Racism in Europe

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A study of social attitudes that was conducted at Harvard University from 2002–15 has mapped the countries in Europe with the highest incidents of racial bias, based on data from 288,076 White Europeans. It used the Implicit-association test (a reaction-based psychological test that is designed to measure implicit racial bias). The weakest racial bias was found in Serbia and Slovenia, and the strongest racial bias was found in the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Malta, Moldova, Bulgaria, Italy, Slovakia and Portugal.[1]


On 9 October 1992, the Bulgarian president signed the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, signaling a new commitment to uphold minority rights.[2]

In 2011 the parliamentary party Ataka, identifying itself as nationalist, attacked the mosque in the center of Sofia during the Friday prayer. In 2013 one of the leaders of another nationalist party, VMRO, Angel Djambasky was put under investigation for calling the people to arm themselves against the immigrants.

At least 6 racist crimes are perpetrated between 3 and 13 November of every year. 112 intellectuals sign a petition to the attorney general not to register the party Ataka, which was rejected by the attorney general.[3][4][5]


The National Popular Front, or National People's Front (Greek: Εθνικό Λαϊκό Μέτωπο (ΕΛΑΜ), Ethniko Laiko Metopo ELAM (Cyprus), is an ultranationalist movement (and later, political party) founded in 2008 in the Republic of Cyprus. The party has been the subject of controversy in the Cypriot media and broader political scene. It has been repeatedly accused of promoting racism and being involved in acts of violence.


YouGov ranks Denmark as the most racist country in northern Europe[6] and the third most racist in western Europe.[7] 29% are intolerant of black people, Jews, Muslims, Romas or gays. 72% rated Romas as "totally negative" while 45% had negative feelings towards Muslims.[6] Adoptees with foreign background are often racially abused.[8]

A Jew named Dan Uzan was killed by a Muslim in front of a synagogue as part of the 2015 Copenhagen shootings. His funeral was attended by the prime minister and several members of parliament and he was named Dane of the year, because he prevented additional killings by the terrorist at the Jewish institution, which has since been kept under constant surveillance by Danish police in collaboration with Danish military.

Young non-ethnic Danes have complained that some police officers have acted in a racist manner.[9]


In the mid-2010s, NATO soldiers from the U.S. stationed in Estonia as part of Enhanced Forward Presence were subject to racist attacks by local civilians, resulting in condemnations from the Estonian Air Force's commander, Jaak Tarien [et], and the U.S. embassy's charge d'affaires.[10][11] Some Estonians, particularly from the Conservative People's Party, voiced their displeasure at the condemnations.[10][12][13]

The Conservative People's Party of Estonia has been described by critics as xenophobic and racist.[14][15][16][17][18][19][20]


Reports say that racial hate crime is a recent phenomenon, and that they are on the rise.[21][22] The numbers of reported hate crimes in 2003 and 2004 were 522 and 558, respectively. In 2009, they had increased to over 1 000 (including non-racist hate crimes). Racial hate crimes have fluctuated from 858 (2009) to 641 (2012)[23] and the typical suspect have been a Finnish-born young man. However, over 60% of the targets were reported to have been Finland-born, although those with foreign-born parents were counted as well. The most targeted immigrants in 2004 were reported to be of Somali, Kurdish, Russian, Iraqi and Iranian origin. One-third of the hate crimes were reportedly aimed at the Kale, and only one in six were members of the native population.

In European Social Surveys since 2002, Finns have proved to be least racist just after Swedes. Earlier Finnish scientific data reveals that attitudes had been improving continuously for a long time.[24] Professor of Social Policy and responsible of Finnish ESS, Heikki Ervasti, denies a common thought of increased negative attitudes against immigrants.[25]

A poll made in late 2011 revealed that the majority of the Finns viewed Finland as a racist country.[26] Two thirds considered the country to be fairly racist, 12% recognised a moderate amount of racism, and 2% admitted to be very racist; 35% agreed partly or wholly to the statement "Islam is a threat to Western values and democracy", and 29% agreed more or less to that "people belonging to certain races simply are not suited to live in a modern society". One in five thought "it needs to be recognised as a fact that some nations are more intelligent than others", and 11% agreed partly or completely to "people whose appearance and culture differ much from those of the Finns are unpredictable and frightening".

