A debate on racism by an all-white group of European Commissioners would be "ridiculous", says a Somali-British former MEP.
Magid Magid, who left the European Parliament after Brexit, was speaking to Euronews after EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said she would hold a debate on racism with her team of commissioners next week.
It comes as Brussels institutions scramble to respond to the racial justice protests that have swept across the US, Europe and the rest of the world following the death of George Floyd last month in Minneapolis.
The European Commission has declined to divulge details of next Wednesday’s debate but questions have been raised over whether any ethnic minority voices will be heard, alongside the commissioners, who are all white.
'Concrete solutions needed'
“Having a debate about racism by a group of white commissioners that have never suffered from racism gives me and millions of black people in Europe no confidence whatsoever,” Magid told Euronews.
People from ethnic minority backgrounds make-up around 10 per cent of the EU’s population but are severely underrepresented in EU institutions. All current commissioners are white, almost all of the European Council members are white, and only 5 per cent of the European Parliament comes from an ethnic minority background.
During her speech to the European Parliament this week, Von der Leyen did acknowledge that “most of us in this room do not know” what it feels like to be discriminated against on the basis of race.
But Magid questions why it took the death of Floyd, a black American, for Von der Leyen to feel the need to hold a debate on the issue. He raised the case of Adama Traoré who died in police custody in France in 2016. His death has been the focus of racial justice protests across the country in recent weeks.
“Where is his [Traoré's] justice? Where was the outrage from the EU? Why didn’t they have meetings to discuss racism then?” he said.
Instead of more talk, Magid wants to see concrete solutions.
“Will they commit to deploying resources? Will they impose sanctions on member states which are failing black people?" he said. "Are they going to propose policy changes? Or is this just performative politics? Racism is a systemic issue and needs a systematic approach to defeat it.”
Will there be non-white voices included in the debate?
A spokesperson for the European Commission said he could not reveal any details about the debate next week as it is still being organised.
He added that the commission understands “there are legitimate thoughts, ideas and suggestions” but would not give an answer as to whether any non-white voices will be included in the debate.
“In this case, racialised groups need to be involved in the discussion,” a spokesperson from the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) told Euronews.
She said that while there is now a “welcome institutional focus on the question”, ENAR and other groups have not been consulted since the start of the protests.
“So far, there has been a clear gap in terms of involving the people concerned about structural racism,” she said.
“This says a lot about the institutional approach to anti-racism and racialised groups.
“If the EC doesn’t involve groups affected by racism from the start, there’s a risk this initiative will amount to mere lip service and will not result in concrete measures to address institutional and structural racism."