EU Fundamental Right conference: “Minority communities failed”


The 2018 gathering of European Fundamental Rights Colloquium in Brussels brings together senior EU politicians, policy makers, and civil rights campaigners from across the 28 nations.

The great Egmont Palace where the two day proceedings took place is very impressive. 400 delegates gathered together for one united goal: That the fundamental right of all  the 500 million EU citizens are not only protected but also that its citizens can play an active role in their socieities.

I had the opportunity to speak for 3 minutes in the first session about;  ‘How do we ensure all communities  engage in the civic and democratic process with the EU? ’

Here is  my unwritten speech:

“ Ladies and gentleman can first apologise for Brexit. It’s not my doing, but I apologise nonetheless.”

Laughter from the audience.

“ Joking aside there is a very serious note to this, which in many ways fills me with sadness, not least because from the start there has been a strain of Brexit rhetoric that is rooted in xenophobia. It’s clearly not the only reason why the UK has decided to leave, but it is a factor that we cannot ignore.

I’m also saddened because when I look around this room and the EU at large, I realise that this is my European political family, and any break up is always detrimental for both sides. But whilst we are still family, -we haven’t left just yet-, we must be able to speak honestly to one another.

This family of European nations has deeply failed 20 million African, Asians and Roma citizens living in Europe. Failed!

Too many of your/our Governments, -when you’ve decided to give us Rights-have focused on a narrow view of integration: ‘Be like us, dress like us, speak like us,’ and not the integration that includes affording us equality, free from racism, and the political empowerment, and political representation that enchances democracy and wellbeing.

400 people here today in this splendid room, but if we just look around the delegates it is  literally spot the Black person- one, two, maybe three, does this look inclusive?

Imagine for a second a young African born in Sweden or a Roma from Hungary walking into this great palace and seeing all of us here. Would they feel, ‘I can be part of this club, this is what I call representative democracy, inclusive civil society? I don’t think so.

The truth is our nations have failed to civically and politically invest in ensuring minority communities have an equitable stake in playing an active part in our societies. And here’s the monster frustration; When you do this great things happen.

Many millions of people would feel that they have a sense of belonging; politics is better served, and policies are delivered for all communities. And  I tell you this,  if our nations would have invested in our communities, along with young people, and women we would not be facing the political and existential crisis that we are not facing.

Our voices, our votes are not extremist, they are rooted in equality and decency. But even now it's not too late to invest and give hope that we can do this better. And if and when you do this remember this; it not only benefits those minority communities who felt racism and persistently locked out of opportunity but it will also benefit the wider society, because we unlock talent that can serve all our communities.

This progressive action is a win for democracy and wins for all of us."

The only thing I would have added to that 3 minute speech –Which I scribbled but did not use is the fact that  – the lack of minority political investment in the EU means that when the UK leaves the EU, one country out of 28, half it’s minority MEP’s (there are 17) will vacate the 740 MEPs. 

One can only hope that member states will go back and reflect that if the values and rights are to mean anything in the, EU then a plan of action driven by both EU institution and its member states must be implemented. 













Simon Woolley

main pic taken by Geoffry Fritsch