European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has pledged to hire more people from racial minorities after meeting anti-racist MEPs on Tuesday (28 July).
Her institution had “not [been] able to create the [right] environment” to attract more diverse staff and “has to change”, she said, according to a press release by the European Parliament’s anti-racism cross-party group.
“We need to start from the inside of the EU institutions themselves, because if we don’t do that, and don’t have the right representation at all levels, the right questions will never be raised or listened to”, Samira Rafaela, a Dutch liberal MEP, also said after Tuesday’s talks.
“We need a top-down approach, leading by example in our own institutions,” Rafaela said.
Von der Leyen also “took into account the idea of having a single coordinator for the fight against racism in the European Union”, according to Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana, a German green MEP who joined Tuesday’s meeting.
“The fight against racism and discrimination is inseparable from the fight against nationalism” in Europe, Younous Omarjee, a French left-wing MEP, added.
And Roma people especially needed the EU institutions’ help to fight prejudice and gain access to education, Romeo Franz, another German Green MEP, and Peter Pollak, a Slovak centre-right MEP, noted.
There are no EU commissioners of colour in von der Leyen’s 27-strong team and fewer than five percent of the 701 MEPs in the parliament come from racially-diverse backgrounds.
“Let us look around us, here in this very hemicycle. The diversity of our society is not represented. And I will be the first to admit, things are not better in the College of Commissioners, nor among the European Commission staff,” von der Leyen said in a speech at the EP in June.
There are some six million Roma people in the EU, according to the commission, but many among the stateless group “are victims of prejudice and social exclusion”, it says.
Von der Leyen’s pledge came amid the Black Lives Matter protests in the US, which spread also to Europe in a call for change.