Ignorance or deliberate racist speech?
“What I will wish for, in 100 years, is that Europe does not become dark-skinned by force”, Anna Diamantopoulou.
This comment was made by Ms. Anna Diamantopoulou – with no protest from the audience – at the annual conference ‘Greece After VII’ organised by the forum ‘Circle of Ideas’ in collaboration with the Delphi Economic Forum. The conference was held on 5-7th November 2023, at the ‘Grand Bretagne’ hotel in Athens. The subject of the conference was entitled “Asymmetries and the national agenda”, and Ms. Diamantopoulou took part in her capacity as a former EU Commissioner , former Minister , and current President of the ‘Network for Reform in Greece and Europe’.
Ms. Diamantopoulou, who had just arrived from a trip to Africa, described her experience from three countries she visited: Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Ghana. She stated that these countries are “incredibly poor” and that “80% of the population is under 35 years old”, and went on to say that: “These countries and many others, because Africa is having a population explosion and Nigeria for example is estimated in 2045 to have 400 million people, i.e. more than Europe, all these countries have no growth prospects at all. And they are full of young people who have nothing to do, nothing to eat. So my wish is that, in a 100 years from now, Europe will not be forced to become dark skinned .” (watch the video below)
This statement, made publicly by Ms. Diamantopoulou (a person of international note), implies that the poor and young inhabitants of Africa might come to settle in Europe by force. It is clearly against the spirit of human rights as shaped in Europe, ironically the same Europe for whose future she professes to worry.
This is clearly racist language, as it attacks the protected characteristics of human beings, as defined in Article 2 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights*. In this instance, it is directed against the colour of people’s skin and their ethnic origin. Moreover, it is also directed against the poor, because the threat that Ms. Diamantopoulou highlights purportedly comes from “poor people”, as she clearly states, and not from rich foreigners, who are able to obtain golden visas and therefore, acquire the right to stay in Europe, regardless of what values they represent. Furthermore, she also ‘winks’ at ‘white’ nationalist conspiracies that are warning that the population of Europe is under the danger of being replaced by ‘lesser’ people, meaning not of European ethnic origins, a clearly racist and xenophobic rhetoric.
In addition, her statement is full of inaccuracies and fake news. Indeed, there is a demographic explosion in some African countries, however, the certainty of Ms. Diamantopoulos with regard to those countries having ‘no prospect of development” is -we suspect- rather based on her prejudices regarding “poor Africa” and “hungry children”, rather than on scientific evidence.
In a very generalised statement she fails to compare statistical information on a like for like basis, that is, she compares countries with political stability and economic development, such as Nigeria and Ghana, with countries that have suffered decades of civil strife (including periods of civil war), such as Sierra Leone  and Liberia . It is like comparing Sweden with Romania, countries with a completely different history, culture, and economy. For example, Nigeria is estimated to be the largest economy in Africa , larger than Egypt and South Africa, and indeed, apart from oil and other mineral wealth, it has a very strong commercial sector, such as telecommunications and cinema . Ms. Diamantopoulou, in expressing herself in this way, continues the rhetoric of colonialism, which fails to acknowledge that colonial powers stole the human resources and natural wealth of entire countries, particularly in Africa, in order to enrich themselves at the expense of the pillaged ethnic population.
As a statement, it is not punishable by law, because at least in Greece, racist rhetoric, or otherwise hate speech, is not criminally prosecuted in itself, if it is not accompanied by a call to violence. However, just because it is not illegal, does not mean it is moral. As we know, slavery was once deemed legal. Thankfully, times have changed, and so do our minds, although this is something that does not happen in a magical way. In fact, change required significant struggle, and much pain to reach our current position. Nevertheless, we still have a long way to go. Times are changing, albeit slowly.
However, Ms. Diamantopoulou and like-minded people, have no prospect for change and development. In fact, the title of the conference ‘Greece Meta VII’ is quite ironic. “Meta” in this context means in Greek the future or tomorrow. And tomorrow never comes through discussions and actions based on ideas of yesterday, of the past, that are not in accordance with the present.
Unfortunately, Ms. Diamantopoulou, in making these comments, places herself against the democratic values that were first formed in the European arena with the Enlightenment, and subsequent to the atrocities perpetrated during the Second World War and the Holocaust, were crystallised in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).
To remember why this Declaration was created, and why the need to protect human rights arose in Europe, it is worth reading a part of the narrative:
The Preamble of the Declaration states the following:
“Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity of all members of the human family and of their equal and inalienable rights is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”
“Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people”
All humans are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience, and ought to treat each other in a spirit of brotherhood.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without any distinction whatsoever, in particular as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or any other status.’
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
What we wish for is that now – and not in 100 years – no one uses the colour of a person’s skin, their ethnic group or origin as an argument to cultivate fear, hatred, and discrimination.
 In September 1999, Ms. Diamantopoulou became European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs.
 Ms. Diamantopoulou was Minister of Education, Lifelong Learning and Religious Affairs (October 2009-March 2012), and Minister of Development, Competitiveness and Shipping (March 2012-May 2012).
 The civil war ended in 2002, see https://www.ecoi.net/en/document/2094397.html
 The civil war ended in 2003, and in 2017 there was a peaceful transfer of power to the new leadership of the state for the first time since 1944, see https://www.ecoi.net/en/document/2094374.html
 See art. Economist, https://www.economist.com/leaders/2014/04/12/africas-new-number-one