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Why everybody in Europe needs to cast their vote for progressive change in the European elections *

The European elections are just around the corner, and political parties and politicians propagating racist ideas are getting stronger. The pressure is on to mobilise the vote for progressive change and against discriminatory and xenophobic discourses…

The elections of the members of the European Parliament are in just under two weeks (between 22 and 25 May), and latest projections indicate that right-wing populist parties propagating xenophobic ideas and programmes could make significant gains. Pollwatch forecasts that there could be three political groups to the right of the centre-right European People’s Party with approximately 40 seats each. Politicians and parties spreading racist views and policies threaten to shift the whole political spectrum toward greater rejection of the ’other’, thus preventing the adoption of progressive measures fostering equality, solidarity and well-being for all, wealth redistribution, and social welfare.

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The election campaign has also seen a number of hate speech occurrences against minorities, which mainly emanate from candidates of far right or populist right political parties. But not only, sadly. These incidents include implicit and explicit incitement to hatred, prejudice or discrimination, insulting or demeaning language, and attacks on the dignity of groups.

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In this context, the stakes are high and the European elections deserve more than 43% of voters’ mobilisation, the turnout at the last elections in 2009.

For citizens who care about equality, these elections are a key opportunity to vote meaningfully and to ensure that the European Union commits to human rights and equality. Europeans can influence the results and reverse or at least limit the success of parties promoting racist and xenophobic views and policies.

Indeed, the next European Parliament will have a crucial role to play when it comes to reducing the entrenched inequalities faced by its citizens and residents. In the next five years, the European Parliament will have to tackle all forms of racism and ensure that people of African descent, Muslims, Jews and Roma are included in society and protected from discrimination. It will also have to step up efforts to curb increasing racist violence across Europe. Promoting and accommodating diversity in the workplace will be another important dossier, as will be the need to measure equality by collecting data about discrimination in Europe. And finally, political parties and groups will need to react proactively to racist political discourses to stop the growing feeling of impunity. In view of the tasks ahead, we badly need a progressive European Parliament if we want to achieve more equality in Europe.

In this context, EU citizens belonging to ethnic and religious minority communities are a pivotal cluster of the electorate which is largely overlooked by decision makers and political parties. But they could be the last bastion against hard-core anti-EU nationalists as well as the king makers in many constituencies. Indeed, there are approximately 60 million ethnic and religious minorities in the EU, making up about 12% of the total European population. In fact, they are much larger than all the far-right groups put together, and much more likely to support mainstream political parties on both the left and right, as long as the latter demonstrate an understanding of their concerns.

On the other hand, it is also essential that mainstream political parties keep away from pandering to far-right supposedly “quick-fix” solutions, and engage all citizens and communities – majority and ethnic minorities alike – in a common constructive debate about how to put the original European project back on progressive tracks. We are therefore asking candidates for the next European Parliament and their political parties to take a stand for equality, and against racist and xenophobic discourses, and to commit to advancing equality once they are elected.

The European elections are just around the corner and we all – voters and politicians – need to commit to a better and more inclusive Europe. Together, all citizens and residents of Europe can build a more prosperous and resilient Europe where policies benefit all people living in Europe. Like Emma, an EU voter in the May elections, and the diverse members of her community, let’s choose candidates who care about both Emma and her community instead of those who oppose her friends’ rights!

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* KISA as a member group of ENAR – European Network Against Racism adopts the call and asks the voters to cast their vote for progressive change in the European elections.

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