In a year of Brexit and Trump, with the migrants and refugees crisis ongoing and the increasing rise of the far-right, combating intolerance and rights violations across the EU is now more relevant than ever.

Responding to the Council and Commission statement on combating racism, xenophobia, homophobia and other forms of intolerance, GUE/NGL MEPs have implored the EU to embrace integration but say it first needs to look closer to home.

Italian MEP Barbara Spinelli, who was outraged by Commissioner Oettinger's attitude towards women, gays and Chinese people, says similar attitudes must not be tolerated:

“The Treaty of Lisbon, the Charter of rights, the Framework decision of 2008, the Istanbul Convention – these are the tools that allow us to fight racism, xenophobia and violence against women.”

“It is important that the Framework decision condemns more explicitly – this present time – islamophobia, antisemitism, homophobia and antiziganism which pollute more and more our countries and even the common EU institutions,” she argued.

“Every free person – especially during these times marked by an influx of migrants and refugees –  has different loyalties and identities.”

“The assimilation into a unique identity creates violence; it is far better to have integration with respect to the norms than the word ‘assimilation’,” Spinelli said.

Equally concerned was Spanish MEP Marina Albiol who said it is the European Parliament which should be setting a better example:

“When we think of racism or homophobia, we think of Nazis beating up a black man or a gay person. Yet, we never think of well-educated men in suits and ties making speeches here in the Parliament – or a minister or president.”

“But EU governments and institutions are where some of the most disgusting forms of hate and intolerance are found today: it’s David Cameron describing migrants as a ‘swarm of people’; Lithuania's liberal government against homosexuals; Hungary’s Orbán against refugees, plus other forms of intolerance towards the Roma people.”

“It would be nice if we could look closer to home first – especially here in the European Parliament,” she argued.

Finnish MEP Merja Kyllönen, meanwhile, said that it is more important than ever for the EU to take the lead in combating intolerance:

“When the core values of the EU treaties are violated, we seem to look the other way whilst criticising others around the globe.”

“Racism, xenophobia and homophobia are rising in member states and they’re fed by increasing inequality.”

“Hopelessness is a fuel that fires mistrust and influence. Let us not feed this hopelessness. Let us show that it is not only about the markets, money or the building of walls but about the values that we demand of ourselves,” Kyllönen concluded. 

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