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European Law Monitor news"Being of a different colour or race makes people think"

Whilst it has been known for MEPs to change their political colours, changing the colour of ones skin is something totally new. At the European Parliament this week is a "Human Race Machine" created by American artist Nancy Burson which allows people to see themselves in difference racial appearances - be it black, white, Hispanic, Indian or Middle Eastern. We spoke to Claude Moraes MEP - Chair of a cross party anti-racism and diversity Intergroup in the Parliament - about the machine.

What are your thoughts on the Human Race Machine?

I was sceptical in the beginning - is it serious or is it just a stunt? Then I realized that nobody was laughing about it, everybody seemed to be interested. The machine illustrates that you remain the same person, with the same qualities and the same merits but perceptions change.   Being of a different colour or race makes people think.
This initiative comes from the equal opportunities and diversity unit in the European Parliament. Every multinational company which seeks to change does it through personnel. It begins with the people who work in the institutions.   It is not about helping victims but getting the best people.
The Parliament is a visibly "white". It is not become like this through malice but institutions that do not change the recruitment procedure have no active policies. Did it happen by chance that there are so many women in the EP? No, equal opportunities policies were applied. But we don´t have any policy to monitor race, sexuality and religion, to create a fair playing field.  

What about the diversity among MEPs?

When it comes to MEPs, it is harder to fix because it is up to the EU members and the representatives reflect what is happening in the country.
I once participated in a debate about positive discrimination. I was in a room full of professional women and I said: "You would not have been here 20 years ago. But are you less capable than your male counterparts?" It is about merit, about what you do. Women were treated as inferior for decades but they are not inferior. All that happened was that the playing field was evened and women are beginning to break the glass ceiling. But sometimes quotas work, too, like in the British House of Commons.
There could be a political message from the European Parliament to the Member States to think about who they are sending to it. But then they can say: "but you are entirely white, you don't even monitor". That´s why we must start with the personnel.
So the point of the machine in EP is to show an example of leadership and the EP wants to send a signal to 27 countries.

You are the President of the Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup of the EP. What is this Intergroup doing?

We recently had a big meeting with the Commission and NGO ´s on the new Commission directive on illegal working. We deal with issues like migration, anti-Semitism, Islam phobia, multiple discrimination, hate websites on the Internet and so on. We are a very, very busy group. Before this group was created (in 1999, re-launched in 2004) the EP did not have these kinds of meetings which are unusual because there are millions of non-white Europeans. Currently we have about 250 members.