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Diversity and power in the European Union

Shada Islam , Emma Woodford

Date: 22/11/2022
The European Union is striving to be a serious and respected actor on the global stage. Since the start of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the EU has accelerated its efforts to achieve strategic autonomy by ramping up its security and defence policies. Yet, the Union’s quest for power cannot and should not depend solely on a beefed-up security footprint. To receive the support of global allies, Europe must tackle racial discrimination and replace Eurocentric attitudes with more inclusive approaches.

This third Jubilee Think Piece argues that the Union’s treatment of Europeans of colour impacts its image abroad and ability to influence the global sphere. As we prepare to celebrate the EPC 25th anniversary, this series of publications paves the way to our Jubilee Conference, which will be held in Brussels on Thursday, 1 December. The conference will focus on one common theme: Europe’s reckoning with power. This paper demonstrates that conversations about Europe’s power cannot be separated from conversations about European diversity and inclusion.

Racism, discrimination, and Europe’s colonial past represent a major obstacle to the Union’s ability to foster relationships with Africa. At the same time, the securitisation of EU migration policies hurts the Union’s relations with the African continent, South Asia, and the Middle East. Europe’s global reputation is muddied by evidence of racial aggression, bias, and discriminatory practices.

These biases, however, do not only exist in illiberal countries like Hungary. Discrimination in Europe is spread by bigots and liberal democrats alike. Campaigns like #BrusselsSoWhite and #BlackLivesMatter point to shortcomings even within the Brussels bubble – at the very heart of the European Union.

An EU that talks of diversity and inclusion and calls out the discrimination of ethnic minorities abroad must be able to showcase its achievements in building a more inclusive Europe. The EU’s power to shape and influence global governance will remain limited until it practices what it preaches abroad, at home.

Read the full paper here.

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