Of the countries in the European Union Finland tops the list of countries with the most racism.[27]


Jewish leaders perceive an intensifying anti-Semitism in France, mainly among Muslims of Arab or Berber heritage. However, Jewish intellectuals are often accused of racism, such as Eric Zemmour, Alain Finkelkrault or Elisabeth Lévy.[28]

In 1998 the Council of Europe's European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) made a report stating concern about racist activities in France and accused the French authorities of not doing enough to combat this. The report and other groups have expressed concern about organizations like Front National (France). In a recent Pew Survey, 47% of the French deem immigration from Central and Eastern Europe (mainly from Poland, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia and Romania, including Slavic and Romani people) to be a very bad thing. Likewise, the majority of French respondents revealed negative views on the immigration of Muslims from Africa and Middle East. A small minority showed signs of anti-Semitism. Roughly 11% had an unfavorable view of Jews[29] and 8% felt that US policy was most influenced by the Jews.[30]


The period after Germany lost World War I led to an increased use of anti-Semitism and other forms of racism in political discourse, for example among the right-wing Freikorps, emotions that finally culminated in the ascent to power of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in 1933. The Nazi racial policy and the Nuremberg Race Laws against Jews and other non-Aryans represented the most explicit racist policies in Europe in the twentieth century. These laws deprived all Jews including even half-Jews and quarter-Jews as well as other non-Aryans from German citizenship. Jews official title became "subject of the state". The Nuremberg Race Laws forbid racially mixed sexual relations and marriage between Aryans and at first Jews but was later extended to "Gypsies, Negroes or their bastard offspring".[31] Such interracial relations became a criminal and punishable offence under the race laws known as "racial pollution" Rassenschande.[31][32]


Golden Dawn emerged as a fringe movement when it was founded in the early 1980s and since then, it has evolved into a far-right group within Greece. Members of Golden Dawn have been accused of carrying out acts of violence as well as hate crimes against immigrants, political opponents, homosexuals and ethnic minorities.


An EU report found that legal policies that should protect people from racism and xenophobia were "not implemented effectively", and it also found that Hungarian public officials denied the fact that racism and discrimination were a problem in their country, despite evidence to the contrary. It noted that such factors contributed to the increase in extremist ideologies in Hungarian politics and media.[33] The Council of Europe has also criticized Hungary in a new report, condemning xenophobia and violence against migrants and minorities.[34]

2013 FRA online survey shows a middle to high level of anti-Semitism in Hungary, compared to other European countries.[33] The banned Hungarian Guard and some Jobbik politicians are sometimes described as xenophobic and racist.[33]

As in other European countries, the Romani people faced disadvantages, including unequal treatment, discrimination, segregation and harassment. Negative stereotypes are often linked to the high level of unemployment among Romani people and their reliance on state benefits.[33] In 2008 and 2009 nine attacks took place against Romani in Hungary, resulting in six deaths and multiple injuries. According to the Hungarian curia (supreme court), these murders were motivated by anti-Romani sentiment and sentenced the perpetrators to life imprisonment.[33]


Historically, the most serious racial problems in Ireland stemmed from the colonization of the country by the British, and the racist attitude of the colonists to the native Irish. The English considered themselves to be a distinct race from the Irish, who were classified as 'melanocroix', or 'half black' by Thomas Huxley.[citation needed] Depictions of the Irish in the popular British press throughout the centuries of British colonization were noted for their subhuman portrayal of the Irish (main article: Anti-Irish sentiment). Laws suppressing Irish culture and enfranchisement, outlawing the use of the language, education, and the practice of the local religion (Roman Catholicism) were enforced during various periods from the 14th century onward (see Statutes of Kilkenny and Penal Laws (Ireland)), only being fully repealed with the independence of Ireland from Britain in the early twentieth century (see Government of Ireland Act 1920).

20th century[edit]

During the second world war, although Ireland was officially neutral, Prime Minister Éamon de Valera was accused of sympathizing with and supporting the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler in Germany. Following the death of Hitler in 1945 de Valera was one of many who signed a book of condolence and offered sympathies to the German Minister at the German Embassy in Dublin.[35] This led to the belief among Allied leaders such as Churchill that de Valera and the Irish in general were supportive of the Nazi regime.[36] The substantial influx of Nazi war criminals to Ireland following the war and their acceptance into society both officially by the Government of Ireland and by the general public also lead to claims Ireland was tolerant if not supportive of the Nazi regime.[37] However, it must also be borne in mind that Germany had supplied guns to the Irish war of independence 20 years earlier, and so Irish sympathies to the Germans rather than their long-standing oppressors the British can easily be accounted for in this way, rather than due to anti-semitism. Historically, the Jewish community in Ireland has enjoyed support not enjoyed elsewhere in Europe. (Main article: History of the Jews in Ireland).

