EU Twinning project established to combat racial discrimination

As the Czech Republic continues along the path towards full membership of the European Union, it has become necessary for Prague to align much of its legislation to that of current EU member states. It appears that no stone is being left unturned when it comes to implementing these EU directives, and last week it was race relations and ethnic equality in the CR that came under the spotlight. Peter Smith has more:

The EU's PHARE project will fund a so-called 'twinning' project, with race relations' experts from Britain and Spain working alongside, and sharing experience with their Czech counterparts. It is hoped that effective legislation will be introduced - and powerful institutions established - thus allowing the Czech Republic to comply to the EU's newly adopted 'Equal Treatment Directive'. Ralf Dreyer, from the EU delegation to Prague, made it clear that all candidate countries are obliged to implement the directive in full:

"All member states have some form of a ban of racial discrimination but the scope of their laws and in particular their enforceability varies greatly. This directive enforces the Union's fundamental values of liberty, democracy, and the rule of law. It will promote economic and social cohesion by ensuring that people in all member states enjoy a basic level of protection against discrimination including comparable rights of redress."

One of the Britons working closely on the project is Warwick Maynard, the government's new Pre-Accession Racial Discrimination Advisor.

"The UK was the first country in Europe to introduce race relations' legislation back in the late 1960's. We've also, and I suppose for much longer, been seen as something of a beacon for liberty, tolerance, and equal opportunities in Europe and to some extent in the world. So, I'm really glad of the opportunity to bring these ideas and ideals here."

Unfortunately, Mr. Maynard's speech came after a week of race riots in the north of England. Can Britain therefore be truly called 'a beacon' for race relations?

"We're a beacon because we've had legislation in place for a long time and we're a beacon because we've made mistakes - we've had, for example, the Steven Lawrence inquiry into the death of a black teenager where the police were found wanting in the way they responded. I'm sure when the inquiry is done on the way things have panned out in Oldham and in Burnley that equally we can learn from our mistakes but what we can do is try to ensure that those things don't happen here."

And the only way to do that, according to Mr. Maynard, is an effective system of redress to combat racial discrimination.

"Here in the constitution, it very clearly states that there shouldn't be any discrimination but unfortunately, at the moment, you have no body or institution which can assist individuals with their complaints, if they have a complaint against either the public sector or the private sector on grounds of discrimination. There really needs to be a new champion for minority rights that would take on the task that our commission for racial equality has in the UK - of helping people with their individual complaints."