are to be amended, and in which one of the proposed amendments would outlaw racial and religious discrimination. Will such a proposal succeed? It seems unthinkable that it should fail, but one member of government - our own - is openly opposed to any extension of European Community competence and of the sphere of the European Court of Justice, while a few others are reluctant to support a "race" amendment but for the moment are sheltering behind the British position.

It is virtually certain that there will, for the first time, be some mention of racism in the Treaty. But much depends on the wording and placing of a new article. European Community competence would open the way to European legislation and a common standard of protection throughout the Union against discrimination. But if the tackling of racism is left to inter-governmental action there could be little or no practical progress.

An amendment authorising Community action was proposed by the Kahn Commission, a body set up with the unanimous consent of member states in 1994. The wording this group proposed was almost identical to the amendment suggested earlier by an independent group of experts, the Starting Line group.

It will be a serious setback to human rights in Europe if the European year marks the rejection of an effective Treaty amendment. A heavy responsibility rests on our next government.

ANN DUMMETT

Member, Starting Line group

Oxford

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