In mid-twentieth century Ireland there was traditionally very little immigration in general to the Republic of Ireland, and hence little racial diversity, though in recent decades growing prosperity in the country (see: Celtic Tiger) attracted increasing numbers of immigrants, mainly from Central and Eastern Europe (primarily Poland), China and Sub-Saharan Africa. Also the absence of colonialist baggage has meant that foreign people are not drawn to Ireland by "mother country" factors that have affected other European countries. Descendants of Irish people who emigrated in the past also started moving to the country. Most immigrants have settled in Dublin and the other cities. Though these developments have been somewhat tolerated by most, there has been a steady rise in racist attitudes among some sections of society. A 2001 survey found that 51% of Irish people surveyed considered the country inherently racist [38] and 60% of those in the 25 to 34 age-group considered "racism" to be an Irish trait. In 2005, Minister of State for Overseas Development, Conor Lenihan famously advised Socialist politician Joe Higgins to "stick with the kebabs" – referring to his campaigning on behalf of Turkish contract workers who had been paid less than the statutory minimum wage. The Minister later retracted his remarks and apologized.[39] A 2008 EU-MIDIS survey of attitudes to minorities in the 27 EU States found that Ireland had the most racist attitudes to Afro-Europeans in the entire EU.[40]

While most racist abuse in Ireland is verbal, violent hate crimes have occurred. In 2000, a white man was stabbed and seriously injured when defending his Jamaican-born wife from racist abuse by a group of adult men.[41] In 2002, a Chinese man Zhao Liu Tao (29) was murdered in Dublin in what was described as the Republic of Ireland's first racially motivated murder.[42] Later that year Leong Ly Min, a Vietnamese man who had lived in Dublin since 1979,[43] was mortally wounded by two assailants who had been racially abusing him.[44] In February 2008, two Polish mechanics, Paweł Kalita (29) and Mariusz Szwajkos (27) were attacked by a group of Dublin youths and died outside their home after each being stabbed in the head with a screwdriver. In 2010, 15-year-old schoolboy Toyosi Shittabey, born in Nigeria but brought up in Dublin, was killed. The only man to stand trial for the murder was acquitted on the direction of the trial Judge[45]

The Shelta or Irish Travellers, a nomadic ethnic group once speaking their own language, have also experienced persecution in past and modern times throughout Ireland.

Recently, the Mayor of Naas Darren Scully was forced to resign on 22 November 2011 over comments on live radio about the "aggressive attitude" of "black Africans".[46][47] Former Labour TD Moosajee Bhamjee, a Muslim and Ireland's first and only non-white, non-Irish Member of Parliament, said Scully's remarks represented the "beginning of official racism" in Ireland and described them as "enlightenment" for the "neo-Nazi following in this country".[48]


Italy is considered the most racist country in Western Europe.[49]




In a 2016 Pew Research Center survey conducted in the US and several European countries, the Netherlands scored lowest for the percentage of people who said that having people of different races living in their country improved it, whereas the US scored highest.

In 2006 the Dutch Equal Treatment Commission got 694 requests to judge if a treatment legislation law had been broken. By far the most cases concerned age discrimination (219), race discrimination followed (105) and lesser number of sex discrimination cases. The Dutch Equal Treatment Commission brought out 261 judgements; 46 per cent of the cases were declared discrimination.[50]

In the early 2012 the Dutch right-wing Party for Freedom established an anti-Slavic (predominantly anti-Polish) and anti-Romani website, where native Dutch people could air their frustration about losing their job because of cheaper workers from Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and other non-Germanic Central and Eastern European countries. This led to commentaries involving hate speech and other racial prejudice mainly against Poles and Roma, but also aimed at other Central and Eastern European ethnic groups.[51]

A Dutch immigrant to South Africa, Hendrik F. Verwoerd, created apartheid.[52][53][54]

In a 2016 Pew Research Center survey conducted of the US and several European countries designed to measure countries' citizens acceptance of people of different ethnic groups, the Netherlands scored lowest for the percentage of people who said that having people of different races living in their country improved it, with the vast majority of Dutch respondents whether of liberal or conservative political leanings responding in the negative. In contrast, the US scored highest among all the countries surveyed, being more welcoming to people of different races and ethnic groups than even the highest-scoring European nation, the UK.[55]

