James Crisp. Freelance journalist in Brussels.

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Commission dodges burkini ban questions but says officials can wear burka at work

The European Commission today (25 August) dodged questions over France’s controversial burkini ban, but said there was nothing to stop EU officials wearing a burka to work.

Mayors in 15 French towns have banned the burkini, which covers the head and body, after the recent terror attacks in the country.

EurActiv.com asked if the EU’s civil service thought it was against European values and rights to ban citizens from wearing certain items of clothing.

Commission Deputy Chief Spokesman Alexander Winterstein said, “On this matter it is for each member state to determine, subject to the supervision of the national court and the European Court of Human Rights, how they want to regulate the way people live together in their countries.”

The Commission does not have the power to make judgments on such regulations, which come under national jurisdiction.

But the European Court of Human Rights, which is not an EU body, can rule on whether one of the 47 Council of Europe countries has broken the European Convention of Human Rights.

Pressed further, Winterstein said, “I am not going to wade into this national debate. What we do have is rules against discrimination in the workplace… but that is not what you are after, you are after a general comment from this podium on what our member states consider to be the right policies.”

“The Commission may have a point about not having formal competency to address this matter, but more importantly, I would point out that the French authorities have no competency here either. They should not be telling women what to wear. Full stop,” Andrew Stroehlein of Human Rights Watch told EurActiv.

Eurocrats can wear burkas

Winterstein was asked if there were any rules in the European Commission to prevent officials wearing a burka or veil in its buildings.

“We have no such rules in the Commission,” Winterstein said.

Europe’s executive is based in Brussels. Belgium followed France in banning women from wearing the full Islamic veil in public in 2011. Both countries have since been victims of Islamic State-inspired terror attacks.

Sources said there were no EU rules to prevent an official wearing the veil once they were inside a Commission building.

They said they had never seen an official wear a burka in the European Commission’s Berlaymont headquarters.

The EU does not record the ethnicity or religion of its civil servants.

>>Read whole story and watch video on EurActiv.

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This entry was posted on August 26, 2016 by in Human rights, Journalism, Terror, Video and tagged , , .

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