Racism is widespread and deeply rooted in Europe due to cultural and historical causes. Hate speech is rife and permeates public communication, including political discourse, particularly online.
Political parties are best placed to contribute to the fight against racism and intolerance, and to foster an inclusive society. They largely contribute to shaping the political conversation. They are the main gatekeepers of elected bodies and enjoy a wide autonomy in regulating their internal functioning.
The Charter of European political parties for a non-racist and inclusive society originates from the revision of the previous Charter which was drawn up in 1998 and is based on political parties’ self-regulation power. It takes into account the evolution of Europe’s social and political landscape, the emergence of new technologies in communication, and the increase in racism and intolerance. Political parties signing the Charter commit themselves to defending basic human rights and democratic principles and to rejecting all forms of racism and intolerance and hate speech. Signatories shall demand that members abide by these principles. For the Charter to have an impact, monitoring its enforcement is crucial. Civil society organisations, the media and voters at large have a role to play in holding political parties accountable.
CHARTER OF EUROPEAN POLITICAL PARTIES FOR A NON-RACIST AND INCLUSIVE SOCIETY
WE, THE DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL PARTIES OF EUROPE,
Having regard to the international human rights instruments signed and ratified by our member States, in particular to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination;
Having regard to article 1 of this Convention, which defines racial discrimination as “... any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise on an equal footing of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life...”;
Having regard to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and particularly to its article 14 prohibiting discrimination with respect to the rights under the Convention;
Having regard to Protocol no.12 to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which introduces a general prohibition of discrimination that applies to the enjoyment of any right set forth by law;
Having regard to the Revised European Social Charter, in particular its article 19, paragraph 1, according to which the Parties undertake in particular to take all appropriate measures, so far as national laws and regulations permit, against misleading propaganda relating to emigration and immigration, and its article E (non-discrimination);
Having regard to the Treaty of Amsterdam which enables the European Community to “... take appropriate action to combat discrimination based on... racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief...” and facilitates police and judicial cooperation in the framework of the member States in preventing and combating racism and xenophobia;
Having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which at article 21 “forbids discrimination on grounds of sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or other belief, political opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation;”
Having regard to the relevant texts adopted by the Commission on Democracy Through Law (Venice Commission), notably the Code of good conduct in the field of political parties and the Guidelines on Political party regulations, which encapsulate equality and non-discrimination among the principles for which political parties should strive;
Taking into account the general policy recommendations adopted by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), in particular those on combating hate speech, anti-Muslim racism and discrimination, and antisemitism;
Taking into account the relevant texts adopted by the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in particular those on combating hate speech, Afrophobia or anti-Black racism, antigypsyism, antisemitism, Islamophobia or anti-Muslim hate, and all other forms of intolerance;
Recognising that the fundamental rights as enshrined in the international human rights instruments signed and ratified by the member States and other relevant standards include the right to free and uninhibited political speech and debate;
Mindful that according to these same international human rights instruments, political freedoms are not absolute in view of the equally fundamental right to be protected against racial discrimination and that therefore political freedoms cannot be allowed to be abused to exploit, cause or initiate prejudice on the grounds of race, colour, ethnic origin or nationality, or for the purpose of seeking to gain the sympathy of the electorate for prejudice on such grounds;
Recalling that Europe derives from its history a duty of remembrance, vigilance and opposition to all forms of racism and intolerance, including Afrophobia / anti-Black racism, antigypsyism, antisemitism, Islamophobia / anti-Muslim racism, LGBTI-phobia, sexism, xenophobia, as well as crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes and the public denial, trivialisation, justification or condoning of such crimes;
Deeply concerned about the resurgence of rhetoric presenting migrants and refugees as a threat to and a burden on society, which increases negative reactions among the public to immigration and immigrants;
Deeply concerned about the increase in hate crime in Council of Europe member States and the propagation of hate speech, including in political discourse, particularly online and especially through social media;
Aware of the special tasks and responsibilities of political parties as actors in a democratic political process, in defending, articulating and bearing witness to the basic principles of a democratic society; in providing a platform for discussion on issues where there may be differences of opinion, integrating different views into the process of political decision making, thereby enabling society to solve conflicts of interest and of opinion between various social groups through dialogue rather than through opting out and conflict; and in selecting representatives at various levels for active participation in the political process;
Convinced that free use of political rights can and must go hand in hand with firmly upholding the principle of non-discrimination and is inherent in the democratic process itself;
Convinced furthermore that representation of minority groups in the political process is an integral part of the democratic process, since political parties are, or should strive to be, a reflection of society;
ADHERE TO THE FOLLOWING PRINCIPLES OF GOOD PRACTICE AND COMMIT OURSELVES TO:
And further pledge to take appropriate action to ensure that all persons who work for or associate themselves in any way with any of our activities, including election campaigns, are made aware of and at all times act in accordance with the above principles.
With a view to ensuring that these principles are complied with by party members so as to have the positive impact that they are meant to achieve, we commit ourselves to applying sanctions for non-compliance, based on the following rules:
ELIGIBILITY FOR MEMBERSHIP AND DEFINITION OF POLITICAL PARTY
All democratic political parties are encouraged to sign the present Charter and to abide by its commitments. In this context, based on the definition provided by the European Commission on Democracy Through Law (Venice Commission) in its Guidelines on Political Party Regulation, a political party is “a free association of individuals, one of the aims of which is to express the political will of the people by seeking to participate in and influence the governing of the public life of a country, inter alia, through the presentation of candidates in elections”, irrespective of whether it refers to itself as a party, movement or otherwise.