Blackface portrayals of "Zwarte Piet" in the Netherlands have been condemned as being racist in recent years.[56][57]


Far-right marches have gathered 60 000 participants chanting slogans like "We want god" and "Poland for Poles" as well as anti-semitic slogans.[58] Poland also have a major problem with racist football hooligans.[59] The ruling Law and Justice party has been described as far-right.[60]

The number of racist incidents in Poland is increasing.[61] In 2013 there were more than 800 racially motivated crimes and in 2016 it had increased to over 1600.[62] Poland tops the list of countries with most attacks on Indian students with 9 of 21 incidents.[63]


Portugal is the second most racist country in western Europe scoring a 3.5 NMI median score.[49]



The term "pogrom" became commonly used in English after a large-scale wave of anti-Jewish riots swept through south-western Czarist Russia in 1881–1884. A much bloodier wave of pogroms broke out in 1903–1906, leaving an estimated 2,000 Jews dead. By the beginning of the 20th century, most European Jews lived in the so-called Pale of Settlement, the Western frontier of the Russian Empire consisting generally of the modern-day countries of Poland, Lithuania, Belarus and neighboring regions. Many pogroms accompanied the Revolution of 1917 and the ensuing Russian Civil War, an estimated 70,000 to 250,000 civilian Jews were killed in the atrocities throughout the former Russian Empire; the number of Jewish orphans exceeded 300,000.[64][65]

In the 2000s, neo-Nazi groups inside Russia had risen to include as many as tens of thousands of people.[66] Racism against both the Russian citizens (peoples of the Caucasus, indigenous peoples of Siberia and Russian Far East, etc.) and non-Russian citizens of Africans, Central Asians, East Asians (Vietnamese, Chinese, etc.) and Europeans (Ukrainians, etc.) is a significant problem.[67]

Since 2008, the number of hate crimes in Russia declined significantly.[68]

The main outcome of 2009 was a clear reduction in the number of victims of racist and neo-Nazi motivated violence for the first time in six years of observation conducted by SOVA Center. To some extent, credit should go to the law enforcement agencies who suppressed the largest and most aggressive ultra-right groups in the Moscow region in the second half of 2008 and in 2009. However, despite all efforts, xenophobic violence remains alarming in its scope and extends over most of the Russian regions, affecting hundreds of people.

— Galina Kozhevnikova, SOVA Center

The Russian Orthodox Church "believes it is vital for Russia to pursue anti-extremist campaign and develop a sustainable strategy." As a result, it has called for immigrants to be given jobs and the opportunity to learn more about Russian culture. In addition, it has called for skinheads to refocus their mission to legally preventing crime and immoral behavior.[69]


Romani people have become the main target of Slovenian racists in the 21st century as the population is otherwise extremely homogeneous.[70]


Gitanos are viewed with less sympathy than other groups.[71]

Racist abuse aimed at black footballers has been reported at Spanish football league matches in recent years. This has led to protests and UEFA fines against clubs whose supporters continue the abuse. Several players in the Spanish league including Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o and Espanyol goalkeeper Carlos Kameni have suffered and spoken out against the abuse. In 2006, Real Zaragoza player Ewerthon stated: "the Spanish Federation have to start taking proper measures and we as Afro-European players also have to act."[72]


Sweden is the least racist country in western Europe.[49]

In 1922 Sweden established the Statens institut för rasbiologi, or state institute for race biology.[73] The institute recommended the sterilization by force of the mentally ill, physically disabled, homosexuals and ethnic minorities, which was allowed by Swedish law until 1975.[74]

According to the report Racism and Xenophobia in Sweden by the Board of Integration, Muslims are exposed to the most religious harassment in Sweden. Almost 40% of the interviewed said they had witnessed verbal abuse directed at Muslims.[75] European Network Against Racism in Sweden claims that in today's Sweden there exists a clear ethnic hierarchy when ethnic Swedes are at the top and non-European immigrants are at the bottom.[76]

In 1999, Neo-Nazis in Malexander murdered two policemen during a robbery to obtain funds for a fascist organization.[77][78][79][80]

