Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Lack of will to combat racial discrimination in Finland

A European country willing to eradicate racial discrimination would implement recommendations designed by the European Commission to help victims of alleged discrimination. Finland is apparently not such a country as evidenced by the fact that the Nordic country has repeatedly been taken to task by the European Commission for reluctance to bring its legislation in line with European directives on racial equality.

According to a press release in Brussels on 10 July 2014, the European Commission decided to refer Finland to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failing to comply with the Racial Equality Directive (2000/43/EC) despite "extensive discussion" with Finland.

Article 13 of the Racial Equality Directive requires Finland to set up a national equality body, and entrust the body with specific tasks, including providing assistance to victims (of racial discrimination), conducting independent surveys, publishing independent reports and making recommendations concerning discrimination.

According to the European commission, Finland has not entrusted its watchdog for equality, the Ombudsman for Minorities, with tasks related to racial discrimination in the field of employment.

The question here is, why is Finland reluctant to entrust the Ombudsman for Minorities with tasks related to racial equality in the field of employment?

In my view, there're three possible reasons why: firstly, racial equality is not a priority for the Finnish government. Secondly, the government wants to leave disputes in the field of employment, including issues related to racial equality in the hands of trade unions. And thirdly, the authorities do not want to open the floodgates of complaints since, I believe, there are many victims of racial discrimination in the field of employment who do not know where to go for help.

Racial equality should be a priority of the government mindful of Finland's changing population structure and numerous reports of unfair hiring practices that favor ethnic Finns over racial and national minorities. Finland's watchdog for equality should have the power to look into cases like the case of Dr. Gareth Rice. There's an urgent need for the Finnish government to prioritize equality on ALL grounds, including race, color, nationality, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation.

Trade unions cannot protect all workers. It is a mistake, I feel, to think that trade unions alone can deal with all disputes, including racial equality cases in the field of employment. Unions protect only the interest of their members, and not all workers in Finland are organised. There's a need to protect those who are not members of trade unions, and this can be done by the national equality watchdog. Finland's current Ombudsman for Minorities, Eva Biaudet, told Yle that her office receives employment-related requests for help but her office has limited powers to carry out investigations in the field. Hence the need to entrust the Ombudsman for Minorities powers to handle employment-related complaints together with racial discrimination complaints in other areas.

Personally, I welcome the decision of the European Commission to refer Finland to the Court of Justice of the EU. The Finnish government should bring the country's Non-discrimination Act in line with European standards.

*Image: 570 News

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