The high level conference on “Protection from racial discrimination and related intolerance” was held on April 20th by the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union. It took place one month after the European Anti-Racism Summit, which had the role of framing the Portuguese policies and plans regarding the fight against any form of discriminations. The events are part of a broader program of initiatives “regarding the promotion of European values and democracy”. In fact, they were (and will be) also accompanied by the high-level online Conference on Protecting Vulnerable Adults across Europe – the Way Forward (March 30), the Informal Dialogue on Integration Policies (April 13), the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence in April, and the high-level conference on the Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights in May.
The meeting was divided into three sessions, each analyzing a different aspect of preventing discriminations. The first panel was titled “Countering hate speech: the role of human rights education, history teaching and the media in countering it online and offline”. During the first address, the current situation was analyzed, highlighting how hate speech has spread especially online, with an analysis of the roles of the different actors involved: online platform owners, lawmakers and actors on the national level. This discourse was followed by an introduction to who usually are the victims and which categories tend to be the discriminatory ones. The last part of this section was held by a representative of Europol, who explained which are the action currently undertaken by the organization in order to face the issues of hate speech and discrimination.
Session number two was about “Perspective on discrimination: main trends and challenges for an EU united in diversity”. The first speech addressed the differences regarding discrimination issues between different parts of the society. In particular, the panelist dealt with the topic of intersectionality and minorities. It was followed by an address about the importance of better understanding the recent developments regarding discriminations and recognition rights. It was outlined how, even though some step forward have been made, the change has not affected all minorities at the same way, not managing to not leave anyone behind. The last bit of this session focused on the current conditions of Roma community in Portugal, and which were the actions undertaken to reach this point.
The last part of the meeting focused instead on “Policies and programs on protection from discrimination”. This latter section of the conferences was rather a technical one: in fact, it focused on the laws and rules that have been introduced so far, also focusing on the suggestions and work that is still ongoing on the matter.
What can be said, as a conclusion, is that this kind of conferences are helpful in order to understand what’s the institutions’ mindset on certain topics, which policies might be expected, and in which framework they would eventually come into being. Knowing that the Portuguese presidency is willing to take actions in this direction is for sure a positive sign. Moreover, it is fair to say that this type of process is nor fast or sudden, but if it is implemented at different levels, it might really positively affect the attitude of European citizens towards accepting diversity and it would help in building a more aware and accepting mindset among the population.
You can read more about the EU Anti-racism Action Plan here.
You can watch more contents from the Portuguese Presidency here.