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newsA new Action Plan to turn the tide in the fight against racism


On 16 September 2020, on the occasion of her State of the Union Address, President Ursula von der Leyen said: Progress on fighting racism and hate is fragile – it is hard won but very easily lost. So now is the moment to make change. To build a truly anti-racist Union – that goes from condemnation to action. And the Commission is putting forward an action plan to start making that happen.”

In her State of the Union Address 2020, President von der Leyen announced a new EU anti-racism Action Plan that sets out a series of measures for the next 5 years. Among others, the Commission will ensure that Member States fully implement relevant EU law and further strengthen the legal framework, if needed. This could happen in particular in the areas not yet covered by the non-discrimination legislation, such as law enforcement. The Commission also calls on Member States to maximise the use of all the tools at their disposal, in particular the funding available under the next long-term EU budget and the Next Generation EU. The Action Plan is bringing together actors at all levels to fight racism in Europe more effectively, including through adoption of national action plans against racism.

Věra Jourová, Vice-President for Values and Transparency, said: “We have reached a moment of reckoning. The protests sent a clear message – change must happen now. It won't be easy, but it must be done. We are going to work harder on this. We won't shy away from strengthening the legislation, if needed. The Commission itself will adapt its recruiting policy to better reflect European society.”

Helena Dalli, Commissioner for Equality, said: “There is no place for racial discrimination and racism of any kind in democratic societies. We must all strive for our societies to be anti-racist. With this action plan, we acknowledge that racism is not only perpetrated by individuals but is also structural. Therefore, we need to address it at all levels of governance to turn the tide. This is why, amongst others we address law enforcement, social attitudes, stereotypes and economic concerns; and encourage Member States to adopt their respective anti-racism action plans.”

More action needed: coordination, awareness-raising and enforcement of national and EU law

The EU Action Plan against racism 2020-2025 sets outs a number of actions to tackle racism through EU law but also other means – working with Member States, including national law enforcement, media and civil society; harnessing available and future EU tools; and looking into Commission's own human resources. Among others, the Action Plan calls for:

  • Better enforcement of EU law - The EU has a strong legal framework to combat discrimination, racism, xenophobia, but there is a clear need to reassess this framework and identify any potential gaps to fill. In 2021, the Commission will report on the application of Racial Equality Directive and would follow up with any possible legislation by 2022. The Commission will also ensure a full and correct transposition and implementation of the Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia, including through infringement procedures.
  • Closer coordination - The Commission will appoint a coordinator for anti-racism and start regular dialogue with stakeholders, meeting at least twice a year. The coordinator will liaise with people with a minority racial or ethnic background and interact with Member States, the European Parliament, civil society, academia and the Commission to strengthen policy responses in the field of antiracism.
  • Fair policing and protection – with support of EU Agencies, such as the Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and the Agency for Law Enforcement Training (CEPOL), Member States are encouraged to step up efforts to prevent discriminatory attitudes by law enforcement authorities and to boost the credibility of law enforcement work against hate crimes.
  • Reinforced action at national level – Member States are encouraged to adopt national action plans against racism and racial discrimination by the end of 2022. By the end of 2021, the Commission, working with national experts, will put together the main principles to produce effective national action plans and will deliver a first progress report by the end of 2023.
  • Increased diversity of EU staff – The Commission will take steps to significantly improve the representativeness of Commission staff through measures targeting recruitment and selection. Other EU institutions are invited to take similar steps.

Other measures mentioned in the Action Plan include: awareness raising and addressing racial and ethnic stereotypes through media, education, culture and sport; and improved collection of data disaggregated by ethnic or racial origin. The Commission will also launch an annual designation of European capital(s) of inclusion and diversity and organise a summit against racism in spring 2021.

Next Steps

The implementation of the actions presented in the action plan will be monitored, progress will be reported and actions will be adapted where needed.

The Commission invites the European Parliament to regularly discuss and support the implementation of the Action Plan and the Council to adopt Conclusions on the Member States' actions to prevent and combat racism. 


Discrimination on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin is prohibited in the EU. Yet such discrimination persists in our society and over half of Europeans believe that discrimination is widespread in their country. According to the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), 45% of people of North African descent, 41% of Roma and 39% of people of Sub-Saharan African descent had faced such discrimination. 11% of Jews had felt discriminated against because of being Jewish.

The EU has a legal framework in place, including the Racial Equality Directive and the Framework Decision on combatting racism and xenophobia. Recent events highlighting racial tensions have raised concerns that the legal protections against racial, religious or ethnic discrimination are not effectively implemented. This is also linked to concerns about the relationship between law enforcement bodies and minorities.

Following the speech by President von der Leyen calling for more action, the College held a structured debate on 24 June entitled “Against Racism and For More Diversity and Equity in the European Union”. At the time, the President stressed that this was the beginning of the debate and concrete actions, including an action plan.

For more information

A Union of Equality: EU anti-racism Action Plan 2020-2025

Factsheet on the EU anti-racism Action Plan 2020-2025

Website: EU anti-racism Action Plan 2020-2025

State of the Union Address

Press release on the main initiatives of the State of the Union 2020

Dedicated webpage on the State of the Union 2020

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