Sveriges Radio reported that the punishments for driving under the influence of alcohol tended to be harsher for immigrants than for Swedes; while over 50% of immigrants were sent to jail for driving under the effect of alcohol, only less than 30% of ethnic Swedes were sent to jail with the same level of alcohol found in blood.[81] There has been evidence that the Swedish police used "Neger Niggersson" as a nickname for a criminal in a police training; this was published in Swedish media.[82] Lately however, many incidents of racial attitudes and discrimination of the Swedish police have led for the first time to the control of racial attitudes of police students under police education [83] A recent research done by the Swedish Confederation for Professional Employees (TCO) found that people with foreign background have much lower chances of finding a job that is appropriate for their education, even when they have grown up in Sweden and got their education in Swedish institutes.[84]

In 2007, there were a total of 3,536 hate crimes (defined as crimes with an ethnic or religious motive) reported to the police, including 118 cases of anti-Semitic agitation.[85] Racism in Sweden is reported to appear within Swedish health-care services as well. A nurse at a Stockholm suburb hospital lost his job after complaining on racial attitudes of the hospital staff to patients with immigrant background. Staff was cited saying "go back to Arabia", "the patient is screaming because it's in his culture."[86]

Swedish social services have reported on racism in Swedish hospitals as well.[87] A study of statistics Sweden (SCB) reveals that segregation is widespread for Swedish immigrants when there are large differences in the fields of education, housing, employment and politics between immigrants and ethnic Swedes.[88] Sweden has been criticized by the UN human rights council for an increasing number of hate crimes which seldom resulted in criminal charges, when more hate crimes are Islamophobic, and homophobic, with an increasing amount of racist propaganda appearing on the internet and in Sweden's schools, for failing to provide adequate health care and education to immigrants, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants and the ongoing discrimination of the Roma and Sami minorities in Sweden.[89]

A study was conducted in 2011 about the Swedes attitudes to mixed marriages. The conclusion was that the views in general were favorable, but that there was a strong hierarchy based on which groups to live with. Swedes primarily preferred relationships with Scandinavians, Western Europeans and Southern Europeans, and then Eastern Europeans, Central Europeans and Latin Americans. At the bottom were South and East Asians, Africans, and Middle Eastern people. Older individuals and women, as well as people with less education and people who were brought up outside of Malmö (the most multicultural city of Sweden), were generally more prone to having negative attitudes. Most were able to accept family members and friends living in mixed relationships, even if they did not want to do it themselves.[90]

Swedish national television (SVT) has reported on a new research done in Sweden which identifies that job seekers with a Swedish name have 50% higher chances to be called for an interview than job seekers with middle-eastern names. The research enlightens that there is not much difference between foreign-born job seekers and job seekers born in Sweden if both don't have a Swedish name; this indicates that ethnic discrimination is the main cause of the variations.[91]

In 2012, Swedish Minister for Culture Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth was labelled a racist by The Afro-Swedish Society (Afro-svenskarnas riksförbund) because she cut up a cake in the shape of a naked African woman in public. Ironically, the cake was made by an Afro-Swedish artist.[92] [93] [94] [95]

In 2015, a Swedish man motivated by racism attacked people at a school in Trollhättan with a sword, killing three.[96][97]


The Swiss Confederation or Confederatio Helvetica is a nation composed of four subcultural groups: German-speaking (63.7%), French-speaking (20.4%), Italian-speaking (6.5%) and Romansh-speaking (0.5%).[98]

Swiss "Confederation Commission Against Racism" which is part of the Swiss "Federal Department of Home Affairs"[1] published a 2004 report, Black People in Switzerland: A Life between Integration and Discrimination [99] (published in German, French, and Italian only). According to this report, discrimination based on skin colour in Switzerland is not exceptional, and affects immigrants decades after their immigration.

Swiss People's Party claims that Swiss communities have a democratic right to decide who can or cannot be Swiss. In addition, the report said "Official statements and political campaigns that present immigrants from the EU in a favourable light and immigrants from elsewhere in a bad light must stop", according to the Swiss Federal Statistics Office in 2006, 85.5% of the foreign residents in Switzerland are European.[100] The United Nations special rapporteur on racism, Doudou Diène, has observed that Switzerland suffers from racism, discrimination and xenophobia. The UN envoy explained that although the Swiss authorities recognised the existence of racism and xenophobia, they did not view the problem as being serious. Diène pointed out that representatives of minority communities said they experienced serious racism and discrimination, notably for access to public services (e.g. health care), employment and lodging.[101][102]



United Kingdom[edit]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]

Media related to Racism in Europe at Wikimedia Commons