With only two months left till the European Parliament (EP) elections, CRER decided to host an informative session and a political hustings surrounding all things European Parliament. Our goal was to provide people with more insight, information and knowledge of the EP and its functions but also present people with an opportunity to hear from the Scottish European Parliament candidates directly.
The informative afternoon session was led by Mr Per Johansson, the Head of the European Parliament Office in Edinburgh, who provided the audience with an overview of the European Parliament and the upcoming elections. Mr Johansson highlighted the differences between the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and the European Commission and the powers of each institution. He then focused on the legislative power of the EP and how the decisions made affect the everyday lives of everyone in Europe.
The audience then heard from Mr Alan Anstead, the Co-Ordinator for the UK Race and Europe Network (UKREN) in London. Mr Anstead gave a more detailed overview of European Law and the race equality framework that exists at the EP level. Mr Anstead also presented on behalf of Sarah Isal from the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) who was not able to attend. After an overview of what ENAR’s mission and work, Mr Anstead then focused on ENAR’s 7 Equality Demands of the New European Parliament which include, tackling all forms of racism, including minorities and migrants in decision making processes and establishing an Intergroup on anti-racism and diversity.
Following their presentations, Mr Johansson and Mr Anstead engaged with the audience in a lively question and answer session to clarify further duties and misconceptions of the EP and why voting this year in particular is of high importance.
In the evening we were joined by five European Parliamentary candidates and party representatives for a political hustings on the topic of race equality. Our panel consisted of:
Robert Brown (Scottish Liberal Democrats)
David Coburn (UK Independence Party)
Gary Dunion (Scottish Green Party)
Asim Khan (Scottish Labour Party)
Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh (Scottish National Party)
Ms Nosheena Mobarik (Scottish Conservatives) intended on participating but had to send her apologies due to another engagement.
The panel was chaired by Professor Colin Clark, who will soon be joining the CRER Board of Directors.
Each of the five participants had the opportunity to open the hustings with a five minute speech about their parties and the parties’ ambitions for the European Parliament and race equality.
The Greens said their priority was a ‘welcoming’ Scotland; the SNP spoke about their pro-European agenda; UKIP said they were a colour-blind party; Labour spoke of their support for a progressive socialist agenda and the Lib Dems on the need to be fully engaged in Europe.
After the opening speeches, a number of questions were taken from the floor. These included questions on the immigration bill currently going through the UK parliament, which the Lib Dems wanted dumped, UKIP called ‘disgusting’, and the Greens ‘racist’.
No candidate thought that an independent Scotland would be refused membership of the EU, although some thought the negotiations would be difficult and protracted.
A lively discussion took place on the issue of gender equality, especially as it relates to party candidates, and it would probably be fair to say that the question on whether candidate’s supported the re-establishment of an inter-group on equality and diversity threw a few of them off track (an inter-group is similar to a cross-party group in the Scottish Parliament).
In the end, all panel members were pleased with the outcome of the hustings and the issues that were addressed during the hour and half that was allocated. Immigration, freedom of movement, the role of European institutions and the necessary steps for eliminating racism in the UK will all be major issues in the run up to the European Parliament elections on May 22nd. CRER’s hustings was just the tip of the iceberg.