EU racism pledge clouded by ‘blackface’ controversy
Brussels: A pledge by the EU to make its 30,000 strong civil service more diverse was overshadowed on Wednesday by the blackface-wearing past of its top justice official.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, wants more diversity amongst its ranks after the Black Lives Matters protests that spread from the United States to Europe raised awareness of racism.
The EU is seeking ways to “increase diversity” in the commission’s staff, EU vice-president Vera Jourova said, after a weekly meeting of the body’s all-white cabinet.
“According to many surveys… we see that racism appears as a big barrier for many people in Europe in relation to housing, in relation to education, in relation to public services,” she added.
Jourova was speaking alongside EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders who, during the same press conference, was forced to answer questions about appearing in blackface on the streets of Brussels.
Reynders is a former Belgian foreign minister who in 2015 cheerfully spoke to the media wearing a white top hat and with his face painted black as he participated in an annual fundraising jaunt.
The news report caused an international uproar, but mostly caught Belgium by surprise.
At the time Reynders said that he took part with “goodwill and good humour” and that the group -- known as the “Les Noirauds” (or Blackies) -- should not be seen as racist, though he later apologised. - AFP