EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Racism and xenophobia

Racism is the unfair treatment of members of other races. Xenophobia is an extreme dislike or fear of foreigners, e.g. their customs, language and/or religion.

Article 19 TFEU provides the EU with the legal basis for action to combat discrimination on the basis of racial or ethnic origin. This has led to the enactment of Council Directive 2000/43 which implements the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin. The directive seeks to combat discrimination in the following areas: employment and occupation, vocational guidance and training, employment and working conditions, membership of and involvement in organisations of workers or employers and professions, and social protection, as well as access to and supply of goods and services, which are available to the public. All persons in the EU are protected, regardless of nationality, meaning that third-country nationals are also protected (though the directive expressly excludes from its scope discrimination on grounds of nationality). Furthermore, the directive prohibits both ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ discrimination, and includes harassment. Member States are encouraged to take positive action to counter discrimination.

Member States must ensure that procedures are in place for the enforcement of the obligations under the directive to enable all persons who consider themselves wronged by the failure to apply the principle of equal treatment. Sanctions, including compensation, are to be applied for infringements. Legal and administrative procedures may be instituted on behalf of an individual by an association, organisation or other legal person, and Member States are also responsible for giving one or more independent bodies the task of promoting the principle of equal treatment, which includes receiving complaints from victims of discrimination, starting investigations or studies, and issuing recommendations.

A proposal for a Council framework decision on combating racism and xenophobia (COM (2001) 664 final) aimed to approximate laws regarding offences in this area by describing the forms of conduct to be punishable as criminal offences (e.g. public incitement to violence or hatred, public insults or threats). The directive was implemented by Member States on 19 July 2003.

See also: Fundamental Rights Agency; non-discrimination principle; positive action; social exclusion.

Please note: the European industrial relations dictionary is updated annually. If errors are brought to our attention, we will try to correct them.
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