The Brief: Burka bans are more racist than Brexit

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

Brussels bigwigs have been quick to point the finger of blame at Brits being racist and at anyone other than themselves, ever since the Brexit vote.

It may be true that a proportion of the Brexit vote was motivated by immigration fears but the UK remains one of the most tolerant, open and welcoming EU member states.

There are more than three million EU citizens living in the UK. Is there another European city as genuinely multicultural as London?

Banning Islamic clothes is more racist than voting for Brexit.

Recently the European People’s Party, the centre-right pan-EU party that counts Merkel, Juncker, Tusk and Tajani among its ranks, said it backed an EU-wide ban of the full face veil.

It is a very short goose step from this to full-throated cries about the need to defend “Christian heritage”.

The EPP resolution at their ominous sounding congress won’t make it as far as the European Parliament. The EU can’t rule on such matters.

That didn’t stop Parliament group backing the veil ban or Manfred Weber, the EPP chief, calling for a German parliament vote on the ban.

France and Belgium have wrongly banned the veil. EU judges have danced around the issue. At least Commission officials are allowed to wear the burka to work

The backing of the largest EU-wide party for a fatwa on the veil must be challenged.

Do you regulate on the basis of giving people the benefit of the doubt? Or on the presumption they need nannying by an ill-informed quasi-consensus?

It is racist to assume that any woman wearing a burka is oppressed. Changing what women wear will not stop them being mistreated.

Providing safe avenues for reporting abuse is better than banning clothes.

Some claim the ban is justified for security reasons. But none of the recent terrorist attacks in France, Belgium, Sweden or Britain were carried out by murderers in burkas.

Banning clothes is symptomatic of the unimaginative, blinkered policymaking that helped lead to Brexit in the first place.

It is the worst of Brussels; paternalistic, unimaginative and distrustful.

All it takes is the prospect of Le Pen and a whiff of the AfD ahead of elections in France and Germany and Europe’s centre-right swings violently to the far-right.

The call for the ban exposes the lack of courage and conviction behind the repetitive, tired calls for more “European values”.


The EU’s title of world’s leading aid donor has been called into question. NGOs and MEPs claim the figures have been distorted by costs incurred welcoming refugees. Angela Merkel’s man in Africa painted a gloomy picture of EU-Africa ties.

The Commission announced new measures to better protect child migrants. It also said that March was a record month for refugee relocation. So far, 16,340 refugees out of the agreed figure of 160,000 have been relocated.

If elected in September, ‘Chancellor Schulz’ won’t break with austerity policies. He also hasn’t ruled out Grexit. Italy has caved into EU pressure and made deeper cuts to its deficit.

Hungary’s education minister insisted protesters have been “misled” about its controversial new university law. Its former Commissioner told Georgi Gotev that there is a “systemic problem” in the Central European country. Budapest might be hit with infringement procedures as a result.

Some of Europe’s regions are lagging behind in terms of growth and income. The Commission hopes the “Smart Villages” initiative will provide a solution.

UK environment minister Andrea Leadsom has been urged to support new EU industrial pollution rules. If the end-of-April vote fails, then NGOs fear Europe will be stuck with laws dating back to 2006.

EU expats face “outrageous” bureaucracy when trying to confirm their residency in the UK. Lithuania wants to allow people to hold dual-citizenship to try and halt an exodus of workers.

The man tipped to be the 5 Star Movement’s pick for Italian prime minister (if the chance arrives) has caused a stir by claiming his country has imported “40% of Romanian criminals”. Luigi Di Maio’s comments did not go down well.

In light of recent events, here is a reminder of the generous set of passenger rights offered by the EU. You never know when you might need them…

Sam Morgan contributed to this Brief.


Ever wanted to be in flashmob? If so, make your way to the front of the Berlaymont for 6PM and show solidarity with protesters on the streets of Budapest, who oppose the Hungarian government’s new legislation. Read about the event here.

Views are the author’s.

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