Perception of discrimination based on religion & belief : France and Belgium the worst pupils in a survey of the European Commission

HRWF (27.11.2012) – “Discrimination on grounds of religion or beliefs is more commonly perceived as rare or non-existent than widespread: 56% of Europeans think it is rare or non-existent (5% non-existent, 51% rare) and 39% that it is widespread. Five per cent “don’t know”.

However, as in 2009, there are very wide differences between countries. Discrimination based on religion or beliefs is seen as most widespread in France (66%), followed by Belgium (60%), Sweden (58%), Denmark (54%), the Netherlands (51%) and the UK (50%). The survey shows that belonging to a religious minority is an important factor here, with 54% of these Europeans indicating that discrimination on the grounds of religion/beliefs is widespread in their country.

At the other extreme of the scale, less than 15% of respondents in the Czech Republic and Latvia (both 10%), Slovakia (12%), Ireland and Bulgaria (both 13%) and Lithuania and Estonia (both 14%) say that discrimination on the basis of religion/belief is widespread in their countries. Again, a comparison of the 2012 results with those obtained in 2009 shows that views have not evolved in the same direction throughout Europe. In some countries, perceptions are more positive (more people now say discrimination is non-existent or rare), whereas in others the opposite trend is noted (fewer people now hold this opinion).

Focusing firstly on the countries where the trend is positive, double-digit improvements can be found in Slovenia and Greece (both +13 percentage points), and in Malta and Austria (both +12). In five further countries improvements of at least 5 points are recorded: the Netherlands (+8), Bulgaria (+6), and Estonia, Romania and Finland (all +5).

The most negative development has been recorded in France. Here only 28% now say that discrimination on the grounds of religion or beliefs is non existent or rare (-9). There have also been large falls in Cyprus (-6) and Belgium (-5).

The socio-demographic and cultural factors that influence perceptions of discrimination on the grounds of religion/beliefs include:

o Belonging to a minority (self-defined);

o Having personally experienced or witnessed discrimination;

o Having a diverse social circle;

o Being young;

o Being to the left of the spectrum politically.”

See, especially pages 49-52