Hudghton (ARE) - Madam President, like the previous speaker I am a new Member in this House but I had the privilege of representing the Committee of the Regions and speaking at an anti-racism seminar earlier this year in Brussels. I welcome the Oostlander report and this latest debate and demonstration of support by the European Parliament to combat racism. As MEPs we have a responsibility to promote respect for cultural diversity and human dignity but xenophobia and racism is present, regrettably, to varying degrees in all our Member States. In June 1997 the Committee of the Regions adopted an opinion on this subject, concluding that "The only way serious progress can be made in addressing the problems of racism, xenophobia and anti-semitism is initially through the common acceptance that they exist". We and our fellow politicians at all levels must therefore not be afraid to admit that problems exist in our localities if we are to devise and implement meaningful measures to combat racism. Article F(1) of the Amsterdam Treaty has introduced the possibility of denying the vote of a Member State guilty of human rights violations. This is a clear signal that Europe is no longer willing to put up with the human rights abuses which can result in discriminatory practices and racism. All governments at Member State, regional and local levels have a responsibility to promote and develop strategies for achieving social inclusion in its widest sense through local initiatives and partnerships. My experience in Scottish local government has taught me how important this work is at all levels. One positive example of local government initiatives is in my own constituency through participation in the Tayside Racial Equality Council. Such councils can operate alongside and complement voluntary and statutory bodies and I believe it is essential that we advance the independent work of voluntary organisations and encourage cooperation between national and local government actions, together with the work of civil society. This afternoon the debate has been positive and the speeches before mine have demonstrated that this House is clearly committed to confronting the problem of racism. But recognition needs action and we need to do more than to talk. An aspect which is all too often overlooked is the need to tackle many of the social and cultural problems which are the root causes of racism in our societies. These are major stumbling blocks and it will take a lot of substantive action if these underlying problems are to be successfully tackled. One of the most important ways in which we can work towards the elimination of racism is through education which must be regarded as one of the most important avenues to be utilised in reducing and, in the long term, eliminating racism. This has to be carried out at all levels but in particular at grassroots level. Moreover, it is imperative if education is effectively to fight discrimination and racism that there be a proper flow of information. As part of this the Vienna Observatory should be given stronger powers and we as elected politicians should be regularly informed of developments and studies in order that we can properly guide our efforts across Europe. My party is against the parochial approaches demonstrated by some Member States during last week's Council Summit. Cooperation and mutual understanding between all states are prerequisites if we are to have any hope of effectively combating racism. This will not be done if we forsake these goals to promote inward-looking aims. Europe needs an inclusive, outward- looking approach if racism is to be combated. I welcome the thrust of the Action Plan and this report and the proposed resolution. I hope sincerely that at all levels we can create tangible proposals which can realistically result in some meaningful progress in this battle.

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