EU commissioner apologises for blackface as bloc vows to address racism and discrimination

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EU justice chief Didier Reynders said it was “very possible to apologise” for taking part in the controversial charity event after top eurocrats held discussions on racism across the bloc. The former Belgian foreign minister sparked outrage after he was interviewed at the so-called Noirauds festival in 2015. Participants dress up in tailcoats and top hats with their faces painted black.

Explaining his actions, Mr Reynders told reporters: “Yes, it has already been possible to apologise for such a situation.”

He added: “It was a good opportunity to make a real evolution because you know it was a charity association to help children in difficulty in Belgium.

“And now all the members of such an association are walking in Brussels no more with only the black colour but the three national colours from Belgium – black, yellow and red.

“It was a good opportunity to change a very old tradition in my home country.”

It comes after Ursula von der Leyen called for “open and honest” discussions about racism after the recent renewed focus on racial equality.

At a speech in the European Parliament, the European Commission’s president, said: “People protesting on our streets, in our countries, across the Atlantic and around the world are raising their voices – eager to be heard.

“It is time we did more than listen.”

The German promised to address “subtle racism and discrimination” across the bloc.

Just last week members of the European Parliament called for a review of police brutality from Belgian officers.

Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana, Germany’s first MEP of African origin, said she was targeted by police officers at a major Belgian train station after claiming they were “harassing” two black youths.

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She filmed the encounter but claimed she was pushed against the wall by four officers and her phone was grabbed from her hands.

She said: “They grabbed my handbag from me, pushed me against the wall, spread my legs and one of the police officers wanted to frisk me. And they dealt with me in a very humiliating way.”

EU commissioner Margaritis Chinas, who is responsible for “promoting our European way of life”, also came under fire from Ms Herzberger-Fofana.

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The German said she had launched a formal complaint against the police.

The EU Parliament President David Sassoli asked her to provide more details so he could assist with the authorities.

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