Minority Report - 10 Years on: The European Parliament moves towards even less visible ethnic diversity

By Claude Ajit Moraes, Labour Member of European Parliament, Chair of the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE)

Ten years ago, I gave an interview to the Guardian on the lack of ethnic diversity and representation in the European Parliament - and while over the years our European societies became increasingly diverse - the European Parliament still remains an institution lacking in representation of ethnic minorities. This mirrors the situation in the European Commission and in the Council.

Only 12 non-white MEPs

As Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) we represent 508 million EU citizens.

Today, we are living in increasingly diverse and multicultural societies. In the UK, according to the 2011 Census, 13% of the population are non-white. And by 2050, if recent migrant trends persist, populations of immigrant origin will comprise between 20-40% of national population totals in many Western European countries.

While our societies are getting increasingly diverse in ethnicity and culture, the European Parliament does not reflect the change in demographics.

Of the 751 Members of the European Parliament, only twelve would perhaps identify themselves as non-white MEPs

One of the key issues is not the issue of non-white populations across the EU as a whole, but the strikingly high ethnic diversity of some of our big and medium Western European cities which still lack corresponding representation in the European institutions. Does the European Parliament even reflect the city of Brussels in which it exists or Paris, Berlin, or Rotterdam?

Of the 751 Members of the European Parliament, only twelve would perhaps identify themselves as non-white MEPs - 1.6% of the total. Six are from Britain, five from France and one from Italy. One could add the two Roma MEPs and the handful of MEPs of Turkish decent. It is outrageous that during the last 10 years nothing has changed with regards to a just representation of ethnic minorities. Even more worrisome, after Brexit, the number of non-white MEPs could fall to six. Six MEPs out of 751 MEPs.

Nobody is counting

The reason why we have to estimate the number of MEPs, but also the shocking level of lack of ethnic diversity amongst staff in the three EU institutions, is because there is simply no ethnic monitoring as it would happen today in major Western European multinational companies with basic equal opportunities and employment policies. The European Parliament has actually legislated on these matters in the Race Equality Directive and Employment Equality Directive, yet happily refuses to carry out even basic monitoring responsibilities.

Where are the solutions?

We need creative solutions to increase the representation of minorities in the European Parliament.

Since its set up in 1998, I have been involved in the European Network Against Racism (ENAR). One of ENAR’s goals is the adoption of an EU framework on equality data collection requiring that Member States collect comparable sets of equality. The data would allow us to measure direct and indirect forms of inequalities and plan inclusive public policies. Data is the first step to achieve a just representation of ethnic minorities in the EU Member States on all levels.

In the end, the European institutions appear somewhat hypocritical in supporting employment policies which they will not themselves implement. The EU incorporates major cities, which are the most ethnically diverse in the Western world today. Yet, it is unusual to see a non-white face in the corridors of an EU institution. This should be at least a concern. But you will never hear of it.

There are clearly policies that can be implemented and that exist in major private and public sector entities all over the EU: merit based equal opportunities recruitment and retention policies.


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